Country Briefing: The Cultural Analysis of Brazil

Country Briefing: The Cultural Analysis of Brazil

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1. Introduction

The end of the 20th - beginning of the 21st century were characterized by the significant changes in the history of human civilization. The changes in almost all spheres of human existence made the international community enter into the era of the total globalization, resulting in the development of multiculturalism. In fact, nowadays, the phenomenon of the multiculturalism is based on the peaceful coexistence of different cultures and ethnic groups within the same society. It means that the modern world is characterized by the variety of integration processes, which lead to the increased interaction and interdependence between countries and regions. In fact, modern people are often in contact with the representatives of different cultures. Therefore, it is of particular importance to possess a clear understanding of the key aspects of the cross-cultural communication since this knowledge can improve the efficiency of interaction between the different cultures. The understanding of the cultural differences and specific features can reduce the unpredictability of the communication process due to the inconsistencies in language, word perception, and behavior pattern. In fact, the successful communication depends on the ability to adapt to different cultures and being aware of the peculiarities of attitudes and way of thinking of their representatives. It means that the intercultural communication is especially important to business persons desiring to start a new venture in a foreign nation. Efficient communication with suppliers, partners, and customers is the key to successful business performance and development. Taking into account the mentioned above, the following paper aims to provide the comparison of Brazilian and US cultural environment, based on the analysis of cultural norms of Brazil as well as the application of Hofstede’s approach to cultural research.

2. Country Background

a. Location & Size

The Federative Republic of Brazil is considered the largest in size and population nation on the continent. It occupies the eastern and central part of South America. The country borders with Suriname, French Guiana, Venezuela, and Guyana to the north, Uruguay to the south, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, and Peru to the west, as well as Colombia to the northwest. In addition, the northern and eastern parts of the country are washed by the Atlantic Ocean. The total territory of Brazil is 8 514 215 square kilometers, which is approximately 5.7% of the total world’s area. In fact, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world by its geographical area and the number of population.

b. History

The territory of the modern Brazil was discovered by Pedro Alvares Cabra at the beginning of the 15th century. Initially, the country was divided into 15 Captaincy Colonies of Brazil. In 1580, the dominion over the colony moved from Portugal to Spain. However, less than a century later, Portugal regained the colonial lands. In 1808, Napoleon began a war of conquest against Portugal, and the Portuguese King Don Joao VI with his court moved to Rio de Janeiro. In 1815, Brazil's colonial status was abolished, and it became part of the United Kingdom on an equal footing with Portugal. Later, in 1822, Brazil became an independent country. The slavery was abolished in 1888, and one year later, the Brazilians refused from the monarchical power trough the establishment of the parliamentary form of government (Vincent, 2013). It should be mentioned that the military leaders played a significant role in the country’s performance for a long time. Nevertheless, with time, the power moved to the political leaders.

c. Language

Portuguese is the official language of the state. However, it should be mentioned that most of the population uses the Brazilian dialect of Portuguese. Nevertheless, Spanish, French, German, and Italian are also used. Moreover, Lingua Geral is the common language widely spoken by the Brazilians. It arose on the basis of the dialects and languages of the Indian tribes of the Tupi-Guarani, as well as 180 different languages and dialects of other minor ethnic groups.

d. Political System

According to the Constitution of Brazil, the country is defined as a federal republic, which implies the Union of the Federal District, 26 states, and 5564 municipalities. The state government has a similar structure with the federal government. As designated by the Constitution, it also and has the same powers, except those included in the municipal council functions or relating to the competence of the federal government. Chief Executives are elected by direct vote for a term of four years. The Legislative Assembly and the judiciary system of the states are designed similarly to the federal scheme. The Chief Executive of the municipalities is the mayor, directly elected for the four-year period. At the legislative level, the Chamber of Deputies represents the interests of the population of the municipalities. In addition, there are more than 4,400 municipal councils that have the autonomy in the local affairs. The municipal councils act within the framewok established by the Basic Law on Municipalities. The National Congress of Brazil has a bicameral structure. It consists of the Federal Senate (81 seats: 3 members from each state and municipality) and the Chamber of Deputies (513 seats) elected for the four- year term. The Congress functions include the approval of the state budget and cost control of the federal government. The National Congress evaluates the annual report of the President on the work done (Bayor, 2011).

The party system of Brazil is characterized by extreme fragmentation and polarization. There are more than 40 political parties. However, the key role is still played by the party leaders while party coalition is usually created taking into account the conjectural interests.

e. Economic System

Brazil is considered to be the world’s seventh largest economy in nominal GDP and the GDP calculated based on the purchasing power parity. Effective economic reforms have brought international recognition to the country. Today, it is the member-state of the G20, UN, WTO, the Union of South American Nations, Mercosur and form part of BRICS association. Thanks to the high level of agricultural development, manufacturing and mining sphere, the service sphere, and a high number of the working population, Brazil leads all other countries in the continent in terms of GDP and is the biggest economy of Mercosur. It has the most advanced and developed industrial sector in Latin America. It accounts one third of the overall county’s GDP. The state produces a wide variety of products, starting from the consumer goods, computers to steel, petroleum, automobiles, and aircraft. Having ensured the economic stability due to the implementation of Plano Real, the multinational as well as Brazilian businesses started to invest actively in new and innovative technology and equipment, a large part of which is purchased by the North American entities and enterprises. Brazil also boasts of a rather diversified and advanced service sector. Currently, the country strives to expand its presence in the world markets. The main export products include aircraft equipment, coffee, soybean, iron ore, steel, orange juice, textiles, vehicles, electrical equipment, footwear, and sugar among others

Despite that the country’s banking system is in the process of active formation and development, it offers a wide range of services to local enterprises as well as attracts new entrants, namely the US financial firms. Moreover, the stock exchanges of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo experience a significant consolidation. It should be also noted that the economy of Brazil is extremely diverse and demonstrate considerable variations between its regions. However, the most advanced industries are concentrated in the areas as well as in the south of Brazil. At the same time, northeastern part is considered to be the poorest region of the country. However, it should be noted that, recently, it started to attract new investments.

3. Cultural Background

a. Values, Ethics & Lifestyles

The Brazilian national character implies sentimentality, warmth, poetry, and delicacy. In fact, the Brazilians are emotional, cheerful, smiling, and helpful people (Vincent, 2013). They perceive the unfamiliar people as the life-long friends. Perhaps, this attitude is caused by the specifics of the Brazilian nation formed by many nationalities and races who immigrated to the country from Europe and Asia. Most of the Brazilians enjoy communication devoted to football, Brazilian cocoa, and weather (Vincent, 2013). They have an active lifestyle. Most of the population prefers active sports or hobbies. However, the family relations and friendship are treated as the key values. The Brazilians appreciate and value dignity, honour and cheerful attitude towards people. On weekends, people prefer leaving the city, going on nature.

b. Cultural Characteristics

Brazilian culture is a mixture of various historical traditions of the peoples that make up the Brazilian nation. The Portuguese influence can be regarded as dominant while Catholicism is the main religion. However, a significant influence of Indians and Africans is also notable. For example, the majority of the country’s population is Catholics, but many people of African descent still profess syncretic and animistic cults, and some Brazilians practice Indian animism. In addition, a particular religious movement has evolved. It is a syncretic religion incorporating the elements of Catholicism, Spiritualism, and Afro-Brazilian traditions called Umbanda (Vincent, 2013).

The African influence is noticeable in the Brazilian popular music, especially in rhythmic of Samba. The contemporary Brazilian music combines the rhythms of Samba and the North-American and British popular songs. Dance art has always been an important element of the Brazilian culture and can be traced throughout the history of the Brazilian music. However, Samba is not the only manifestation of the dance culture of the country. The Brazilian dancers have always carefully studied and applied the innovations as well as daance traditions of the world’s largest schools, at the same time integrating them into the national dance, demonstrating a truly inexhaustible creativity and self-expression (Fischer, 2009).

The current development of the Brazilian culture is characterized by the two trends. The first of them implies the preservation of the local customs and traditions while the other one implies the contrary, namely dissolving the local peculiarities and their replacement by the international cultural traditions.

c. Business Practices

In Brazil, more than a half of the population is represented by young people aged up to 20 years old. People older than 50 years old account only 10% of the total population. This fact is caused by the high birth rate (29 births per 1,000 people; to compare, the average birth rate in Europe is 13 per 1,000 inhabitants) and a relatively low life expectancy (64,9 years). Brazil is a highly urbanized country as 75.4% of the total population lives in cities (Vijver & Hemet, 2008). However, the Brazilian cities differ significantly from each other in the matter of ease of doing business. In Brazil, it is relatively easy to register property and businesses. However, despite identical procedures and regulations across the country, property transfer is rather time-consuming. Although its economy is highly developed, the common problems include illiteracy, poverty, and corruption that pose a significant obstacle to for further development.

4. Brazil vs. the USA

Taking into account Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, the comparison of Brazilian and the US cultures can be provided based on five key parameters such as individualism (collectivism), power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity (femininity), and long-term (short-term) orientation. Based on the aspects mentioned above, there can be defined the specific features of the representatives of the US and Brazilian cultures, the understanding of which can significantly improve the efficiency of communication.

The individualistic cultures are based on the high rate of personal and individual goals of their representatives. They do not strive to integrate into groups and strictly protect their private interests. Contrary, the representatives of the collectivist cultures engage in the achievement of the group goals and interests. The US rate of individualism is 91 while Brazil is evaluated as 38. The higher the individualism index, the more personalized and non-integrated the representatives of the specific cultures. It means that contrary to the US citizens, the Brazilians value collective relations and interests the most (Smith & Peterson, 2008).

The index of power distance means that less powerful society members perceive the power the power based on the acceptance of the unequal power distribution and their expectations. Brazil’s index is 69 while the US’s is 40. It means that Brazil has an unequal distribution of wealth compared to the US.

Brazil has a high rate of uncertainty avoidance index (76) and typically tries to avoid uncertain and ambiguous situations, desiring to establish clear rules of conduct, the credibility of traditions and foundations, lifestyles, and a way of thinking among others. From the other side, The US is characterized by the relatively low uncertainty avoidance rate (46).

The US belongs to the masculine culture (62) and is characterized by high assertiveness, focusing on the achievement of the desired results, as well as confidence, determination, and commitment to material values. On the contrary, Brazil with the low rate of masculinity index (49) belongs to feminine culture. It is characterized by the concentration on relations, cultural values, concern for the quality of life, and other.

Brazil has a high index of long-term orientation (65). The main peculiarities of its culture include persistence in the achievement of the set objectives and prudence in the same. From the other side, the United States, shows the low rate in the index of long-term orientation (29). Thus, the country demonstrates high adherence to stability, personal steadiness, and fulfilling social obligations without the desire to evaluate the long-term perspectives.

5. Conclusion

Based on the results of Hofstede’s cultural dimension analysis, it can be stated that the cultures of the US and Brazil are opposite. Brazil belongs to the collective feminine culture with a high rate of uncertainty avoidance, as well as unequal distribution of power and wealth among the population. On the contrary, the US is considered as an individualistic masculine culture with the relatively equal distribution of power and wealth, as well as a low rate of long-term orientation. However, taking into account the economic advantages of the large Brazilian economy, the country can be recommended for starting a business venture. However, it should be taken into account that business performance and communication should be based on the specifics of the Brazilian culture.

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