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Destination Profile: Brazil

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Brazil is a charismatic country, from its pink dolphins that swim past rushing waterfalls to its vivacious cities pulsing with activity. This massive South American anchor is a populous industrial and agricultural emerging market. The nation gathered to host large scale events including the FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympic Games in recent years, both of which spurred major infrastructure projects.

Today, the population of Brazil is about 208 million. The only countries in South America that Brazil does not share a border with are Chile and Ecuador. The capital is Brasilia, which is a city laid out in the shape of an airplane. Other major cities include Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Fortaleza.

Image of a green bird in Brazil

Social Climate

Personal space in Brazil is closer than Westerners are used to, but Brazilians are comfortable with acquaintances and friends entering their personal space whether at work or in public. If this infringement of personal space makes you uncomfortable, try not to step back when your Brazilian associates step forward - it can be considered stand-offish or even rude. Brazilians touch one another often including during conversations, upon meeting, and even to adjust each other’s clothing. And there is no discomfort with men and women touching each other.  

Life in Brazil has a relaxed and casual feel, and in public there is little consideration given to lines and order. Remain patient and try not to be visibly distressed when you see someone cut to the front of the line at a bank, restaurant, or shop and receive service before everyone else. Brazilians believe that the relationship the line-jumper has with the shopkeeper or service clerk is more important than respecting the time of someone they do not know and who has no such relationship.  Given this relaxed attitude toward public order, it is no surprise that the concept of time is more fluid in Brazil where it is perfectly acceptable, and sometimes essential, to arrive for social events an hour late.

Image of a Brazilian woman in Carnival costume

Language

The national language of Brazil is Portuguese and it is not, as many assume, a Spanish-speaking nation. Portuguese does, however, have many similarities to Spanish, French, and Italian - all of which are collectively known as the romance languages. Brazilian Portuguese is slightly different than the Portuguese spoken in Portugal, with many regional dialects found throughout the country. 

Common greetings in Portuguese include: “Tudo bom?” (How is everything?), followed by “Tudo bem!” (all is fine!). Or “prazer“which means “it’s a pleasure.” And “tchau” is “good-bye.” 

Conversations between people can quickly become animated and even boisterous. During mealtimes, conversation is an art form to be enjoyed and savored with as much gusto as the food. Do not be surprised to find several people speaking at once and note that interruptions are common and not considered rude. Silence is unusual but can be triggered by the introduction of an uncomfortable subject.

Image of the Christ the Redeemer landmark in Brazil

Doing Business

Brazilians like to do business with the most important people in any organization. Deviating from standard business procedure within the Brazilian company you are working with will lead to problems with perception and trust. There are likely to be multiple consultations between decision-makers and staff. And the nature of any personal relationships within the business environment can affect the boss-subordinate relationship.

At meetings of peers or even with individuals at different levels, there can be open communication and sharing of ideas. Meetings can be information sharing and decision-making forums where all individuals are expected to contribute. In this scenario, expect vibrant discussions among many people speaking at once. Questions are common and interruptions, even during presentations, can be expected.

Housing

The aggressively climbing rental prices have experienced a leveling out as interest rates begin to rise in Brazil. The most expensive housing is found in large cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Belo Horizonte. Increases in construction has helped reset the rental market in recent years. Long-term renters are generally expected to pay two or three months of rent as a deposit. This, plus interest, is returned at the end of the lease.

Image of buildings in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Food

Brazilian cuisine is unique, complex, and often rich with regional variations that can make the same dish taste different depending on where it’s eaten. Many types of meat and fish are common ingredients as are fresh fruits and juices.

Here are a few favorite foods to try during your time in Brazil:

  • Feijoada- the national dish, a beef, pork, and bean stew
  • Pao de queijo – bread with cheese
  • Gaucho rodizio- grilled meat on skewers
  • Brigadeiros- chocolate truffles
  • Caipirinha- the national drink, made with Cachaca (sugar cane liquor) and lime

Image of frozen treats in Brazil

Schooling

Brazil’s Ministry of Education regulates the education system throughout the country where government funded schooling is compulsory for children through age 17. Pre-school became government sanctioned in 2016 and includes day care for children ages 2-5. Fundamental Education I (grades 1-5) and II (grades 6-9) is for children ages 6-14.  And Secondary School provides a high school-type experience for ages 15-17. There are both public and private schools available in Brazil and while the majority of children still attend public school, the expensive private schools have seen their enrollment numbers increase in the past few years. 

Higher education typically consists of a university education or technical school. Competition to be accepted into the Brazilian universities is fierce and a university degree, which typically takes 4-6 years to achieve, is perceived as a status symbol. 

Transportation

Brazil is a very large country, which means flights are typically required to get from city to city. The most popular airports are in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Campinas. It is important to research the transportation options to and from the airport prior to departure, considering there is not always public transit available. If you must take a taxi or rent a car, factor in extra travel time for traffic.

Study the rules carefully before getting behind the wheel. Gasoline is expensive and it is a good idea to carry an international driver’s permit. Drinking and driving is not tolerated and punishment is severe. Most Brazilians take the bus for shorter trips. Click here to read more about getting around Brazil.

Image of highways in Brazil at night

Attractions: Museums and Nature

Some of the top attractions in Brazil are:

  • Christ the Redeemer statue
  • Sao Paulo Museum of Art
  • Botanital Garden of Curitiba
  • Cathedral of Brasilia
  • Escadaria Selaron

Some of the most beautiful natural features of Brazil include:

Image of Brazil Bay Beach

Security

Make multiple copies of your documentation and keep these materials in a safe place. These documents should include the location of your nearest home country embassy in case of emergency. When you travel, always be sure to provide at least one other person with your itinerary.

As in every country, there are places that are dangerous to go to if you are unfamiliar with the area. Ask the locals where they do not go, and try to avoid traveling alone and at night. Whenever you travel to a new place, remember that it is best to avoid large crowds when possible. Always trust your instinct; if something feels wrong to you, leave the area immediately. Allow extra time to travel, especially across borders.

Most violence occurs in the favelas, or suburbs, but foreigners can also be targeted. Pickpockets are the main threat, so do keep your belongings close to you and avoid drawing attention to yourself with valuable items. In addition, observe and obey any warnings of natural hazards, such as dangerous currents or poisonous wildlife.

Facts about Brazil

  • The world’s largest population of Catholics lives in Brazil. Around 64% of Brazilians are Catholic.
  • A city called “Fordlandia” was founded in Brazil by the American car businessman Henry Ford in hopes that it would become a rubber-producing town. It fell into abandon years later.
  • The country’s name comes from Brazilwood, a type of tree grown in the region.
  • The famous futbol player, Pele, is from Brazil. The country has won the FIFA world cup five times.
  • Brazil has not been involved in a war since 1870.
  • Brazil has 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (14 cultural and 7 natural).

Image of a futbol fan in Brazil


Is relocation in your future? Explore the world via our other Destination Profiles, which include:

If you are anticipating a global assignment, or if you work at an international company with culturally diverse coworkers, intercultural training is essential to success. Click the button below to see which option is the best fit for your individual needs.

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