Meeting styles in Brazil

Written by Aurelia Erasmus, Cisco van Honk, Paloma Aparicio January 2014. Posted in Int. Skills, Meeting styles

Meeting styles in Brazil

On a first visit to Brazil there are some important factors that need to be taken into account when setting up a meeting with a local company. When it comes down to planning a meeting, be sure to plan it in advance a minimum of two weeks (TMA, 2010). Because Brazilians are very personal in their communication, it is advised to refrain from using email and fax. Conducting business on the telephone is also considered rude. Therefore try to communicate face to face. Inform the members of the meeting by a written message and be sure to call them as the meeting draws closer to refresh their memory.

Meeting etiquette
Meetings tend to start later than agreed upon, so do not expect people to be on time. Brazilians have a very different orientation towards time and do not place high value on punctuality. Because they are not very time oriented, it is common for members of a meeting to arrive anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes late. This is a common practice which is better to accept as a foreigner rather than being offended by it. As a guest however, it is recommended to arrive on time as a sign of respect to your counterpart. During a meeting, there are multiple communication lines, meaning one does not wait for another person to finish their sentence. This might seem chaotic or even rude in a Western style business environment. However, no offense is meant in these situations and they simply occur because Brazilians are a very passionate people. As mentioned before, Brazilians prefer to conduct business in person. This holds true for meetings as well. They tend to go slow and start with personal matters before business is discussed. As a foreigner do not cut straight to the point and start talking business. Wait for the matter to be brought up so you know the personal part is over, then you can start to discuss business. Since the business community in Brazil is quite small, word travels fast. It is therefore important to make a good first impression. If the first impression is positive, this can work to your advantage because word of you will quickly spread. The same goes for a bad impression, which might leave you friendless in the business community. Try to be sincere when communicating with Brazilians; they do not take kindly to phony foreigners who act solely out of self-interest. For a good relationship to last there must be a personal click with who business is conducted, which is only gained by real and sincere interest. It is appropriate to have small talk about Brazilian culture, football, the food and country side, but ensure that you have done some good research on these topics beforehand. On the other hand, divisive or negative topics, such as religion, politics, and AIDS, should be avoided. It is also not polite to ask personal questions about age, salary or marital status (Chaney & Martin, 2008). Brazilians tend to judge a person by the way they dress; therefore, it is very important to dress well. A European style suit or designer suit in black or neutral colors is desired (Chaney & Martin, 2008).Status is perceived through dress, money, cars and family name. Do not forget the importance of a business card, which is part of the first impression. When handing a business card to Brazilian professionals, be sure to have a two sided card with Portuguese and English on opposing sides. Be sure to have the Portuguese side up when handing it to a Brazilian person. This shows your respect to the people you are dealing with (Axiom Press, 2003).

Seating arrangements
When it comes to a business lunch or dinner, the seating arrangement is considered very important. The importance of a guest is displayed by their position around the table. The host of the meeting sits to the right of the most important person at the meeting. This could either be the Brazilian business partner when hosted by a foreigner or the foreigner if hosted by the Brazilians. If possible, the most important person sits at the head of the table. A small piece of advice is to not place a bag or briefcase on the ground while being seated. This is bad practice, which usually can be avoided by special hooks provided to hang these items. A meeting should not be scheduled to end at a certain time, especially when the meeting is a dining arrangement. Often times, business dinners can last for hours due to their personal nature. It is customary for the host of the dinner to propose a toast to his/her guests. This can happen at any given time during the dinner. It is custom for the person receiving the toast, to repeat this gesture in good faith.