Brazilian Customs & Etiquette


As always, when traveling to a foreign country, it’s crucial to be well informed of its customs and etiquette. It’s also equally important to compare these customs with the customs of your own in order to better your understanding. The Brazilian culture is extremely rich and distinctive, with many differences to American culture.

Firstly, the level of contact in Brazil is a lot more intimate than that of American culture. For example, the distance between two people talking tends to be quite close and Brazilians often convey their emotions through touch. In addition, Brazilian women tend to touch more than men and greet each other with a kiss on each cheek, but men also greet one another with sincere pats on the back and bear hugs (similar to American men).[1]

Although in other cultures touching can be interpreted with a sexual connotation, Brazilians associate it with friendship and concern. Touching can be evident when two women converse, or even when a man and a women converse. Therefore, it is important not to confuse this behavior with flirting or inappropriateness.[2] Also, unlike in American culture, it is not uncommon to be interrupted in a conversation, as it is not perceived as being impolite.[3] Furthermore, the communication style of locals is generally pretty relaxed and quite informal. For example, Brazilians address professors, doctors, priests and other professionals using their title followed by their first name (i.e. Professor João or President Henrique).[4]

The appropriate body language and manner of addressing people varies in relation to the individual’s social standing. For instance, people working in service professions, such as construction workers, nurses and housecleaners, will usually avoid eye contact with those who seem to be higher than them in social status, whereas friends and colleagues will usually maintain direct eye contact.[5]  However, in Brazil, making brief eye contact with strangers is acceptable and common. It is debatable whether this is the case in the United States, and certainly depends on whereabouts in the United States you are.

Moreover, in Brazil, people typically dress casually, and Brazilian women in particular tend to dress in somewhat revealing or form-fitting clothing. This is because the Brazilians have relatively relaxed attitudes towards nudity and towards the body in general.[6]

If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a Brazilian’s home for dinner, there are certain things you should know regarding behavior and etiquette. Firstly, it is customary to arrive 10 to 15 minutes late.[7] In terms of gift giving, a box of candy, a bottle of wine, or flowers are appropriate gifts for the host. If you would like to give flowers to the host, orchids are considered a very nice gift. Although be sure to avoid the colors purple or black, as they symbolize mourning.[8]

In paying attention to these rules of etiquette, you can ensure to avoid situations of awkwardness or impoliteness! Best of luck!

[1] “Countries and Their Cultures: Brazil.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Countries and Their Cultures: Brazil.”

[6] Ibid.

[8] “Brazil – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette.”


How to cite this page: “Before You Arrive: Things to Know: Brazilian Customs & Etiquette,” Written by Elena Kim and Becca Fisher (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)). 



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