This week Cristina Silva shares her insights into Brazilian business culture. Cristina is a native of Brazil who currently lives and works in the United States. She has a Masters Degree in Translation and helps companies conduct cross-border business particularly with Brazil and Latin America.

What do you see as unique cultural characteristics of Brazilians that comes out in Brazil’s business culture?

As spontaneous as Carnival, as creative as soccer, as enticing as caipirinhas, so is Brazil’s business culture. My top tips for doing business with Brazilians are:

1. Do your homework on what kind of industry regulations affect your sector. And yes, although I want to disclose up front that you should be ready for a lot of red tape, once you get used to the way things work; you’ll be ready to succeed.

2. Go local to go global. Be ready to recruit on-the-ground support, in the name of attorneys, and back and front office.

3. Develop deep relationships with your contacts. If I invited you for coffee at Starbucks, you probably say: “Yes, sure!,” but you probably wouldn’t take me up on it. But when a Brazilian invites you for a cafezinho, you’d better go. This is the beginning of a promising and long-lasting relationship.

4. Be flexible with your time and accept that meetings will often start and finish late and that a schedule requiring 2 meetings/ day may not be feasible.

5. Don’t assume that everybody speaks English and/or Spanish, especially out of big cities. Be sure to have your materials translated into Portuguese and recruit a local qualified interpreter for your meetings.

6. Most Brazilians are on-your-face personal. Brazilians are expressive, use a lot of body language, stand relatively close to their interlocutors and kiss and hug. And even the kissing is geographically or based on the situation. When you get to a meeting, the greeting may be very warm, with a wrap-around hug. After a few days of interaction, the warm hug may become a kiss. Or one, or two, or three…you’ll learn from the situation.

7. Appearance is important to Brazilians, as we tend to follow European fashion styles. This means that men wear leather and suits and women dress to impress.

8. Brazilians value spontaneity, improvisation, creativity. Don’t be upset that the discussion during the meeting deviated from the firm agenda that you so carefully prepared. Think openly and evaluate whether the overall goal was achieved.

9. Socializing and spending time with one another is highly valued. Think of this as a collective, closely-knit, social culture. During business meetings, this socialization will happen around the lunch hour and coffee breaks.

What are Brazil’s most competitive industries in world markets?

Over the past few years, Brazil has moved from being a “promising country sometime in the future” to being seen as one of the hottest business opportunities in the world. Of course, this came from a more stable political system and currency, which helped the following industries:

• Renewable fuels: Brazil is a champion in ethanol and wind energy and a lot of money is being invested in not so renewable fuels for deep-sea oil production, remote sensing.

• Natural resources such as lumber, iron, ore, tin and other minerals put Brazil is a competitive position of stocking the needs of the rest of the world.

• Agriculture: accounting for 36% of Brazilian exports, and making good use of the perfect climate, this is poised to be a great are for investment.

• Brazil is also a regional leader in science and technology and the government is very open to the development of an environment that is more supportive of innovation, and promoting laboratories and sales.

• Brazil’s other diverse industries encompass automobiles and parts, machinery and equipment, textiles, shoes, cement, computers and technology, aircraft and consumer durables.

What’s the best way to find potential Brazilian business contacts?

Definitely connect with the Brazilian Chambers of Commerce in Florida and New York, and then hire someone to do extra market research on hot leads. Also, don’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn, which opened the first office in my home town, São Paulo, last year. Then, when you arrive in Brazil, you’ll be more informed, prepared and ready to make local connections.

What do you wish people knew about doing business in Brazil before they arrive in country?

Portuguese! As incredibly international as Rio and São Paulo are, knowing the language will give you an incredible bargaining and negotiation power that you won’t have negotiating in English or hoping that your high school Spanish is well understood (of course, this is meant to be a joke, as some Brazilians may resent being spoken to in Spanish). Remember that Brazilians are proud of being one of the few countries in South America that do not speak Spanish.

Second, I’d caution any serious investor to truly understand what it takes to open a business in Brazil, from registration to opening doors. Although there are no shortcuts, being familiar with the 10-15 steps necessary to open a business, from checking the company name with the State Commercial Registry Office, registering the company, getting all the operations permits, opening a fund for unemployment account in the bank, through registration with the unions will definitely give you an edge.

From your perspective, what’s the business climate like for entrepreneurs (supportive vs. unsupported, culturally accepted profession vs. not accepted, etc.)?
I’d say that the business climate is very welcoming and positive and many opportunities are already being created and even more will be created by the Olympic Games and the World Game. Overall, our government recognizes that we still have a long way to go and is open to bilateral agreements and is encouraging foreign initiative and presence, especially in very professional fields.

About Cristina Silva
Cris Silva is a Portuguese Translator and Interpreter based in Boulder, Colorado. A Brazilian native from São Paulo, she started her studies at the Universidade de São Paulo and then received an M.A.in Translation from Kent State University, in Ohio. She has worked as an in-house and freelance translator, simultaneous conference interpreter, voice-over talent and owns a small boutique company, http://ALLinPortuguese.com – you guessed it – ALL in Portuguese. She also teaches translation at the School for Professional and Continuing Studies at New York University and at University College at the University of Denver. Besides Portuguese, she speaks Spanish and French fluently and loves the Rocky Mountains. Please visit her at http://www.ALLinPortuguese.com/blog to find out what she’s up to and connect with her via e-mail, at info@allinportuguese.com .