Brazilian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s
  • Engage in discussions on topics such as soccer (football) and the natural landscapes of Brazil. These are welcome topics of conversation.
  • Have a willingness to be open and warm. This will help create a stronger dynamic, as Brazilians tend to interact in a warm-hearted manner.
  • Be open to invitations to join in social activities such as a game of soccer. It is a great way to interact with others and to build stronger relationships.
  • Show compassion for people’s problems and needs. It demonstrates a sense of consideration and warmth that is likely to be very appreciated by your Brazilian companion.
  • When talking to a Brazilian companion, inquire into the well-being of their family, spouse, children, etc. Family life is considerably important to Brazilians.
  • Try to accept appeals for help and support. It is generally not an attempt to be exploitative, but rather an expression of concern.
  • Be careful if you use hand gestures towards a Brazilian. Some gestures have different and unexpectedly strong meanings compared to Australia (see the Communication section for more details).

Don'ts
  • Avoid discussing or debating politics, poverty or religion. Whilst these topics are not taboo, not everyone is open to discussing them. Moreover, if it does come up as a topic of conversation, avoid expressing opinions in the form of a critique. Although Brazilians may be skeptical of their government and societal structure, criticism from a foreigner may be interpreted as an insult.
  • Avoid boasting about Argentina. As one of Brazil’s neighbouring countries, Argentina is thought to be a ‘rival’, in a similar way that New Zealand is to Australia.
  • Do not refer to Brazilians as ‘Latin Americans’. Typically, ‘Latin America’ is thought to refer to those countries that have connections to Spain.
  • Try not to be bothered by the lack of concern for punctuality. Arriving 15-30 minutes after the designated time is not considered late in Brazil.
  • Avoid boasting about your wealth, class or hierarchy. Brazilians appreciate a sense of humility.
  • Do not refer to Afro-Brazilian religions as ‘macumba’. This term has a negative meaning, and furthers the prejudices experienced by followers of Spiritism, Umbanda and Candomblé.
  • Avoid being sarcastic or mocking during conversations. Brazilians are generally optimistic and light-hearted and it is highly possible that wit or irony may be misunderstood. Light and inoffensive humour plays a larger part in Brazilian conversation.
  • Never ask a Brazilian why they are not ‘black’. This is typically taken to be a hurtful and ignorant comment, even if the person asking is genuinely naïve.
  • Do not be offended if you are called a ‘gringo’. This term is generally used not as an insult, but as a nickname towards foreigners or foreign things in general, regardless of how they look.
  • Avoid swearing. Cursing and blasphemy are considered to be offensive and a sign of poor manners.
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