Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in Brazil

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: Feburary 2015

Work Culture

Most normal social conventions are observed in Brazil, and the Brazilian workplace is as formal as in other countries in some ways. For example, initial meetings are usually formal affairs, with people being addressed as Senhor or Senhora X on introduction. Furthermore, the standard dress code in offices is conservative for men, with a two-piece suit for men and a three-piece for executives; women dress smartly but also with style. As elsewhere, at the beginning of a meeting people shake hands and exchange business cards.

However, the Brazilians are a friendly, exuberant people and this is reflected in a more open working atmosphere than can be found in most other countries. After the first few meetings, things become more sociable; there will be conversation at the beginning and at the end of meetings. The emphasis is on frieldnlines, and even interrupting people is not considered impolite.

More generally, there is a greater degree of flexibility in interpersonal relationships than is normally the case. Brazilians tend to be open and keen to get to know you. They like others to be like this too; being a stiff professional or an overbearing salesman will not go down well. Business is conducted on a personal rather than transactional level, so people will start to trust you once you have begun to open up to one another. The better you are at building up this trust and camaraderie, the easier you will find it to get on in Brazil.

This means that networking is an integral part of Brazilian business culture. There are numerous business groups and professional associations in Brazil. For more information, see Business Groups, Associations and Networking.

In business situations, punctuality is not always expected, as being a few minutes late is often overlooked. Of course, you may want to err on the side of caution in this matter. Working hours are generally from 8:30 to 5:30, with a break for lunch of up to two hours. Socialising after work is very common; people tend to mix their work and social lives quite freely. Note however that women may find it more difficult to get by in what is a macho culture.


Labour Market

Brazil constitutes the ‘B’ of the recently-coined ‘BRIC’ acronym. Along with Russia, India and China, it has been earmarked as a country with a greatly expanding economy and huge potential for further development. Indeed, Brazil has recently overtaken China as the country in the world that receives the most foreign investment. Recently, the government has also been investing, in the country’s infrastructure, development – and people, such as in anti-poverty schemes like the Bolsa Família. This helps to explain why the GDP has fluctuated recently. In the last two quarters, GDP has actually shrunk slightly, though the general trend is still upwards.

The unemployment rate in Brazil is just over 5%, which is considerably lower than the world average of 8%. There are job opportunities in many areas, especially engineering, finance and management. Nevertheless, competition for work is fierce and many positions are filled via internal secondments rather than from outside the company. Moreover, in the past the government-imposed deterrents, such as quotas of local workers and high permit fees for foreigners. However, this policy is now being reversed, at least for the highly skilled.

Additionally, speaking Portuguese is via requirement to getting a job. In the short-term, it may be worth taking a position in hospitality, catering or English teaching if one is available.