Brazil’s Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite has lived, worked and traveled overseas and was so interested in the experience that she started a business that specializes in helping people to adapt to new cultures. She shares with us her wealth of knowledge about Brazils complex social structure, along with some tips on how to better adapt to life in Brazil.

Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?
I’m from Rio de Janeiro, currently living in São Paulo. My education is in Law, with a Masters Degree in International Law from Washington University, in St. Louis. Since international contacts and business was always my focus point, I shifted my career towards Intercultural Management. In May 1999 I started my own Consultancy firm on Intercultural Issues together with a partner called Going Global. I also teach the intercultural management course for the MBA students at Business School São Paulo. I have lived, studied and worked in Brazil, Germany, US and Canada.

What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?
Language; informality in a hierarchical society; lack of focus and directness.

What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?
They take the Brazilian happy spirit for lack of professionalism.

What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?
Formality, conservativeness, directness, harshness in the communication, focus

Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?
I’m more comfortable and used to the American accent, although the British accent is more comfortable to my senses.

Favourite placed travelled abroad and why?
Paris – for obvious reasons
Portugal – because it was easy to find Brazilians roots there

Favourite foreign food?

Favourite foreign band, book and movie?
The Coors
Invasão Brbaras – movie
DA Vinci Code

What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?
They say that foreigners are more transparent in the relationship. They also tend not to be overly jealous and as possessive as Brazilian partners.

Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or culture shock” that you have experienced with a foreigner?
It is hard for a foreigner to differentiate between the kind of Brazilians that he or she is dealing with. When coming from a homogeneous class system, with a better distribution of wealth, some foreigners are not used to categorizing, and in Brazil you need to do this. You have to address people differently and also expect different reactions from different kinds of people. This is very complicated for some foreigners. So, very often, they disregard relationship building activities or existing relationship links. On the other hand, some foreigners coming from even more elitist countries, might sound very hierarchical and segregationist to Brazilians, who deal with differences in a very subtle way.

What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?
Learn the language, watch TV, take courses with Brazilians, practice sports with Brazilians, if single – date Brazilians, invite Brazilians to your home.

Look at your time here as a gift. Make the most out of it for yourself and for the Brazilians around you. Try to make a difference. Try to find yourself a mission and try to leave a legacy behind when you leave.

Viviane runs a consultancy called Going Global which specializes in cross cultural training and consultancy all over Brazil. Viviane can be contacted at

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
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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