Saturday, 7 January 2012

Culture and work style in Brazil

Culture and work style in Brazil as one of the BRIC member.
As discussed in the previous blog that BRIC economies are the fasted growing economies in the world so big companies around the world want to expand their business in those four countries. In order to do that they have to understand the culture and work style of their targeted countries.
Today’s companies have a world of opportunities. The challenge lies in accessing them. Technology has made it possible for companies to expand into international markets. But doing so is complex. Companies must consider the impact of local politics and/or geopolitical issues on the business; cultural issues, e.g., how to overcome differences in attitude about cost, quality, service, and process; and the integration of local culture and work styles with corporate standards, e.g., social norms and attitudes about information sharing (Herman Miller, 2010)

Given that they are on the cusp of becoming economic contenders, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) and the four cultures they represent (Latin, Eastern European, Indian, and Asian) are well worth understanding. These countries account for more than a quarter of the world's land area and more than 40 percent of the world’s population. They have changed their political systems to embrace global capitalism1, and, as the fastest growing economies in the world, they are on track to be wealthier than most of today’s economic powers by 2050. (Herman Miller, 2010)

In this paper I will try and find out the culture and work style in these four countries and how a foreign company should respond. Let’s start with Brazil.


Brazil is the largest country in South America in both population and area. It is one of the biggest supplies of some important natural resources such as timber, sugar and coffee. The culture is a thriving fusion of Portuguese, American and indigenous Indian influences. Catholicism is the predominant religion and almost every event has catholic influence. Brazil’s culture is a friendly, open that easily accommodates different ethnic groups.

Some facts:
o Official name – Federative Republic of Brazil
o Population – 198,739,269* 
o Official Language – Portuguese
o Currency – Brazilian real (BRL)
o Capital city – Brasilia
o GDP – purchasing power parity $1.99 trillion*  
o GDP Per Capita – purchasing power parity $10,100*

*Source: CIA world Factbook 2007

Some key concepts:
Brazil is a collectivist country and family is the central part of its social structure. Brazilian family tend to be large and close to each other. It provides securities and connection for the members. In the Brazilian business family plays an important role as family members will be found in the same company.

Like family relationship is an important issue in Brazil as Brazilians depend heavily on relationship. It is essential therefore to spend the time getting to know your Brazilian counterparts, both personally and professionally. Knowing the right people will also help minimise any frustrations you might experience doing business in Brazil.

Time in Brazil is approached in a very relaxed and flexible manner. Punctuality and precise plans are not common. Brazilians tend to live life at a slower pace, and this carries over into business which can result in negotiations taking much longer than you are used to. Meetings are also often delayed or cancelled without any prior warning.

Work environment in Brazil:
Like other parts of the world the workplace in Brazil is changing. However office life remains hierarchical. Communication style and comfortableness depend on the education level of the employee. Office hours imposed by the government are between 9-6 and one hour lunch break. But these hours might be change by mutual agreement between employee and supervisor. Overtime hour requires overtime payment. Workers must leave secured workplace during long break such as lunch break and must use their strict badge tracks for their entry and exit. It is required by the law as it helps to resolve any dispute between two parties.

Organisations in Brazil are expected to provide transportation and meal vouchers. This includes transportation from metro station to office.

Brazil’s largest office building, the recently constructed 1.5 million-square-foot Torre
Santander in Sao Paulo was purchased by the Banco Santander in 2007 as its headquarters. It is considered to be the most expensive real estate transaction made in
Brazil to-date at a cost of US $650 million dollars. The building has no private offices
And the executives are in an open area separated from one another by glass partitions.

A full service office like Torre Santander facility begins with working together at a group table doing individual and shared work before separating their own departmental work. A medical service clinic is required along with gym, travel agency, bookstore, hair salon, movie theatre etc in a massive office such as Torre Santander.

As Brazil is becoming global day by day so as the office standardisation as well. Big multinational company has the knowledge and experience regarding standardisation of office that they have gained in other country.  Given the cost of technology and the expense of moving cabling, emphasis is placed on creating universal workstation types to support box moves. Individual employee spaces are getting smaller so personalization within the workplace is typically kept to a minimum.

With 95.21 million workforces in the market, Brazilian corporations are concerned about attraction and retention of their workforce. In the marketing campaign Brazilian companies use phrase like ‘’ work for the best company’’ in order to attract best people.  

In the last decade Brazil opened its economy for foreign investment and that helped them making it the fifth largest economy in the world and largest in the Latin America. Brazil also benefits from its position as the gateway to the lucrative Mercosur market. A strong diversified economy and unique culture make Brazil as one of the exciting but sometimes challenging country in the world. In order to be successful businesses need to understand the culture and work style in Brazil.  

1.      Communicaid, (2009) Doing business in Brazil/Brazilian Social and Business culture, p.1-4.
2.      Miller, H. (2010) Culture and work style in the BRIC countries, p.1-13.