Top tips for export to Brazil

Given its size, diversity and changing profile, regular visits to Brazil by senior members of a business is definitely a worthwhile investment. This not only shows commitment to the agent and interest in the market itself, but gives you the opportunity to see how your products are doing in the market-place and to learn about local conditions for yourself.

You often hear Brazilian distributors bemoaning the fact that British suppliers seem reluctant to visit the country. And this is one of the chief reasons why UK businesses often fail to achieve their full market potential there.

As in many overseas markets, language can be an issue in Brazil. Once you’ve established contact with Brazilian businesses the chances are that your everyday communications with that company by phone or email are likely to be in English with an English-speaking member of their staff.

Some businesses prefer to deal in Portuguese and get the contents of communications translated.

Nevertheless, the biggest single sources of failure in business relationships are misunderstandings and poor communication. So if Brazil is likely to become a core part of your overseas business, it may be a worthwhile investment to hire a Portuguese-speaking staff member. Failing that, learning some basic Portuguese for yourself will go down well on business trips. Even a few simple phrases can have a favourable impression on those with whom you do business.

And yet, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. Brazilians are renowned for their bluntness. And it’s important to know that the better you get to know them, the blunter the comments become.

Even so communications tend to be polite, if somewhat animated with the emphasis on non-verbal gestures and physical contact. Conversations can also take place at motor-mouth speed. They also like to indulge in lots of detail.

Also be aware of the etiquette, which also has a tactile edge to it. Firm handshakes and kisses on both cheeks for men and women are the norm. First names are often used. It’s important to maintain eye contact. And don’t plan on making a quick exit because the kisses and handshakes have to be repeated on the way out.

The dress code for most meetings is traditional European business wear, although this tends to be relaxed in more northern locations where temperatures can reach 40 degrees C.

With many cities gridlocked with traffic, allow plenty of time to get to meetings and advise your associates if you’re going to be late. It is worth knowing that Brazilians often make jokes about British people being punctual. If they are late it is important not to see this as rudeness or laziness.  It’s also useful to provide business partners with the subject of the meeting in advance.

Business meetings can turn into long-winded marathons. They usually begin with small talk and the exchange of business cards, although where eating is involved these are exchanged after the meal.

Don’t attempt to do any business around Carnival week in February. Christmas, New Year and the July summer holidays should also be avoided.

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UK Trade & Investment
Fabiana Andrade
Tel: (Brazil) (55) 21 2555 9615
(UK) 020 7215 5000 to transfer your call to Rio at local rate
E-mail or

Brazil-British Chamber of Commerce
32 Green Street
London, W1K 7AT
Tel: 020 7399 9287

British Embassy
Sector de Embaixadas Sul,
Quandra 801, Lote 8,
CEP 70408-900
Brasilia, Brazil
Tel: (55) (61) 3329-2300
Fax: (55) (61) 3329-2369