Be prepared for lots of skin-on-skin contact! Brazilians will often greet with a kiss or a hug, and both men and women will frequently touch you when speaking, either patting your shoulder or placing their hand on your hand or arm to make a point. In crowds, Brazilians maintain much less physical distance than North Americans normally find comfortable.
Greetings -- Shaking hands has become a more acceptable way of greeting someone, but don't be surprised if you are kissed on the cheek once (in São Paulo) or twice (in Rio and elsewhere), even when greeting someone to whom you have just been introduced. Men do not kiss each other, but greet with an open hug, using one hand to shake hands and the other to grab the man by the shoulder. These greetings are not only used between good friends and family members but are also quite common between business acquaintances.
Dress -- Brazilians, and particularly Brazilian women, have a reputation for colorful and sexy outfits. This certainly holds true in Rio, but in the south and the interior, people are more conservative. Novelist Jorge Amado has some fun with this, describing the arrival of a flamboyant Carioca woman in a small Bahian town: "The female creature, outfitted in totally exotic style, a kind of blue overalls with zippers and pockets and in the legs and arms, studded with flashy metallic grommets and nailheads, raised her helmet and revealed herself to be quite a dish. She drew off her gloves and with long fingers fluffed up auburn hair with a platinum streak in the middle, showing that she was either a Venusian or from Rio de Janeiro, and very exciting either way."
In business settings -- even in Rio -- men are expected to wear full suits, even when the thermometer hits 43°C (110°F). Women will wear smart business suits (either a skirt or pants is acceptable). The only other dress code applies to churches and government buildings (loosely adhered to in most parts but enforced with un-Brazilian ferocity in Brasilia): No shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, or miniskirts allowed. Anywhere else, smart-casual attire is more than enough; even shorts and a tank top are enough to gain access to most shops and restaurants.
Getting Things Done -- As informal and casual as Brazilians are in social settings, they can be strangely formal in a business situation: Titles matter and hierarchy is followed strictly. Often people in lower positions will be reluctant to make decisions on sometimes (in our eyes) minor issues. (One front-desk clerk refused to provide the hotel's website -- this was the marketing manager's responsibility.) Getting around such obstacles (Brazilians are famous for inventing seemingly pointless rules and procedures) involves a jeitinho (literally "finding a way"), a very Brazilian term used to describe the way one can get around a rule without really breaking it. Finding the appropriate jeitinho often requires creative problem solving; the best idea is usually to keep talking, keep suggesting things. Whatever you do, don't get angry. Brazilians avoid conflict and rarely raise their voices or show anger in public. This passive behavior can be frustrating in business situations, as Brazilians will rarely ever criticize or disagree with anyone.
Also note that unlike in much of Europe and North America, it can be nearly impossible to arrange anything over the phone. Most people do not have voice mail, and phone calls are often not returned. E-mail is becoming more common, but only as a follow-up. A personal visit is really the only effective way to get things done. Persistence usually pays off, and having a business card to introduce yourself or to leave behind can be helpful. Indeed, even when traveling to Brazil as a tourist, having some business cards with you can make a difference if you are trying to reach a hotel manager or an airline supervisor to solve a problem.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.