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Social Security and Etiquette in Brazil

Don’t let working in Brazil remain an escapist dream! InterNations offers essential info on job opportunities, visa and language requirements, social security, and more. Numerous expats from around the world have made working in Brazil the reality of their professional lives. Why don’t you too?
Working in Brazil makes knowledge of local business etiquette indispensible.

Social Security System

Brazil has an extensive social security system to which everyone working in Brazil is obligated to contribute, including expats. Social security contributions are paid by both employee and employer. Between 8 and 11% of the employee’s pre-tax salary is deducted for social security by the Ministry of Social Affairs (Ministério da Previdência Social).

With a small number of countries, such as Chile, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, and Portugal, Brazil has entered into specific social security agreements. The government has also signed such agreements with Belgium, Germany, and Japan, but these have not been ratified yet. Although nationals from these countries usually have to contribute to the Brazilian social security system, their contributions may be taken into account when calculating benefits in their home country after their return.

Benefits and Eligibility

Social security benefits, such as pensions, sick pay and invalidity benefits are paid by the National Institute of Social Security, the Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social (INSS).  To be eligible for a public old-age pension, workers have to contribute to the fund for a minimum of 15 years while invalidity benefits require a minimum of 12 months’ contributions to the scheme. Furthermore, the amounts paid are rather low, especially when compared to international standards.

In addition to the INSS funds, every employer in Brazil is required by law to establish a so-called Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Serviço (FGTS) for each employee. The FGTS is a specific type of frozen account into which the employer pays a certain percentage of the employee’s monthly salary. In the case of specific events, such as termination without cause or serious disease, the employee receives the money from their account.

Language Skills

As opposed to all other Latin American countries, Brazil’s main language is Portuguese – spoken by as much as 97% of the country’s population. Although the written language more or less resembles the Portuguese used in Portugal, there are considerable differences in the spoken language. Picture the challenges in communication between a Brazilian and a Portuguese similar to those a Brit and an American might have in everyday conversation. Apart from moderate regional variations in both vocabulary and accent, there are no distinct dialects within Brazil.

For everyone planning a longer stay in Brazil, an adequate knowledge of Portuguese is indispensable. English as a second language is not as widely spoken as it might be in other countries – even in the bigger cities, you cannot necessarily expect people to understand or speak English. In the Brazilian business world, English will only get you so far, and chances are that only people from upper management speak English.

Intercultural Communication

Although business etiquette in Brazil is considerably more relaxed than elsewhere, there are a couple of things expats in Brazil should be aware of to avoid serious misunderstandings. First and foremost, it is generally very important to build up individual relationships before actually doing business together. It is therefore advisable not to rush anything but wait for your counterpart to bring up the subject of a business deal.

Secondly, business meetings tend to be rather informal. Generally speaking, everyone chips in with their opinion. It is also acceptable to interrupt others, even though you should carefully avoid criticizing others too bluntly.

Third (which is often hardest to understand for some foreigners), being late for an appointment is both common and perfectly acceptable. In Brazil, it is generally considered far more impolite to abruptly cut off a conversation or leave early from an unexpected invitation than to be late for subsequent appointments.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francois Bertrand

"What a thrilling city São Paulo is. With a great international expat community that keeps in touch on InterNations."

Elin Gustavson

"As I already met several expat women on InterNations online, it was great to meet offline and get to know each other in real life."

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