March 27, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

As an American, one thing that drives me crazy about my Brazilian wife is her habit of interrupting me when I am talking! I have noticed in my many trips to Rio and with her friends here in the US, that is seems to be a habit of Brazilians in general. You get two, three, or even more of them talking at the same time. And when her adult daughter is home, it proves my point – as they both carry on long conversations at the same time. I was taught that ‘you take turns’ so you can listen to the other person talking.

Is this a Brazilian thing or Latin thing in general??


Oi, David

I guess it’s Brazilian. There is a very interesting article, for Latin America, about negotiation in Brazil that says you need at least 51 minutes (versus 24 with the Americans and 33 with the Japanese) to end a negotiation with Brazilians. Why the extra time? Because Brazilians talk at the same time, it says, like we are fighting for some space, struggling to be heard.

Both make a lot of sense for Brazilians, that don’t really bother with the fact. Or maybe we just got used to it. Brazilians that don’t feel like interrupting might never be heard. Some become writers…

I have a group discussion where we use a ‘talk stick’. The person that holds a stick is the only allowed to talk, others can’t even say: uhum.

It works! Although we need some new suggestion to stop people pulling faces… do you have one?

Vanessa T. Bauer.

Readers comments:

Sorry, Vanessa – I’m Brazilian and I also was thought to listen and then, talk after the other finishes. This habit hasn’t been always the Brazilian way – years ago people used to be more well educated, but I don’t know exactly when it happened that now they seem to have forgotten what good manners are.

Plus, even worse: their age doesn’t matter, because even the oldest joined this “blablabla”; therefore, obviously the younger learned from the older, unfortunately.

— Eliane

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

Can’t make this up