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Behavioral Guide – How to Behave Appropiately in Brazil

February 28, 2022
Toasting in Brazil

No one wants to attract negative attention as a tourist in a foreign country. Brazilians are very open, fun-loving people with a big heart. True to the motto "carpe diem", every moment is appreciated. It doesn't take much to get them excited about anything. To better adapt to Brazilian lifestyle on your Brazil trip, you should pay attention to a few basic rules.

"Tudo bem" is used both as a question and an answer

Brazil without "Tudo bem" doesn't exist. As soon as you meet a local, they'll start a conversation with this phrase. "Tudo bem?" means something like "How are you?". You can answer with "Tudo bem." as well, which shows how easy-going Brazilians are. Unlike in Northern America, this question is asked by everyone, including complete strangers. In addition, the question is always followed by a positive answer, even if being stressed or tired. A joyful basic tone makes everyday life in Brazil harmonious and full of positive energy.

Not afraid of bodily contact

Avoiding physical contact in Brazil is difficult. With an abraço you usually greet and say goodbye to each other. Depending on the kind of relationship, this hug is practiced more or less intensely.
Women often give each other two to three kisses on the cheek as a greeting, starting on the left cheek. The kisses symbolize a strong and lovingly connection.
Men greet each other with a handshake. Unlike in Northern America, however, physical contact is also being expanded further. The fact that the shoulder of the other man is grasped during the handshake, is common in many places and builds up a close and familiar relationship.

At the beach

Body awareness and body positivity are widespread in Brazil. This is obvious on the beach, because there is no such thing as hiding. Swimsuits are hardly to be seen and bikinis don't serve to cover the body, but to show it and be proud of it. Accordingly, all Brazilian bikini models have little fabric.
However, this shouldn't be seen as an invitation. On the contrary, many men wear tight swimming trunks when on the beach as well.
As a tourist, you naturally stand out at the beach with long shirts and socks in sandals and will certainly be looked at obliquely. You better save yourself that.
Even if the swimwear can't be revealing enough, nudity is anything but welcome. In order not to shock a Brazilian, you should explore whether there is a nudist beach nearby or just keep your swimwear on.
In addition, you should know how to behave appropriately, when being offered food or products on the beach. Ignoring the traders means not valueing them and their work and is very rude. If you don't want to buy anything, you should therefore rather respond "Não, obrigado/a.” with a smile. Overall, you'll always be well perceived with a smile.

Parties and celebrations

Even though punctuality is a sign of politeness, you should be careful in Brazil. Brazilians usually invite for one to two hours before the time when they actually want to start a celebration. If you show up at the arranged time, you may stress the host and disturb the preparations.
However, this only applies to larger festivals and celebrations. At a smaller meeting or date, tardiness would be rude. If you don't manage to appear upon the agreed time, you should pass this on by phone, for example.
In case of an invitation, it's also welcome to bring a small gift. Standing at the door empty-handed is inappropriate and not common in Brazil. It's nice to bring wine, flowers, or something personal.
Furthermore, it's important to take a personal invitation seriously. If someone invites you to their home, this is a very courteous gesture and you should appreciate it. Especially if you are invited for coffee or tea, you'll be expected to accept this invitation. On the other hand, you may refuse a beer or other alcoholic drinks.
Surely, there'll be no boredom during a festival, because Brazilians are very entertaining and like to talk a lot. Popular subjects include family, sports, music, holidays, and nature. It's better not to introduce conflict issues such as political or religious views or sexuality. Crime and poverty should also be avoided as topics of conversation. Overall, be sure to leave out all issues that could criticize a Brazilian in any form. You make friends instead by expressing yourself positively about country and people.
In addition, being a good listener can help a lot. Brazilians like to talk about themselves and their family. When they find a loyal listener, they'll be happy and grateful.

While eating

Don't be surprised if you come across a "wrongly" set table during a restaurant visit. In Brazil, the cutlery arrangement is exactly the opposite. The knife is to the left, and the fork is to the right of the plate. That is because in Brazil, you first cut and then eat the bite-sized pieces. While eating you put the knife aside.
By the way, it isn't common to blow your nose at the table or in public. Neither should you use toothpicks in public. Better do it in the bathroom or in the room next door. In Brazil, blowing your nose is considered more rude than sniffling. However, avoid both in public spaces, if possible.
After a visit to the restaurant, you should express your satisfaction by a tip of about 10 percent. Since wages in the service sector are low, tips are an important part of the income. In some cases, however, the tip has already been included in the invoice. You may recognize this when reading the additional note "10% taxa".

With a "no" you won't get far

The courtesy of Brazilians shows in the fact, that they are no good in saying “no”. Therefore, be aware that "sim" doesn't necessarily mean "yes", but rather "I'm trying my best". According to the mentality of Brazilians, sometimes little excuses are also used out of pure politeness. You better try to pick up on body language and facial expressions as well.

External appearance

In Brazil, huge attention is paid to looks. According to the motto "better chic than casual", people dress and emphasize their status. However, ties are rarely found. For a business look, black socks are typical. Accordingly, it's better not to wear black socks in the gym.
Personal care also is of high priority. Well-groomed fingernails, cleanliness, and a good scent are essential. Normally, Brazilians shower two to three times a day. Disregarding personal care when traveling might win you negative attention. However, you shouldn't wear expensive jewelry or valuables for your safety.

"Where there is a will, there is a way"

The saying “dar um jeitinho”, “we will find a way“, applies to all situations. Foresight and long-term business planning are difficult, especially because of the uncertainty of political and economic development. Fortunately, Brazilians are creative, spontaneous, and flexible. You should acquire these skills quickly, to enjoy a relaxed stay in Brazil. In addition, Brazilians often use their contacts and help each other. That's why you should know how to behave appropiately, to find many friends and much fun during your Brazil holiday!

sources: www.focus.de, www.gtai.de, www.youtube.com

Source: Aventura do Brasil