Brazilian Customs and Etiquette: Some Things You Should Know

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

Brazilians are known throughout the world as warm and friendly people. They are also usually receptive towards foreigners, and tend to treat them very well. That being said, there are many cultural differences foreigners face when coming to Brazil, especially those that do not come from a Latino culture. Whether you plan to visit Brazil or live here, being aware of those differences is a good way to improve your interactions with locals.

One of the first things that strike unaware foreigners is the way people greet each other in Brazil. Men tend to great one another with handshakes, while kissing women on the cheeks. Women also kiss each other on the cheeks usually. In some parts of the country such as So Paulo, this is done with a single kiss, but in other places, people will greet with two kisses instead.

Another thing that might seem strange for foreigners, especially those from European or Asian countries, is how touchy Brazilians are. It is very common for locals to touch others in the shoulder or to give a slap in the back while they talk for example. When talking, Brazilians tend to speak in a direct manner, and in a relaxed and casual style. They also have a tendency to interrupt others during a conversation, which can bother foreigners but is considered normal for natives.

Brazilians usually dress well and in a stylish manner, specially in large cities. In the countryside, people tend to dress in a simpler manner and are more conservative in their style. When going to churches or government buildings, using tank-tops or hats is frowned upon. As for business meetings, men are always expected to wear a full suit, while women should wear smart business suits. Brazilians can also be quite formal when it comes to business settings, despite their laidback manner in casual settings.

There is also something known as "Brazilian time". For most informal meetings, be they parties, dinners or reunions, it is very common for people to be late. Except in the case of a business meeting, you should not expect people to arrive on time.

When it comes to conversations, it is often sensible to avoid some topics. Brazilians tend to be very sensitive when it comes to foreigners opinion of Brazil, and usually do not take criticism very well. Topics such as poverty, crime and politics can make Brazilians upset, so you need to be very careful when threading on these topics. You should avoid criticizing Brazilian culture as well, unless you are fairly sure that the people you are talking to are open to it, which usually isn’t the case.

There are also a few things foreigners should know about eating in Brazil, the first being that lunches or dinners can take very long. Brazilians like to take their meals slowly and talk a lot, so a lunch can last over two hours in some cases. They also tend to have good table manners in industrial cities, so be careful with the way you eat. Chewing or talking with an open mouth is considered really rude, and in some settings putting your elbows on the table is frowned upon. When eating at a restaurant, putting your fork and knife side by side in your plate indicate that you have finished, but waiters will not bring the bill unless you ask them to. Tipping is not common in Brazil, and there is usually a 10% service fee that is included in the bill.

With those things in mind, you shouldn’t have much of a problem adapting to Brazil. Despite cultural differences, Brazilians are friendly and easy to deal with, and are usually quite tolerant of mistakes that foreigners might make. Be willing to adapt and open, and soon you will find yourself at home here in Brazil.

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