Living in a different country requires adapting to local culture and communication, and not only because of the language barrier.
The best manager in Brazil is the one who takes the time to understand and know his team; this includes incorporating the cultural, social and language aspect of the company and the country. Brazilians like to take their time, they don’t like being pushed or to be in a hurry, and they hate being stressed out. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of getting to know Brazilians is understanding the nuances in what they’re saying.
Brazilians speak Portuguese – that is of course common knowledge. However, as in most languages, words can have different meanings. This is especially true in Brazil, as Brazilians do not like conflict and fear both offending someone and taking offense. Understanding the hidden meanings in daily communication is a hard task, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back!
When they say: Yes
Foreigners understand: Yes
What it really means: Maybe (or, sometimes, No)
When they say: Maybe
Foreigners understand: Maybe
What it really means: No
When they say: No
Foreigners understand: No
What it really means: “No way!” Or “Leave me alone, I don’t have time to talk to you”
When they say: Abraço or beijos (hugs and kisses)
Foreigners understand: “Wow, he really likes me”
What it really means: They are just saying bye.
When you have a meeting:
When they say: I’m on my way
Foreigners understand: They are almost there
What it really means: They’re leaving from their place now
When they say: I’ll be there in a couple of minutes
Foreigners understand: They will be there in a few minutes
What it really means: They’re on their way
When they say: I’ll drop by later
Foreigners understand: They’ll come later
What it really means: They’re not coming
When they say: “Let’s see each other again, we’ll set something up, ok?”
Foreigners understand: They want to keep in touch
What it really means: Maybe we’ll meet someday, God willing…
When Brazilian are giving their opinion:
When they say: Let me explain something to you …
Foreigners understand: They think I’m stupid
What it really means: You’re not Brazilian, and it doesn’t work how you think it would
When they say: Your Portuguese is great!
Foreigners understand: I’ve made so much progress with my Portuguese
What it really means: They don’t understand much of what you’re saying, but at least you’re making some effort
When they say: Great job, but perhaps we could do in a different way
Foreigners understand: I’ve done a great job, and now they want to make it even better
What it really means: That was not what they were expecting
This is just a small overview of the hidden messages in Brazil. You also have to take into account that body language is very important, maybe moreso than anywhere else in the world. You’ll still have some work to do if you want to understand Brazilians like a local, but we’ll talk more about that in another article. But, hey, your Portuguese is great! Got it?