Cultural Solutions for US/Brazil Collaborations: Talk Takeaways

Last week, Dr. Deirdre Mendez, Director of the Center for Global Business, and Dr. Orlando Kelm, Director of the Portuguese Flagship Program, gave a talk on the different cultural expectations in Brazil and the United States and how those expectations can affect business relationships. Dr. Mendez and Dr. Kelm identified three different cultural patterns between the two countries and strategies for how to capitalize on each culture’s strengths. However, it is important to remember that Brazil and the USA are both tremendously diverse countries with different regional cultures and immigrant populations, so these generalizations do not cover all people.

Pattern One: Indirectness/Directness

  • Brazil has a cultural tendency for indirectness, which prioritizes a positive mood and support. This tendency focuses on positive relationships, but one of the downsides is that these types of communicators tend to avoid confrontation, which can negatively impact good communication.
  • The USA has a cultural tendency for for directness, which has the upside of being clear and efficient in communication. However, for indirect communicators like those in Brazil, this kind of communication can be brutal and unpleasant to engage with.

Pattern Two: Approaches to Planning

  • The USA tends to utilize schedule orientation: it is very focused on making complete plans and outlining details before beginning a project to avoid surprises. People who have this tendency are good at taking initiative to ensure that tasks are being completed throughout a project.
  • Brazil tends to utilize flow orientation: to deal with issues and tasks as they arise in the course of a project. Such people are usually not committed to specific timelines, and as such are creative problem solvers and good in a crisis.

Pattern Three: Expectations of Relationships

  • Brazil prefers to establish relationships around a network: formal communication with an emphasis on long-term relationship building. People who utilize network-based relationships prefer to do business with people within their established network. They vet new people very carefully, and once approved they will introduce them to all of the contacts within the network. As a result, it can be difficult to do business with network-oriented people until you become part of their network. However, once you manage to join the network, the relationship will outlast the specific business deal, and the whole network will be available.
  • The USA prefers to establish relationships through a process: less formal communication with an emphasis on short-term relationships. They tend to avoid establishing long-standing personal relationships and instead focus on how a person’s work experience fits the specific job. Process-oriented people operate in a structured way and, because the personal relationship plays less of a role, more easily avoid conflicts of interests.

Strategies for navigating a multicultural work environment

  • Focus on building synergy between groups of people: identify peoples tendencies and preferences, mobilize their particular strengths, and accommodate their specific needs.
  • Do not assume how a person will work based on their nationality, but instead deal with the concepts, i.e. whether they communicate directly or indirectly, plan around a schedule or a flow, establish relationships via a network or a process.
  • Give others space to shine based on their specific strengths.

You can watch the talk here:




McCombs Center for Global Business develops and supports internationalization and global business education. Visit us at for more.

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McCombs Center for Global Business develops and supports internationalization and global business education. Visit us at for more.

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