Brazil is a country with a population that is about 90% Roman Catholic. It is a multicultural society influenced with Portuguese, western, and Asian traditions. Native South Americans and African slaves also made contributions to the present culture of the Brazilians.
Though not as ritualistic as Asian and middle Eastern Countries, gift giving in Brazil plays an important role in reinforcing business and personal relations as it exhibits thoughtfulness, generosity, and good intentions.
Here are some helpful tips to guide you on Brazilian gift giving:
Personal Gift Giving in Brazil
- Wrap our gifts in colorful wrappers. Brazilians take pride in their country’s colors – green and yellow.
- Gifts are usually given upon arrival and opened in front of the giver.
- Flowers may be sent before or after a visit to someone’s home for dinner
- Married men who have to give gifts to women should mention that the gift was from their wife or girlfriend. Otherwise this gesture will be seen as flirting.
- When invited to a house, remember to bring small gifts for your host’s children.
Business Gift Giving in Brazil
- Hospitality is important, the business sector is not very keen on gift-giving.
- For business associates, it is preferable to give gifts on a social setting rather than on a business setting.
- Avoid presenting expensive gifts for business partners. These may cause embarrassment or may be taken as a form of bribery.
- Gifts should not be given on the first meeting. Offering to buy lunch or dinner is more appropriate. This way you will have a hint on the recipient’s taste.
- If you want to give a thoughtful gift to secretaries or other office personnel who helped make your business transaction a success, keep these gifts simple and inexpensive and say they came from your female significant other so you won’t be misinterpreted.
What Kind of Gifts to Avoid
- Don’t use black and purple for gift wrappers. These colors are associated with mourning.
- Knives, scissors, and any sharp objects show an intention to sever ties with someone.
- Anything thirteen is taboo in Brazil. The Brazilians believe that the number 13 is an unlucky number.
- Don’t give handkerchiefs for they are also associated with funerals
- Gifts are not also expected during business meetings.
- Avoid practical gifts, since these can be seen as too personal. Do not give items such as wallets, key chains and perfume.
- Avoid leather gifts for most quality leather goods came from South America.
Good Gifts for Brazillians
- Chocolates and sweets Brigadeiros (Brazilian Chocolate Fudge Balls)
- US sports jerseys and designer shirts for men and children, just nothing with an American flag
- Small electronic items are nice. Good choices include scientific calculators, electronic address books and day-timers, even pocket radios.
- Inexpensive cameras and name-brand pens can also be good choices.
Gift Giving Occasions in Brazil
- Hostess gifts – if invited to a Brazilian’s home, don’t forget to bring gifts for your host/hostess. Wines, a bottle of scotch, and flowers are always acceptable.
- Housewarming – flowers, especially orchids are good housewarming gifts for your host/hostess. You can also give wine, scotch, or champagne.
- Birthday – a girl’s 15th birthday, or the “Festa De Debutantes” is the most celebrated birthday as a girl says goodbye to childhood to welcome adulthood. This occasion is highlighted with dancing, and gift giving.
- Christmas – like most countries dominated by Catholics, Christmas gift giving takes place at the midnight of December 24. Santa Claus is known as Papa Noel in Brazil and wears a silk suit because Christmas falls in the middle of summer in Brazil. It is customary in Brazil that people exchange gifts with a “secret friend”. They draw a slip of paper with someone’s name on it at the beginning of December, sends anonymous notes throughout the month and then reveals themselves and gives a gift at Christmas.
- Anniversary – this occasion is always celebrated with gifts but the 25th and 50th are celebrated with renewal of vows.
- Feast of the Three Kings – also known as the Epiphany which is takes place every January 6th. This marks the end of the Christmas season and children knock on houses, singing songs and requesting gifts.
- Baptism – a baby’s baptismal is taken very seriously in Brazil and godparents play an important role as they vow to love, protect, and if necessary, to provide for the child. White baptismal clothing is required and some poor parents even spend food money just to buy a dress. Godparents are always expected to give something special to their godchildren.