Brazilian Culture


Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Basic Etiquette

  • The notion of respect is not extended to every ‘fulano’ (‘so-and-so’) one meets on the street or in a public setting. Brazilians will typically walk ahead in lines or cut people off when driving. This attitude, whilst common in the anonymous public space, differs from their attitudes of respect towards people within their own social circle.
  • When it comes to queuing etiquette, the notion of ‘first come, first serve’ does not always apply. Cutting in line may be tolerated if the person who comes later believes they are more important than others in line, or they know someone who can assist with jumping the line. For example, ‘doutor fulano’ (‘doctor so-and-so’) may cut in front because the person serving is a patient of theirs. These intricate dynamics determine not only who is next in line, but also who generally excels in society.
  • Given large family sizes and typically small living quarters, Brazilians are generally not demanding regarding their privacy. Within one family, possessions are typically thought to be communal and  are shared amongst everyone. Thus, it is expected to be open about one’s possessions and space.


  • Since Brazilians are generally easy going, the etiquette for visiting their home is quite casual and relaxed.
  • It is considered to be impolite to arrive on the designated time. If invited to a Brazilian household, come no earlier than 15-30 minutes after the designated time.
  • If you are offered a complimentary cup of ‘cafezinho’ (‘black coffee’), accept it unless you have a good reason to refuse. In Brazil, coffee is a symbol of hospitality and is widely consumed. Likewise, offer cafezinho to anyone who visits your home if it is possible.
  • The purpose of dinner invitations or parties is primarily for socialising. In turn, people are not normally hasty to leave. Such invitations usually include time for conversing before, during and after the meal. Typically, guests will not leave before dessert and a cafezinho have been served.


  • Generally, etiquette around food and eating is casual. However, there are a number of common practices.
  • Some foods that may seem appropriate to be eaten and handled with fingers are not. Typically, people use napkins or toothpicks to pick up food.
  • Brazilians often tend to eat quietly. Burping and making noise with plates and cutlery is considered to be poor etiquette.
  • Brazilians tend to finish all the food they put on their plate. Taking more food than one can eat and leaving unfinished food on one’s plate is considered impolite, suggesting that the person did not enjoy the food.
  • It is common to have a second serving.
  • When eating out in a restaurant, often people will lift their hand and motion for the waiter to come to them.

Gift Giving

  • Small gifts such as a chocolate bar are often given as a symbolic gesture of appreciation towards someone who does a favour.
  • If invited into a Brazilian home, bringing flowers or a small gift for the hostess is a good gesture of appreciation. A gift for the hostess’ children will also be greatly appreciated.
  • Flowers can be sent before or after a visit to someone’s home. Orchids are considered a nice gift.
  • Wrapping gifts in vibrant colours will be appreciated, particularly if it is in the national colours of yellow and green.
  • Gifts that are sharp such as knives or scissors refer to an intention to ‘sever’ ties with someone. Thus, avoid giving gifts that may be interpreted as a cutting of connections.
  • Avoid giving practical gifts such as wallets, keychains or perfume. These are considered to be too personal.
  • If a married man has to give a gift to a woman, he should mention that the gift is from their spouse to avoid the gesture being interpreted as flirtation.
  • Avoid giving gifts wrapped in purple or that are purple, such as purple orchids. The colour purple is associated with mourning.

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