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Archives for August 2016

Courtesy, Brazilian Style

The Olympic Games offer us easy access to a worldwide display of athleticism, talent and grit!  The Games also give us a glimpse into the culture of the host country. Below are rules that help define etiquette in Brazil:

Meeting and greeting

Men shake hands. By U.S. standards, the Brazilian handshake is lengthy; eye contact is sustained throughout.

Women kiss each other on cheeks, starting with the left.  A man and woman may shake hands, but the woman extends her hand first.

Brazilians stand close to each other when speaking .Their “comfort zone” is “too close for comfort” for many of us.  (Resist the urge to back away.)  In addition, interrupting another is common and acceptable.


 Parents teach children to clean their plates.  Leaving food in considered rude!

At a restaurant, expect to share your table with another party.

A 10% service charge (tip) is added to the bill. There is no need to add to that. Tips are pooled and distributed among the staff.

Gift Giving

If you visit a Brazilian home it is mandatory to bring a gift or send one later with a thank-you note. Candy (or any food/beverage) is appropriate for an afternoon visit or informal meal. For a formal dinner, step it up—bring a bottle of wine.

Flowers are acceptable for any occasion, with the exception of a formal dinner (go with wine).

When selecting a gift, avoid anything that is purple and black; these are mourning colors.

Late is Great!

A savvy Brazilian who is invited to a small social event to start at 6:00 knows enough to arrive no earlier than 6:30. If the gathering were to be large, he /she would arrive at 7:00. To be “on time” you need to be late!

Competition is essential to the Olympics.  Respect for the traditions of the host country and its citizens are at the essence of the Olympic spirit.






     Three Disappearing Manners Worth a Rescue


In the early days of commercial flying, decorum dictated that passengers dress up. Now that air travel is common, people dress for comfort. Manners change with society; some, however, are timeless. Below are three courtesies that are fading and warrant a rescue:

1 Training children to be comfortable calling adults by a title: (Mr. Ms. Mrs.  etc.) Calling adults by a title helps instill a fundamental respect for adults and authority. It also develops an important instinct: children learn to recognize situations in which it is important to sit straighter and choose words more carefully;these include a summer-job interview or introduction to a parent’s boss.

There is also a safety factor: calling someone by his/her first name sets a tone of familiarity. Do we want our children to perceive an adult they do not know as a friend?

Of course, there are adults, such as close family friends, in which the first-name-basis is appropriate. Parents decide this.

2 Standing to greet someone: At a recent event, I walked up to three high-school girls and introduced myself. They jumped to their feet. I was surprised and impressed. This brought to mind the fact that standing to greet someone is no longer common behavior. Doing so, when it is not disruptive, is a simple way to show respect and acknowledgment.

3 Offering Your Seat  I’ll never forget the elderly man I saw enter a packed train; hunched over his quivering cane, he disappeared into the crowd. When we later disembarked, I saw that nobody had offered him a seat! Why? Have we become so absorbed in our smartphones and to-dos that we have lost consciousness of those around us?  Four words that go a long way to showing consideration:  “Please have a seat.”

When we see a time –honored tradition disappearing, we would be wise to ask ourselves if it served an important purpose; if so, what's the replacement?.