Campus: CSU Hayward -- March 14, 2003
CSUH Students in Brazil Learn That In Business,
Cultural Awareness is Power
When it comes to international business, cultural awareness can be far
more important than a company’s wealth, power or prestige. It
is a lesson in global business relations that American corporate executives
learn first-hand as participants in the Transnational Executive MBA
program, known as TEMBA, at California State University, Hayward.
For example: “You would never attend a business dinner here in
Brazil before 8 p.m., and you shouldn’t expect to discuss business
unless the host brings it up,” said Martin Desmaras, business
professor and coordinator of international affairs at Centro Universitário
de Jaraguá do Sul. “Here, business dinners are basically
social events, where you don’t leave in a hurry and thank-you
notes and flowers are often sent afterward.”
Desmaras was one of several Brazilian professors who gave presentations
on South American business culture to a group of 24 Cal State Hayward
TEMBA participants in southern Brazil last December. The visit to the
state of Santa Catarina was one of three overseas trips that TEMBA participants
take. During these journeys they hear presentations in global business
practices from international professors, economists and business leaders.
Then, they put their lessons into practice while working in teams on
consulting projects for Brazilian companies.
“One of the great strengths of TEMBA is its ability to bring students
into direct contact with these experts,” said Desmaras, who has
lived in five countries. “And the most important lesson we can
pass along is the one we have learned from economists Edward and Mildred
Hall: ‘The greatest barrier to businesses success is the one erected
by culture.’ ”
Desmaras said Brazil is good example of how cultural differences can
interfere with both social and business relationships. On the surface,
America and Brazil have similarities: they are large multi-cultural
democracies with about the same land mass. With a population of 170
million, Brazil is the world’s fifth most-populous country and
has the eighth largest economy, with a gross national product of $805
“When they think of Brazil, Americans might come up with images
such as the Amazon, deforestation and soccer,” Desmares told the
TEMBA class in December. “Getting rid of stereotypes is a part
of understanding each other’s culture.”
When Not to Wear a Tie
Doing business in Brazil requires an understanding of that country’s
differing work ethics, the result of colonization and immigration. There
are even regional differences.
“For example,” Desmares said, “In the region south
of São Paulo, which is much more affected by European immigration,
business people can be more direct, even blunt, than those farther north.
In the south, a suit and necktie is expected at a business meeting of
executives, but in the north ties have been discarded.”
Desmares had these other suggestions for Americans doing business with
- Try to obtain a personal introduction from an intermediary and
avoid self-introduction (an approach similar to that in Asia).
- Avoid doing business during the nationwide Carnaval celebration
as well as the weeks before and after.
- The best times for a business appointment are from 10 a.m. to noon
and from 3 to 5 p.m.
- Shaking hands is customary, but friends or closer acquaintances
kiss once on each cheek.
- Keep eye contact.
- Exchange business cards.
- Remember that meals are a time for socialization. Talk about your
countries’ two cultures and your family.
“Brazilians value modesty, friendliness and reasonability,”
Desmares said. “Once that has been established, you aren’t
just doing business together, you have friendship and trust.”
Students Witness Historic Moment
The importance of learning from an international relations expert like
Desmares is one of the reasons the two-year-old TEMBA program has become
so popular with American executives, according to Shyam Kamath, a professor
in the College of Business and Economics at Cal State Hayward and director
of the transnational MBA program.
“TEMBA participants go beyond the theoretical to learn first-hand
how to succeed in the world of global business,” said Kamath,
who has made 16 trips to Brazil. “The students in this latest
cohort learned from a series of Brazilian presenters that some American-style
approaches to business won’t work there. High-pressure tactics
emphasizing point-by-point discussions where the main emphasis is on
monetary gain just aren’t accepted as the way to do business.”
The Cal State Hayward TEMBA delegation made its trip to Brazil at a
time of historic economic importance to the continent. The six member
nations of the South American common market, known as Mercosur, approved
a plan where they will allow their 250 million people to live and work
in any other member country and be granted the same rights as the citizens
of those nations.
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are full members of Mercosur,
and Bolivia and Chile are associate members. They have a combined gross
product of more than $1 trillion, making it the world’s third-largest
The agreement was formally ratified Dec. 6, while the TEMBA cohort was
in Brazil. The students were able to learn from Brazilian experts how
Mercosur countries hope to coordinate economic policies to be able to
negotiate better trade deals with the United States. They also learned
about preliminary discussions to adopt a common South American currency.
“This is the kind of world view that our students have come to
expect from the TEMBA program,” Kamath said. “And the same
cohort that had this amazing South American experience in December will
hear about business approaches in Europe when they travel to Brussels
in a few months.
“It’s experiences like these which make TEMBA a program
like no other.”
CONTACT: Kim Huggett (510) 885-2032