Understanding What Brazilians Really Mean - plus55


Living in a different country requires adapting to local culture and communication, and not only because of the language barrier
Brazil Opinion

The best manager in Brazil is the one who takes the time to understand and know his team; this includes incorporating the cultural, social and language aspect of the company and the country.  Brazilians like to take their time, they don’t like being pushed or to be in a hurry, and they hate being stressed out. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of getting to know Brazilians is understanding the nuances in what they’re saying.

Brazilians speak Portuguese – that is of course common knowledge. However, as in most languages, words can have different meanings. This is especially true in Brazil, as Brazilians do not like conflict and fear both offending someone and taking offense. Understanding the hidden meanings in daily communication is a hard task, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back!

The basics

When they say: Yes

Foreigners understand: Yes

What it really means: Maybe (or, sometimes, No)


When they say: Maybe

Foreigners understand: Maybe

What it really means: No


When they say: No

Foreigners understand: No

What it really means: “No way!” Or “Leave me alone, I don’t have time to talk to you”


When they say: Abraço or beijos (hugs and kisses)

Foreigners understand: “Wow, he really likes me”

What it really means: They are just saying bye.

When you have a meeting

When they say: I’m on my way

Foreigners understand: They are almost there

What it really means: They’re leaving from their place now


When they say: I’ll be there in a couple of minutes

Foreigners understand: They will be there in a few minutes

What it really means: They’re on their way


When they say: I’ll drop by later

Foreigners understand: They’ll come later

What it really means: They’re not coming


When they say: “Let’s see each other again, we’ll set something up, ok?”

Foreigners understand: They want to keep in touch

What it really means: Maybe we’ll meet someday, God willing…

When Brazilian are giving their opinion

When they say: Let me explain something to you …

Foreigners understand: They think I’m stupid

What it really means: You’re not Brazilian, and it doesn’t work how you think it would


When they say: Your Portuguese is great!

Foreigners understand: I’ve made so much progress with my Portuguese

What it really means: They don’t understand much of what you’re saying, but at least you’re making some effort


When they say: Great job, but perhaps we could do in a different way

Foreigners understand: I’ve done a great job, and now they want to make it even better

What it really means: That was not what they were expecting

This is just a small overview of the hidden messages in Brazil. You also have to take into account that body language is very important, maybe moreso than anywhere else in the world. You’ll still have some work to do if you want to understand Brazilians like a local, but we’ll talk more about that in another article. But, hey, your Portuguese is great! Got it?

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