A Lesson in Brazilian Portuguese
There’s a proverb in Brazilian Portuguese that says: Bom é saber calar, até a hora de falar. It means that it’s good to keep quiet until it’s time to speak.
It’s good advice. But when you’re ready to speak, here are four key expressions that will help you interact successfully with Brazilians:
1. Jeitinho brasileiro: “The Brazilian way”
This is often used to describe a shortcut. In particular, one used to overcome bureaucratic challenges or obstacles. Navigating through the rules via shortcuts can be an effective way to manage the bureaucracy. And it’s not meant to be negative. Therefore, it’s actually part of the Brazilian flexibility and creativity!
If you can’t figure out the jeitinhos on your own (or even sometimes if you can), hire a despachante. This is an individual who is extremely well-connected and skilled at navigating the systems by cutting through red tape. As a result, despachantes can use their extensive relationships and knowledge to facilitate a wide range of business transactions. For example, documents, permits, and licenses.
Relationship building in general is an extremely important part of Brazilian culture. So how do you do this? Start by being simpático, a word with no exact English translation. However, it roughly means someone who is friendly, nice, agreeable, good-natured, fun, and pleasant. Good opportunities to build relationships include having a cafezinho (small coffee). Or, taking your hora do almoço (an actual lunch hour) with colleagues or friends.
4. Tudo bem
This is both a question (Everything well?) and an answer (Everything’s well.) rolled into one. It can be used as a greeting with friends or colleagues, and is often interchanged with tudo bom (everything’s good). However, keep in mind that often optimistic (yet indirect) Brazilians may tell you tudo bem even when things are clearly not good!
For these, and other times when you’re wondering what your Brazilian counterparts are talking about, take a look at one of our favorite articles from The Economist on Portuguese for the Perplexed.