Cultural challenges for Internet business development in Brazil

A lot of international Internet businesses are coming to the point where they want to reach out to new users and new clients in other parts of the world. A very common strategy is to focus on regions that are somehow similar to your own region. Where business culture is of a similar kind, where the language is the same or at least understood by the new partners and clients you want to reach. Many Internet entrepreneurs and startup founders believe they have a good understanding of what other parts of the world look like or how they are functioning from the inside. Surprisingly, many actually believe it is all the same on the global level, just the languages change from country to country. This is, of course, far from being the reality.

Cultural differences are what many entrepreneurs have issues to understand at the very first moment. It often takes time and also a certain level of respect and empathy for the new market and its very own culture to be successful. Some countries were benefitting from larger immigration movements over the years which opens up the possibility to contract local professionals from any country the company wants to focus on. This is the case mostly in larger cities in the Western world but does not solve the question for all companies and all places and cities. Sometimes, it is necessary to look out for professionals located inside the country of interest. And this is where cultural bridge-building comes into play.

International companies need professionals who can not only offer some technical skills but they actually need qualified international partners who are also able to explain cultural differences or who are able to translate cultural behavior and understanding from one country to the other.

In Brazil, for example, the statement “later I get back to that” does not actually mean the person would later get back to that job, task or activity. In fact, it is often meant as a diplomatic version of “I will ignore that” which could cause serious misunderstandings in business planning procedures. Also, conflict resolution could be a serious challenge in Brazil since people are often not used to “serious talk” like straight instructions, requests and especially criticism. Strongly influenced by the culture of positive thinking, negative outcomes (at work or in society in general) are mostly ignored (and not improved) to not ruin your day or even your life (the consequences of that are of course visible all over the country but that is a very different debate). While in some parts of the world a straight statement regarding inappropriate results is part of the game, Brazilians can easily react offended and take it as a personal insult.

On the other hand, however, there is an easy-going mentality that includes a little small-talk here and there to bring positive vibes to the overall atmosphere at work, in a meeting or any other situation of life. While people in some countries are used to go into a meeting and get straight to business talk, Brazilians prefer to start meetings smiling and with a little small-talk and maybe a few jokes on any topic that suits best, from a recent restaurant experience to the weather or the color of the new furniture in the room. A positive habit that could (maybe should) spread all over the world to make meeting atmospheres a bit more friendly.

There are many other cultural challenges, of course, the cases above are just a few examples. What really matters is that international business people take cultural differences into consideration when they decide to go abroad and address new clients in different countries.