Patrcia C. Ribeiro, (on the right) from São Jos do Campos, in São Paulo is well placed to provide advice and insights as she has many years experience working with foreigners coming to work and live in Brazil, including Americans, British, Indonesians, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Greeks, Australians, Russians, Israelis, Germans, Canadians, Serbians, French, Spanish, South Africans, etc. See what she has to say about the best time to arrive at a party, which nationality has the best accent and how to learn not to always ask – why?

Where are you from and what do you do?
I`m from São Jos do Campos, in São Paulo state. I give support to foreigners coming to work and live in Brazil.

What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
I have observed that it is difficult for foreigners to adapt to the calm Brazilian way of life and to deal with many of the day-to-day issues. Brazilians are not in a hurry all the time. Brazilians also have the habit (bad) of arriving late to informal appointments, but not normally for commercial and business meetings.

What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
Foreigners when invited for dinner with friends are usually the first to arrive. For informal occasions it’s usual that we Brazilians arrive for dinner a minimum 30 minutes late. It’s not that we are REALLY late…it’s cultural!!! For example, if a party starts at 10pm….people gets there at 10:45pm, 11:00pm or later – it’s common. Usually the Brazilian host will not expect guests to arrive on time!

What characteristics of other nationalities strike you as different?
Europeans – formality (not including Italians and Greeks – who are happy and nice people)
South African – good mood
American – extremely nice people or extremely annoying
Asiatic – some tend to be rude but they all are extremely honest people

Which English accent do you prefer and why?
British accent. It’s very elegant!

Favourite foreign food?
Any Italian or Japanese food!

Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
Band – U2, Sade, Norah Jones
Book – Emotional Intelligence
Movie – Seven, Philadelphia, The last Samurai

What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner?
I don’t know as I’ve never dated a foreigner. My friends say they’re not so creative!!!

Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or culture shock that you have experienced with a foreigner?
It was a cultural shock for me when during a very important meeting at the company – attended by directors and the VP, one of the participants asked to be excused. He left the meeting table, opened a small rug and start praying to his God! He was a Muslim!

What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
Don’t take things so seriously! Be assured that Brazilians are very friendly to foreigners. Take advantage of this characteristic to make new friends and get compensations! Also do not ask WHY all the time. Try to understand that some things just are! There is no explanation!

Some final comments.
Foreigners are welcome wherever they are in Brazil! I believe that many people who come to live here believe that Brazilians are trying to take advantage of them because he/she is a foreigner. This is not true in 90% of cases, however if the foreigner is a tourist this can be true!!!

Americans are the people who more have most difficulty in learning Portuguese, and this is not because of an intellectual loss. It’s because they don’t care and think that others will know English, forgetting that they are the ones out of place! However some Americans learn the language over time! Overall I really enjoy working with so many different people and cultures, I have learnt a lot and have loads of fun too!

Paty can be contacted at

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Fabiano Deffenti

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to

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