Working in Brazil

With the world’s ninth largest economy, Brazil’s business environment is diverse and welcomes foreign investment. But there are many bureaucratic hurdles for expats to overcome.

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Doing business

Brazil has seen increased investment thanks to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games. As part of this, the Brazilian government has focused on creating a friendlier environment for foreign investors.

Brazil was ranked 123rd out of 190 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017, scoring poorly for the amount of red tape involved in paying taxes. But as one of the world’s EAGLEs (Emerging and Growth Leading Economies), the country is a popular destination for companies looking to send their employees abroad.

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Business culture

There are significant regional differences in Brazilian business culture. The work environment in São Paulo is generally more formal – and objectivity, honesty and technical skills are valuable attributes. In Rio de Janeiro, businesspeople tend to be more relaxed but image conscious. These differences are less obvious in multinational companies where the environment has a European feel.

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Management style

Business structures are hierarchical and age and experience are highly respected – so you should avoid openly criticising senior figures.

Communication style

Non-verbal communication is important in Brazil. Interactions are often full of gestures and can be very physical, with long handshakes, air kissing and backslapping. You’ll be considered aloof if you’re too reserved.

Time

While it’s unacceptable to arrive late to meetings, you should never expect them to finish on time. Brazilians like to build relationships and spend a lot of time greeting colleagues and engaging in small talk before getting down to business.

Networking

Personal connections are very important in Brazil – so it’s worth making the effort to get to know colleagues and business partners. Nepotism in the workplace is common and you’ll often find a number of family members working for the same company.

Fast facts

Business language

Portuguese is the official language. English is occasionally spoken in business circles, but you may need to hire an interpreter for meetings.

Business hours

Usually from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Dress

Appearance is important in Brazil and both men and women dress formally and elegantly.

Greeting

Greet people with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Men should wait for a woman to offer her hand.

Gifts

Gifts aren’t usually exchanged in Brazilian business circles, but it’s polite to take something small if you’re invited to a colleague’s home. Avoid anything purple or black because these colours represent mourning.

Gender equality

Women are under-represented in senior positions and have to work very hard to earn the respect of their male counterparts.

Expat salaries

Expats in Brazil are generally well paid – but while salaries have risen considerably over the past few years, they still tend to be lower than in more developed countries. However, many expats are given good benefits packages that include cross-cultural training, airfare allowances for trips home and repatriation support.

Decide for a place close to the office to live. Quality of life is part of the benefit.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in June 2017. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.