Hello!! My name is Ranjit and I did a global internship in Vitoria (capital city of Espirito Santo in Brazil) with a small software company for a year. I was involved in creating and executing the strategy and marketing plan for a new product launch. Through this experience, I got to learn the inner workings of the Brazilian work culture and how things get done. However, for me the most important part of the experience was to learn and feel the culture and make strong friendships.
I arrived in Brazil with little to none Portuguese, so I faced some minor delays in getting my point across, but the AIESECers that received me were very helpful in the early transition. The city was small in comparison to the cities that I knew before going to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, Vitoria had a very cozy social environment and was surrounded by multiple beautiful beaches. The couple of folks that I frequently saw were very instrumental in making my experience a memorable one.
I travelled around the country a bit: Rio de Janiero (during the Carnaval), Sao Paolo, Belo Horizonte and couple of smaller cities close to Vitoria. It is a very beautiful country and the vegetation changes throughout and there is an amazing diversity in the fruits and vegetables. There are some social issues within the country but Brazil is much more than just the Amazonas, Carnaval, and Football.
Overall, I had a great cultural experience and made some lifelong friendships. I am certain that I have changed in some ways that I haven’t totally realized yet, but I strongly believe that the attitude and open mindedness that I went in with was very instrumental in ensuring this life changing Brazilian experience for me.
‘Some Cultural details & Cultural experiences/issues that I faced’-
The Brazilian culture seems very open and expressive to the outsider, as they discuss about family, emotions, and laugh and joke quite frequently. However, it changes from region to region within Brazil. For instance, the culture around work and business in the Sao Paulo area is more like North America than Brazil, as they abide with the timelines and are more professional and work oriented in comparison to Rio de Janeiro or the State of Bahia where the people are more relaxed regarding time and other North American formalities. The country generally goes from economically well off to more poverty stricken areas as you venture from the South to the North, so the discussions and the attitude of people towards life and business changes quite dramatically.
I spent most of my time in Vitoria, ES (southeast of Brazil), which had a relatively higher standard of living but business-wise it was a bit more relaxed regarding the formalities. Culturally I didn’t find their behavior that shocking as I have lived in other countries with a similar culture; however I found that generally Brazilians tend to be very open with their emotions. This was unfamiliar territory for me and some of the other AIESEC trainees, but it was good for me to embrace a bit of my soft side to understand myself and the surroundings better.
‘What “inner workings of Brazilian work culture” I experienced that are different from N. American’–
In comparison to North America, the Brazilian culture doesn’t look so different or shocking on the exterior, but on the interior it is extremely different. The way to approach life, family, work, entertainment, etc is quite different. Even though from my short observation I noticed quite a few single parent families, I observed strong family ties and focus on family hangouts. So, I observed and heard quite a bit about the value of having connections to get a job or clients. When it comes to hiring someone to work or do contract-work, Brazilians prefer to have a recommendation from a friend or someone they know. Brazilians have not made the shift to full on impersonal online or phone based business communication. They prefer to sit down face to face and slowly transition the conversation into business. So the way of communication is very different than that in North America where meetings are a bit more impersonal, somewhat confrontational, and based on a schedule.