Brazil Culture

The Brazilian culture is one of the world’s most varied and diverse. This is due to its being a melting pot of nationalities, as a result of centuries of European domination as well as slavery, which brought hordes of African migrants across Brazil’s borders to live in and influence the local cultures with their ancient customs and ideas. The European settlers also brought ideas, innovations and belief systems with them, shaping the local societies significantly. All of these different influences have meant that the modern-day Brazilian culture is unique and very complex.

At present, Brazil has a population of about 190 million people. Of these, more than half are white (which includes Portuguese, Italian, Polish etc... individuals), just fewer than 40% are mixed black and white and less than 10% are black. Approximately 80% of the population ascribes to the Roman Catholic faith. This is due to the intense Portuguese occupation of centuries ago. These European settlers taught the indigenous tribes Catholicism, built churches and established traditions and customs that originated in this church.

Also due to the mass Portuguese settlements during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, this language is the official language of Brazil. There are small numbers of indigenous people and immigrants who still speak their own tongues, but these are certainly among the vast minority.

Brazilians, as a nation, focus much importance on the family structure and the values that are entrenched within that institution. Families are usually large, and even extended family members are close with one another, providing much-needed help and support to each other whenever and however necessary.

Class distinctions are generally made based on the amount of money one has and the colour of one’s skin. Darker ethnicities tend to be disadvantaged. The huge differences in wage brackets is responsible for many of the disagreements and conditions of the Brazilian locals, with the upper classes seldom interacting with those at the lower end of the economic or class scale. Women are usually employed in the lower-paid positions, such as teaching and nursing.

Brazilians are usually rather affectionate, tactile people. Men shake hands with one another, while women will kiss each others’ cheeks in greeting. They will start with the left cheek and then kiss the right. In business relationships, Brazilian businessmen will usually get to know one another before committing to long-term business dealings, as they want to know those with whom they deal.

Other interesting etiquettes and expectations in the Brazilian culture include:

• When invited to dinner or an event, do not under-dress. It is considered more appropriate to over-dress than to appear too casual in appearance.
• Always bring the hostess a small gift of gratitude (such as a glass of wine or some fresh flowers).
• Avoid giving anyone a gift that is black or purple, as these are perceived as mourning colours.
• Always arrive early for events and dinners.
• In business, Brazilians tend to ‘deal’ with individuals, not companies. Therefore, you will need to establish a trusting relationship with them if you wish to gain their business. It is important that you do not try to rush them into making decisions or forming relationships.
• Manicures for women and formal dress for both sexes are expected within corporate situations.

Here is the Consulate General of Brazil in San Francisco web site on Brazilian culture: http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Brazil.html#b