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ISHPSSB & ABFHiB 2017 Meeting

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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 stop it.

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 working for.

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 smoke.

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 seriously. 

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.

Brazilians tend to dress casual, even in the universities, where you rarely find someone wearing formal suit. Formal dress is required only in corporate environments.

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 are not. 

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.

ISHPSSB & ABFHiB 2017 Meeting   
International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB)   
Associação Brasileira de Filosofia e História da Biologia (ABFHiB)   
São Paulo, Brazil, 16 to 21 July, 2017   

São Paulo, Brazil
16 to 21 July, 2017

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