The etiquette of business dining in Brazil

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Dining is an essential part of doing business in Brazil, with an etiquette heavily influence by the French often closely adhered to. Business meals can be loud and lengthy affairs, so make sure you plan at least two hours, even for a lunch.

Seating arrangements

At Brazilian business meals the most honoured person is usually sat at the head of the table, with the host sitting to their side. If a couple are hosting the meal they will often sit either side of the guest, with the woman to the right and the man to the left.

Table manners

During serving you may be passed dishes, in which case it is customary to pass them on to your left and you should wait until everyone has been served until you start eating.

Use the cutlery provided and work your way from the outside in, course by course, leaving the spoon and fork above your plate for dessert. Even fruit is eaten with cutlery, rather than your hands. Keep your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left rather than switching between. Salad will often be served as a side dish to the main meal, if so, fold your lettuce in order to eat it with your fork, rather than cutting it. When you have finished your meal place your knife and fork side by side on your plate.

Good table manners include keeping your hands visible above the table at all times (although not putting your elbows in the table), only leaving the table if absolutely necessary and not using toothpicks at the table, even if they are provided.

While it is wise to be punctual when dining at a restaurant (even if your Brazilian contact is not), when invited to dine at a Brazilian’s house, you should aim to arrive at least 30 minutes late, or up to an hour late if it is large gathering.

Business is rarely discussed during meals, although it may be raised over coffee or a brandy at the end of dining. Follow your host’s lead and avoid mentioning work matters unless they have already done so.

Toasting and drinking

A toast will usually be made by the host at the start of the meal, the most common being “saude!”, which means “to your health”.

The bill

Whoever has invited you to the meal will usually pay the bill, although as a guest you are expected to make an effort to pay. Occasionally who pays can also be influenced by other factors, such as rank. A tip of around 10% is usually expected in restaurants.

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