Brazilians are some of the nicest people on Earth! They are welcoming, always there to help you, optimistic and they love having fun. However, working with Brazilians is not as easy as grabbing a beer with them. They are much more sensitive and easily offended than we are in European countries. Indeed, they speak with much more tact, are less direct and want to be pleasant to be around.
As a French HR and talent recruiter, I am much more frank than my Brazilian colleagues. In the beginning, I might have hurt their feelings, or shocked them with my French always-keen-to-criticize culture.
BRAZILIAN WORKING HABITS
Brazilians see the cup half-full rather than half-empty. When giving a piece of advice, never forget to congratulate the other person beforehand, and show how grateful you are for their work.
As I mentioned earlier, Brazilians are very friendly. Therefore, you should never refuse a hug or kiss even if you aren’t used to it. Be ready to answer questions about your personal life, as they will want to know more about you and maybe cultivate a friendship. Being cold in either your professional and personal life will definitely not help you in Brazil.
When your colleagues invite you for lunch or a drink, or if they offer you something, do not refuse. If you must refuse, make sure you have a good excuse and give a decent explanation for why you can´t. Otherwise, they might take it personally. Sometimes, it might be even better to say yes and then cancel later with an excuse, rather than declining right away.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO WITH YOUR BRAZILIAN COLLEAGUES
Don’t use terms such as “not bad” – which we tend to use a lot in other western countries. Try instead to use positive adjectives when speaking about someone´s work. They could take your “not bad” as an insult, thinking they did not do a good job or that you are not satisfied with their work.
Here is a list of other words and terms you should try to erase from your vocabulary while working in Brazil, plus some ideas for what to say instead.
- “Why didn´t you do it?” >> “How can I help you do it?”
- “Are you done?” or “Have you finished?” >> “What progress have you made?”
- “Not now” >> “I will be happy to help you later, but I have something to finish first”
- “I don´t like it” >> “Good Job! However, we could do […] to make it even better”
Unlike many North American countries, the sign to say “all good” is not the “OK” gesture, but the thumbs up. Indeed, the “OK” gesture is extremely rude – roughly equivalent to the middle finger – and you should avoid it at all costs!
Avoid criticizing Brazil, instead focusing on the positive aspects of your life here. Criticizing Brazil or their way of doing things is a terrible mistake. Show how much you like it and be ready to explain why.
As an HR in Brazil, I think there are more don’ts than dos with Brazilians, since they are in general quite sensitive. But don’t worry: simply take my advice, be friendly and you will be just fine!
Speak Portuguese Brazil and My Little Brasil are partner institutions of plus55
MARIE DOREMUS is a talent manager and coach in Brazil at Speak Portuguese Brazil. Born in France, she arrived in Brazil in 2014 and helps expats in their adaptation to the country.