Today we are publishing a guest blog post written by John Clites, an American expat residing in Brazil. In this post John gives explains how to greet someone in Brazil. Do people shake hands? Read on and find out!
There’s a good chance that when you meet someone, you really don’t give much thought to it. You stick out your hand, give a firm handshake (no dead fish, please!), and say, “Nice to meet you” or something similar. This approach works pretty well across the English-speaking world, in most situations, whether you are meeting a man or a woman.
In Brazil, there are a few more variations. Nothing complicated, and you may find them pretty cool.
First, in business situations, you can just do as you would back home: Stick out your hand and say “Nice to meet you” or “How do you do?” Whether you are a man or a woman, and whether you are meeting a man or a woman, in Brazil today this is the SOP.
Social situations present a few more variations, but nothing that you can’t handle. Let’s break it down:
Man / man: Stick out your hand and say “Prazer”, which translates as “(It’s a) pleasure.” [Pronunciation: prah ZAIR]
Man / woman: Man leans in and gives the woman an air kiss off her right cheek (that is, he goes left). More on this kissing thing below. Say “Prazer.”
Woman / woman: Same thing. Lean in left, blow air kiss off the right cheek. Say “Prazer.”
Note that you should not actually kiss a woman’s cheek. At most, a brushing of the cheeks should occur. During all this, typically you’ll lightly grasp the hands or arms of the other person.
Simple, right? And kind of sophisticated and Continental, non?
Now, just one more little tip and you can be unleashed upon: Do you give one kiss, or two? It depends, and sometimes it’s actually three. But the rule is simple: It just depends on which state you are in.
For most of Brazil, in man / woman and woman / woman greetings, there are two air kisses. The first always goes to the right cheek, the second to the left. In Rio, this is the standard, as it is in the Northeast and the North.
In São Paulo and much of the South, only one kiss is given – again, off the right cheek.
But in the state of Minas Gerais, THREE kisses are given: Right cheek, then left, then right again. That is, first go left, then go right, then to the left again. If you find this confusing, just imagine that you are driving the lane in a game of hoops.
By the way, the word for “kiss” in Portuguese is beijo [Pronounciation: BAY zhoo]. These air kisses are often called beijinhos (“little kisses”). [Pronounciation: bay ZHEEN yoos]
Actually, none of this is complicated. Simply observe what others do, and then do the same. Also, you’ll follow the same rules each time you meet a person (not just the first time) except that instead of saying “Prazer” you’ll say something like “Tudo bom?” (“How is everything?”). [Pronunciation (more or less): too doo BONE?]
I have only one thing to add. Men, please don’t air kiss another man! This isn’t France.
John Still in Brazil (not France)
About the author: John Clites is a U.S. citizen who first visited Brazil in 1993. He fell in love with the country and traveled Brazil extensively before finally moving there in 2008. He divides his time between teaching English, writing about Brazil, and maintaining his blog, www.JohnInBrazil.org. His first e-book, Teaching English in Brazil, is available at www.ComeTeachEnglishInBrazil.com. His second e-book, “Live well in Rio” is now available on Amazon. Readers may write to John at email@example.com.