Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rules for Foreigners: Business Meetings in Brazil



The business world is descending on Brazil at higher and higher rates.  Here's a little crash course as to what is expected and acceptable. 
  1.         No, you cannot be late.  Brazilian business people are busier than you can imagine. Showing up anymore than 10 minutes late to a meeting is a slap in the face. Actually, 10 minutes is kind of pushing it.  Of course 5 to 8 minutes is totally acceptable.
  2.         That being said, give yourself plenty of time to get to your meeting. I don’t care if your hotel or apartment is just down the road from the office, traffic in Brazil is unpredictable. This goes double for São Paulo.
  3.         If this should happen, call and inform someone.
  4.         Be prepared to chit chat. Brazilians do not enter the meeting room and get right down to business. Pleasantries are commonly exchanged and this is even more common when meeting with a foreigner.  Brazilians are kind by nature and will want to know how your visit is going.
  5.         If you are hosting the meeting have water and coffee available. As an English teacher, even I am offered coffee, water, or both every time I meet with my students at their office.
  6.         Do not expect things to be done as they would be in your country. Brazil is its own country and has its own way.  Bureaucracy is an especially long and complicated.  Patience is a must.

Overall, Brazil is a very welcome and inviting country.  Respecting a few simple customs can make all the difference in business relationships.

Got any tips of your own? I would love to hear them!

11 comments:

  1. Rachel,

    The first thing that comes to mind is a very interesting and funny rule of doing business in Brazil:

    Confirmado ( Confirmed ) : It means basically that this is a basic initial confirmation done verbally over the phone. So can we have our conference call tomorrow at 9:00am? YES, confirmed ( confirmado, ...but not really...

    Confirmadissimo ( Super Confirmed ) : The "Confirmadissimo" is in writting, via email, then we are "really" "super" "confirmed" "written" in stone confirmed. :)

    I learned this one the hard way, I never got an email after a verbal confirmation over the phone, so my conference call wasn't really confirmed, remember, only after you get it in writting, via email, then you are on!

    Ray

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  2. I had no idea Ray! Good one!

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  3. I really lol when I first heard about this one because for me "confirmed" was always "confirmed" period...but I left Brazil before emails were common so I missed the boat on this cultural development ;)

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  4. Hi Rachel,

    I have found, in this social network geared towards expats (www.internations.org), a very good place to meet "rantings in Rio" kind of people, plus a great place to network and find business opportunities.
    They usually organize monthly gatherings for people to socialize, so far the ones I have attended have been pleasant.

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  5. Ray is right; confirmed does not mean confirmed. Sometimes not even when in writing - if you are traveling for a meeting, expect to purchase plane tickets at the last possible moment, otherwise you might be dealing with ticket changes in between.

    Also, "late" is a relative term, and strict adherence to this one varies by industry and region, I think.

    Mostly, flexibility is key. But yes, accept that there will be pleasantries, and don't expect anything to be like the country you're from. Good point!

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  6. Thanks for the tip Gritty Poet!

    And Reader, I agree that late is a relative term. I mentioned that one as it annoys Mr. Rant when people think that it is ok here. It happens but that doesn't make it ok.

    Flexibility is a big key! Hell, it is for all aspects of life :)

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  7. Bring tons of money to buy the person you are closing the deal! Brazilians are a buch of roaches!

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  8. Wow, had a bad experience there eh?

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  9. Dear Anonymous,

    You really do sound like a roach yourself, the kind that would bribe people to do business with you!
    I never even heard of what you are talking about in the private sector in Brazil!!!
    It has happen and it still does happen in the public sector but Brazilians are cracking down on the practice, so next time you bring money to try to bribe a public official to do business with you, just keep in mind you might see your corrupted a... end up in a dirty corrupted Brazilian jail, where people like that belong... ;)

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  10. Hi Gil,

    Actually, bribing does exist over here: ESPECIALLY in the private sector. Heck everywhere and almost all Brazilians are easy to bribe.

    From the bouncer to the bus driver, from the buyer to the store chef. I'm a MD of an international company (leading company in consumer goods) here in Brazil (coming from Europe) and actively working on the Latin American market since about 7 years.

    I'm used to forecast additional budgets/year for bribes in both the public as well as the private sector. It doesn't matter what or who you want in Brazil, you just buy it, point.

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  11. Gio, I have heard of that kind of budgeting...

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