Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

Brazil: Open For Business? (Or Just For Fun?)

Brazil hosts the football World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games two years later in 2016.  As that vast and vibrant country prepares itself for unprecedented levels of international interest and scrutiny, Pi asks: what do people think of Brazil?  And what image do Brazilians have of themselves, and of foreign visitors?

The first two words that occur to outsiders tend to be “exotic” and “friendly”.  People think of this vast country as an alluring playground of kaleidoscopic cultures, dazzling carnivals, sultry samba rhythms, world-beating football and a vibrantly diverse people.  Overall, Brazil is instinctively liked, but not necessarily admired.  Fun, sure, but not entirely serious.

Affluent urban Brazilians have a quite different image of themselves.  Being Brazilian is a strange combination of ebullience and reticence, combining a strange kind of stand-offishness – almost an international inferiority complex  –  with fierce national pride.  Deep down, they feel, why would you bother being anything but Brazilian? (It’s a bit like Aussies telling you that Oz is “godzone country, mate”).  To hear people in São Paulo or Rio talk, Brazil is the biggest, the best, the most creative, the coolest (“legál” in Brazilian slang) and the terrific-est place on earth.  If foreign bores, drones and tight-asses can’t see this, it’s their loss.

In business dealings, Brazilians furiously resent being thought unsophisticated, flighty or flaky.  The quickest way to lose a Brazilian is to start talking about “emerging” or “third-world” countries.  The idea of Brazil being bracketed with BRIC nations like India or China makes sophisticated Brazilian business-people hoot with derisive laughter.

The thing is, Brazil really is different.  A steady stream of influential foreigners arrives, looks around, and confidently predicts that Brazil will adopt Anglo-Saxon business and communication models within a few years.  They are invariably wrong.  Yes, Brazil is changing.  But slowly, and certainly not in the way predicted by ‘omniscient’ foreigners.  If anything, the country has been doubling down on the Brazilian model, rather than following other countries’ example.

As the world gears up to visit, Brazilians probably need to recognize this divergence in world-view, and to start “looking through the other end of the telescope”. Indeed, so should we foreigners.

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: Latin America Product – Business / Professional