São Paulo, Brazil: moving up in the world

How São Paulo has become a powerhouse in the Brazilian economy.

With a population of more than 11 million people, the city of São Paulo is a powerhouse in the Brazilian economy.

According to a report commissioned by international bank Citi, São Paulo is one of the cities expected to see the greatest surge in global competitiveness between 2012 and 2025. Brazil’s business capital was also ranked "most improved," landing in the 36th spot among markets worldwide.

Dominated by the industries of agriculture, mining, manufacturing and the service sector, unemployment rates are currently at historic lows.

São Paulo’s global flavour is underscored by the fact that it is home to large populations of Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German immigrants.

Business culture

Although the weather is hot in São Paulo, you are expected to dress professionally. Meetings with lawyers, directors, CEOs, CFOs, presidents and vice-presidents require suits for men and formal wear for women.

And while Canadians are used to an eat-and-run culture, Brazilians view lunches and dinners as a key part of doing business and a chance to get to know colleagues better. Frequent toasts are standard, so don’t be caught off guard by cheers to good health.

It is important that you set your cellphone to silent mode during meetings, as taking a call would be considered impolite. Warn your Brazilian counterparts ahead of time if you are expecting an important call.

Etiquette and customs

  1. Don’t feel uncomfortable if someone hugs you — shaking hands is the minimum level of interaction in Brazilian business culture. It’s very common for Brazilians to kiss their guests on the cheek when they arrive and leave.
  2. Brazilians don’t talk about their wages — even with their closest friends. Steer clear of this subject.
  3. In conversation, never confuse any aspect of Brazil’s culture with that of Argentina. There is an eternal rivalry between the two countries — especially with regard to soccer.

Facts for investors

  1. Brazil was ranked 116th out of 189 economies in 2014 for its Ease of Doing Business, as compiled by the World Bank — up two spots from last year.
  2. According to the OECD Better Life Index, 67% of Brazilians aged 15 to 64 have a paid job, slightly higher than the OECD employment average of 65%.
  3. Brazil ranked fifth among the top prospective source economies for foreign direct investment by multinational corporations for 2014 to 2016, according to a survey by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Visiting São Paulo for the first time

  1. Credit cards are accepted at restaurants, hotels, stores and most other places. But while many taxis accept credit, it’s best to ask the driver.
  2. If travelling to São Paulo around Carnival week, be aware that traffic will be worse than usual due to various street parades. In 2015, Carnival runs from February 13 to 17.
  3. Mind your personal belongings at all times.

About the Author

Vanessa Santilli


Vanessa Santilli is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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