Cultural Etiquette in Brazil: Dos and Don’ts for Travelers
- Monday July 24th, 2023
- Posted by: Amanda Ennes
- Category: Brazil
When planning your trip to Brazil, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the cultural etiquette in Brazil. The country, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse traditions, has a set of social norms and customs that may differ from what you are used to. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience during your visit, here are some dos and don’ts of cultural etiquette in Brazil.
Greetings and Personal Space
Dos: Brazilians are known for their warmth and friendliness. When meeting someone for the first time, a firm handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek is common, even between men. Maintain eye contact during greetings to show respect and interest.
Don’ts: Avoid standing too far away or being overly reserved when meeting people. Also, refrain from using formal titles unless explicitly requested, as Brazilians tend to be informal and prefer a friendly approach. As a matter of fact, Brazilians call everyone by their first names: teachers, bosses, doctors, in-laws…
Pro tip: Brazilians will often touch you when speaking to you and hug you and kiss you when saying hi or goodbye. This is common for them even if this is the first time they have seen you. If you do not feel comfortable with that, just keep a distance and extend your hand in advance for a handshake to avoid hugs and kisses.
Dining and Visiting People
Dos: Embrace the culinary delights Brazil has to offer and enjoy communal meals with locals. When invited to someone’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift, such as flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine. If you are invited to an informal party or barbecue, bring a multipack beer. During meals, remember to compliment the chef. Moreover, as strangely as it seems, it is polite to arrive a bit late when invited to someone’s home. If you are invited to a party or gathering or even dinner, get there around 20 minutes after the designated time.
Don’ts: Avoid starting to eat before the host begins or leaving the table immediately after finishing your meal. Additionally, in restaurants, tipping is generally not expected in Brazil, as a 10% service charge is often included in the bill.
Additional reading: 10 Things You Need To Know Before Going To Rio de Janeiro.
Language and Communication
Dos: While Portuguese is the official language, learning a few basic phrases can go a long way in showing respect to the locals. Brazilians appreciate efforts to communicate in their language. Use friendly and open body language, as gestures play an essential role in the conversation.
Don’ts: Avoid making negative remarks about Brazil or its people. Please refrain from using Spanish phrases, as Portuguese and Spanish, while similar, are distinct languages, and Brazilians take pride in their linguistic identity.
Dos: Brazil’s climate can vary significantly depending on the region, but generally, the dress code is relaxed and casual. Light, breathable clothing is suitable for most occasions. Beachwear is acceptable at the beach, but always use some clothes on top of it in public spaces. In Rio de Janeiro, it is socially acceptable to wear flip-flops ANYWHERE. Yes, you can wear your Havaianas to a doctor’s appointment, to a walk around the mall, to a lunch date, to the beach, and even to your Portuguese classes at Caminhos.
Don’ts: Avoid wearing revealing clothing when visiting churches or religious sites. Also, leave expensive jewelry and accessories at home to minimize the risk of theft.
Read more: Is Rio de Janeiro Safe?
Respect for Diversity
Dos: Embrace Brazil’s cultural diversity and be open to learning about various customs and traditions. Respect the country’s history and the sensitivities surrounding certain topics. Respect race, religion, and sexual orientation.
Don’ts: Never make assumptions or perpetuate stereotypes about Brazilians or their culture. It is important to notice that not all Brazilians like football and samba and they do not like to be related to these all the time. Avoid discussing sensitive subjects like politics, religion, or crime, as they can be contentious topics. Watch teacher Jéssica’s series of videos on controversial topics in Brazil (Parts 1, 2, and 3).
Celebrations and Festivals
Dos: Join in on Brazil’s vibrant celebrations and festivals, such as Carnival. Participate with enthusiasm and immerse yourself in the local culture. Enjoy the music, dance, and festivities that make Brazil unique.
Don’ts: Avoid inappropriate behavior during festivities, and be mindful of personal belongings in crowded places. Respect local customs and rituals, even if you do not fully understand them.
An important cultural etiquette in Brazil is to shower every day. Remember to keep your clothes clean and smelling nice. Brazilians will notice if you do not shower every day and this might cause discomfort to them, either in school, work, or public spaces.
Cultural Etiquette in Brazil
Brazil is a country that celebrates diversity, embraces visitors, and offers an abundance of cultural experiences. By familiarizing yourself with the dos and don’ts of cultural etiquette in Brazil, you can make the most of your trip and create lasting memories. Remember, showing respect for the local customs and traditions will not only enrich your travel experience but also make a positive impression on the welcoming people of Brazil. So pack your bags, learn a few Portuguese phrases, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with new encounters and discoveries. Happy travels!
Caminhos Language Centre is the largest and most exciting Portuguese school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We have an excellent infrastructure, over 15 experienced Brazilian teachers, and a friendly multilingual support staff. We are the only school in Brazil able to offer Portuguese group courses throughout the year on 10 different levels. Moreover, our school also offers more than just Portuguese lessons for foreigners, we offer you the complete Rio de Janeiro experience. Every day we organize 100% free and fun activities for you to socialize and practice your Portuguese. We can also help you with a student visa for Brazil and accommodation in Rio de Janeiro. Follow us on Instagram for some Portuguese tips and news.