There are many peculiarities of behavior and
etiquette in Brazil. Here we present a few of them, that may help you to
understand (and possibly accept) those different customs.
In many countries, physical contact is carefully
avoided. In Brazil, this is not the case. Although in other cultures touching
can be interpreted with a sexual connotation, Brazilians associate it with
friendship and concern. Touching can be evident when two women converse, or
even when a man and a women converse.
Men shake hands when greeting one another (often
for a long time), while maintaining steady eye contact. Women generally exchange
kisses by placing their cheeks together and kissing the air – sometimes only one face (in São Paulo) or both sides of the face (in Rio de Janeiro).
Kissing is also common between women and men, if
they are friends. Observe that while doing this, you should not kiss on the
cheeks (like in Russia) but actually only touch cheeks and make a kissing sound
while kissing the air. Placing your lips on a strangers cheek is a clear sign
of sexual interest.
Kissing is suitable for informal occasions, used to
introduce yourself or being acquainted, especially to young people. Hand
shaking is more appropriate for formal occasions or between women and men when
no form of intimacy is intended. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will
be considered odd, but never rude.
Hugging is a common greeting among Brazilian
friends, independently of gender. Backslapping is common among men. These
greetings are not only used between good friends and family members but are
also quite common between business acquaintances.
Physical contact does not mean sexual interest, in
general. Both men and women might frequently touch you when talking, either
patting your shoulder or placing their hand on your hand or arm to make a
point. Light touching and close proximity are construed as signs of general
friendship (as opposed to romantic intimacy). Of course, if you do not feel
comfortable with this kind of behavior towards yourself, you may ask her/him to
In crowds, Brazilians maintain much less physical
distance than North Americans normally find comfortable. In conversation, they
also tend to stand close to each other.
Usually one to two feet apart is normal.
Brazilians favor direct eye contact over indirect.
However, service people such as maids, delivery people, repair people, etc.,
will often avoid eye contact when dealing with people they are serving or
During conversations sustained eye contact is
commonplace rather than intermittent. They associate a steady gaze with
sincerity. Brazilians tend to look at each other often in public
places/situations (on a bus, in the elevator, etc.)
Thumbs up means OK, cool, positive, good-luck,
thanks, you're cool, I agree. Thumbs down means the opposite. The American OK
gesture is interpreted as an offensive, obscene gesture, in Brazil.
São Paulo LGBQT Pride Parade
Brazil is open to LGBQT tourists. São Paulo is
definitely a LGBQT friendly city, and in Brazil homosexuality is not outlawed.
Several neighborhoods of many of the major cities are very welcoming of the LGBT
population, and LGBT-oriented bars and clubs are common. São Paulo boasts the
biggest LGBQT Pride parade in the world, and most major cities will have gay
scenes. Homosexual couples may have a legal status, in Brazil, since 2011. Brazilian soap
novels usually include homosexual characters and people are generally used to
both male and female homosexual couples. However, be aware that homophobia also
exists in Brazil.
It is considered extremely rude to be excessively
drunk in public. Most Brazilians know
their limits and drink socially, not to get drunk.
Smoking (cigarettes, pipe, cigars, etc.) is
forbidden, in Brazil, in public places. Hotels may have special rooms for
people who smoke. You definitely cannot smoke in banks, restaurants, hotel lobbies,
university rooms. It is impolite to smoke without due permission when you are
visiting someone. Even the presence of an ashtray is no guarantee that you can
A Brazilian in possession of small quantities of
drugs will be subject to fines and/or alternative penalties such as community
service or drug treatment. However, a
foreigner could be deported or sent to jail depending on the situation. If you are caught trying to take drugs in or
out of the country, it is an automatic jail sentence.
Be aware that racism is a very serious offense in
Brazil. Most Brazilians frown upon racism, and even if you are only joking or
you think you know your company, it is still wise to refrain from anything that
can be perceived as racism. According to the Brazilian constitution of 1988,
racism is a crime for which bail is not available. This is taken very
Brazilians communicate easily even with strangers
and try to be nice and will help strangers if approached on the street.
Communication is often informal and does not rely
on strict rules of protocol. First names used often, but titles are important.
Anyone who feels they have something to say will generally add their opinion. Brazilians
tend to be direct in most situations. Brazilians speak their minds freely and
it is normal to be interrupted. Interrupting others during discussions is
considered a sign of enthusiasm. If they say little it is likely because they
are not interested in the subject or because they feel uncomfortable. Brazilians
are sometimes viewed as being very forward and aggressive. This can hold true
to both men and women. However, angry faces and loud speaking is regarded as rude.
tend to dress casual, even in the universities, where you
rarely find someone wearing formal suit. Formal dress is required only in
Brazilians tend to be very open and talk freely
about the problems of their country, especially about political corruption and
other problems. But don't imitate them, as they are likely to feel offended if
you criticize their country or customs.
Soccer (“futebol”), family, Brazil’s beautiful
beaches and the country’s rapid growth are all appropriate conversation topics.
Politics, poverty, religion, Argentina (considered a soccer rival) and the deforestation of Brazil
Recall that Portuguese is not Spanish and
Brazilians (as well as other Portuguese speakers) feel offended if you do not
take this in mind. And never, never make any confusion between Brazil and
Argentina. By the way, Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, not of Brazil.
Speaking ill of the Brazilian national soccer team (as remembering the 7x1 of the last Soccer World Cup)
is not considered an insult, but you should never praise the Argentine team or
compare them both. Don’t refer to Brazilians as Latins, please.
Brazilians are extremely casual about time. Being
ten to fifteen minutes late in business is “normal”, and twenty to thirty
minutes late is not unusual. Be on time for a formal meeting, but prepare to
wait for your Brazilian colleagues. If you are invited to someone’s home, in
Brazil, it is expected that you’ll arrive 15, 20 or even 30 minutes later. But don’t worry about it during the 2017
ISHPSSB & ABFHiB meeting. In São Paulo we have tradition of being on time
in academic meetings.