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Communicating with Brazilians

TRACY NOVINGER
Illustrations by Donald Haughey
Copyright Date: 2003
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/701946
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  • Book Info
    Communicating with Brazilians
    Book Description:

    Brazilians are gracious, friendly, fun-loving people, which makes their country a very inviting place to visit for pleasure or business. So great is their cordiality that Brazilians will say "yes" to almost any request-even when they actually mean "no"-which can be quite confusing for U.S. visitors who are used to a more direct style of communication. In fact, as Americans spend time in Brazil, they discover a number of cultural differences that can hamper their communication with Brazilians. To overcome these barriers, this book analyzes Brazilian culture and modes of communication and compares them with their American counterparts to help Americans learn to communicate successfully with Brazilians and vice versa.

    To aid Americans in understanding the Brazilian perspective, Tracy Novinger presents a portrait of Brazil's history, racial fusion, economy, and contemporary lifestyles. She focuses in on many aspects of Brazilian culture, such as social organization and ranking systems; preconceptions, worldviews, and values; sexual behaviors and eating customs; thought patterns; nonverbal communication such as the use of time, space, gestures, touch, eye contact, rituals, etc.; and differences in Brazilian and American point-making styles when negotiating, persuading, and conversing. For quick reference, she concludes the book with a summary and checklist of the leading Brazilian cultural characteristics, as well as eight recommendations for enhancing intercultural communication.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79845-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. PART I. Communication Is Culture
    • CHAPTER ONE Communicating with Brazilians
      (pp. 3-9)

      When Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822, the United States was the first country to recognize the new nation. The two countries have traditionally enjoyed a friendly and active relationship in both the economic sphere and the political sphere. Brazil is Latin America’s dominant country, as measured by size, population, and economy. At the international level, Brazil has supported security efforts, from dispatching an expeditionary force to the Allied campaign in Italy during World War II to sending a battalion to Angola as United Nations Peacekeepers from 1995 to 1997.¹ Brazil is involved in a wider range of...

    • CHAPTER TWO What Constitutes a Culture
      (pp. 10-15)

      Intercultural explorations and exchanges may lead to mutual suspicion rather than mutual understanding, and to greater provincialism rather than greater sophistication.³ One example of such an encounter took place in Santos, Brazil. An Englishwoman turned to a North American who was shopping in the same small grocery store that specialized in import items and commented, “I have been shopping here for twenty years, and these people have not learned to speak English yet.” The opportunity to learn about a different society can shatter one’s preconceived stereotypes, but many travelers cannot appreciate any country but their own and cannot seem to...

    • CHAPTER THREE Perceptual Filters in Communication
      (pp. 16-28)

      We select, evaluate, and organize the stimuli of the outside world through an internal process of perception. From the time we are born, we learn our perceptions and resulting behaviors from our cultural experiences.³

      Each of us has personal characteristics that developed in the matrix of our culture. These characteristics filter our perceptions of events and affect how we experience the world. We evaluate and take action in accordance with what we perceive. Our perceptions directly affect our verbal and nonverbal behavior.

      The Brazilian anthropologist Teresa Pires do Rio Caldeira analyzes São Paulo, the city where she spent most of...

  6. PART II. Resplendent Brazil:: Land of Paradox
    • CHAPTER FOUR A Capsule of History
      (pp. 31-42)

      It is difficult to encapsulate the salient characteristics of such a large, diverse, and dynamic country as Brazil. It is a country of continental dimensions, larger in area than the United States, if one excludes Alaska and Hawaii. It spans a wide band of tropics in the north and narrows to an area of temperate climate in the south. It is a rich, lush country full of crushing human poverty. It is a country where people immerse themselves in warm and gratifying human relationships with family and friends but go into the streets of the large cities always alert to...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Racial Fusion
      (pp. 43-53)

      In the 1440s the Portuguese initiated the Atlantic slave trade. By 1500 African slaves constituted approximately 10 percent of Lisbon’s population of 100,000. Over the ensuing three hundred years, roughly 1550 to 1850, that Europeans transported human captives from Africa to the Americas, it is estimated that 10 million to 12 million Africans survived. Brazil was the destination of more than one-third of all Africans transported to slavery in the New World; the United States received approximately 6 percent.

      The result of approximately 3.5 million slaves arriving in Brazil and approximately 750,000 black Africans being enslaved on the plantations in...

    • CHAPTER SIX Surviving the Economy
      (pp. 54-67)

      In June 2000 the United Nations released its report on the Index of Human Development, a measurement of the quality of life in 174 countries. Factors in addition to economic statistics are considered: per capita income is adjusted for purchasing power, and life quality takes into consideration access to health care and potable water, life expectancy, and education to arrive at a “misery,” or poverty, index.²

      This report, based on an analysis of 1998 statistics, indicates that in Brazil the poorest 20 percent of the population have 2.5 percent of the country’s income, whereas the richest 20 percent have 63.8...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Experiencing Brazil
      (pp. 68-77)

      To effectively communicate with Brazilians, it is important to have an understanding of their world. Life experiences create filters through which one sees the world, which in turn affect one’s behavior. Given the negative aspects of daily life in Brazil, it is remarkable that there are so many positive aspects as well and that Brazilians live with a heady joy and have a predominantly optimistic outlook.

      Personal safety is an issue of primary public concern in Brazil. A 2000 newspaper editorial reported that according to Justice Department statistics, between 1979 and 1998 the population of Brazil increased 37 percent and...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Social Organization
      (pp. 78-89)

      Brazilian society is organized into collective groups, which fundamentally differs from the individualistic organization of United States society. Collectivists are conditioned by their culture to provide emotional and material support to each other. They nurture mutual ties of dependence; conversely, individualists are independent and distant in their personal interactions.² Collectivists are best encouraged by appealing to their group spirit and by requesting cooperation, whereas individualists tend to be self-motivated and typically can be stimulated to achieve through individual competition.³ Further, collective cultures are usually less tolerant of variation in culturally prescribed behavior than are individualistic cultures.⁴

      Individualist cultures hold people...

    • CHAPTER NINE Ranking Systems
      (pp. 90-98)

      All living have a pecking order. Therefore, all cultures will have a system of ranking their members as to status and privilege.² The acceptance of hierarchy in a society is, by definition, an acceptance of inequality.³ When the hierarchy of a culture is steep, with significant differences in people’s rank in the social order, the inequality among its members will be significant. Communication between a person from a culture with steep hierarchical organization and one from a culture with a shallow hierarchy presents many difficulties.

      Persons can be ranked in a culture by such factors as order of birth, order...

    • CHAPTER TEN Preconceptions
      (pp. 99-107)

      Prejudices and stereotypes are preconceptions, which our cultures engender in every one of us. These preconceptions filter our perceptions. We expect others to conform to our behavioral patterns and carry these subliminal expectations into cross-cultural encounters.¹ A deviation from our standards of conduct leads to a negative reaction stemming from our subconscious cultural rules and impedes communication.² We need to learn to suspend our negative reactions because the person from another culture may be behaving according to his or her own cultural rules.³

      Because people are thus programmed in their behavior, stereotypes primarily express the culture of the person who...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Worldview
      (pp. 108-117)

      A person’s worldview synthesizes many of a culture’s categories of perception. Worldview has to do with whether one sees oneself as master of one’s fate or views the human condition as a product of destiny, whether a person should act individually or collectively as part of a group, whether people are basically equal or have a predestined hierarchical rank in life, and what daily activities and attitudes are most valued and praised by the people in a culture. In each of the world’s cultures, a different set of such concepts makes up individuals’ perceptions of the universe in which they...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Values and Identity
      (pp. 118-126)

      Values are the set of rules that we learn from our culture and draw on to make choices and resolve conflicts.¹ Values regarding such things as money, work, and success manifest themselves in living patterns and outlook.²

      Althen explains that North Americans have been taught to value hard work, and they believe that this will result in material success. Therefore, they are likely to measure one’s success by the standard of material wealth. Because there is usually a close correlation between a person’s job and income, North Americans are quick to ask “What do you do?” to classify persons they...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Sex and Food
      (pp. 127-135)

      The physical environment of Brazil shapes important Brazilian characteristics.² It is tropical and lush, nurturing a ripe sensuality in every level of society.

      In 1981 Freyre published his renowned sociological study of Brazil,The Masters and the Slaves, in comic-book format under the titleCasa grande e senzala em quadrinhos. The stated objective of the book is to be educational and helpful “even to adults.” The illustrations represent Amerindians and Africans as physically attractive and the women especially as voluptuous and sexually provocative. The whole image of the era is physical and sensuous, as is Brazilian society today.³

      Gambini comments...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Thought Patterns and Directness
      (pp. 136-150)

      People in different cultures arrive at their concepts of reality in different ways. They may perceive reality through faith or belief, independent of fact. They may base their perception on fact supported by evidence. Or they may perceive reality primarily through feelings or instinct, the most common means of constructing reality.² Different cultures teach different ways of gathering and evaluating evidence, presenting viewpoints, and reaching conclusions. These differences are evident in discussions, speeches, and writing.³

      To communicate effectively across cultures, one must understand that different thinking patterns often produce different strategies for performing the same communicative task—conversing, persuading, or...

  7. PART III. Processes of Communication
    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Verbal and Nonverbal Messages
      (pp. 153-165)

      Although this book is about speaking culture, rather than about speaking a language, a few observations about language are in order. Brazilians speak Portuguese. The difference between Brazilian Portuguese and that of Portugal is somewhat greater than the difference between North American English and British English. There are differences in common vocabulary preferences, spelling, and accent. The accent of Portugal is somewhat harsh, whereas Brazilian Portuguese is soft and mellifluous.

      The Portuguese language is not “almost” the same as Spanish, any more than Italian is almost the same. A Spanish speaker does not readily understand spoken Portuguese, although there are...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Everyday Communication
      (pp. 166-184)

      Space can be formal and fixed, such as in a church, where certain behavior is mandated, or on a basketball court, which invites different behavior. Space can be formal and semifixed, as in the arrangement of furniture in a living room. And space can be informally allocated, such as the way people position themselves in relation to each other so as to interact. In addition to positioning the body at a certain distance from another person, one also uses his or her body to communicate through gestures, posture, eye contact, facial expressions, touch, and smell.

      Brazilians and North Americans use...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN More Daily Interaction
      (pp. 185-192)

      Much of nonverbal communication contributes to a person’s immediacy, that is, his or her apparent availability and positive disposition toward communicating. The most significant clash of cultures in Brazilian–North American communication is immediacy. Brazilians find North Americans distant, both literally and figuratively. In general, North Americans do not display as much emotion as do Brazilians. They are more reserved and contained. Their body posture is stiffer and straighter. They do not touch as much. They do not use as much volume and variation in voice, tone, and pitch. They do not gesture as expansively or display as much facial...

  8. PART IV. Conclusion
    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN In a Nutshell
      (pp. 195-204)

      Having considered from many angles the factors that affect communication with Brazilians, I now propose to distill the cultural characteristics of this country of continental proportions and diverse people.

      Although Brazil may have Latin America’s largest economy, it is a country full of poor people. Brazilians have had to cope with many chronic and acute political and economic problems. They survived a repressive military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 and rampant inflation that peaked at 2500 percent per annum in 1993. They developedjeitoto find a way around laws, to bend rules, to deal with a bureaucracy that is...

  9. Glossary
    (pp. 205-210)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 211-230)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-238)
  12. Index
    (pp. 239-244)