When calling an executive in Brazil you will be asked,
"Who wishes to speak," and put on hold.
Then you will
be told that the person is not there. Don’t take it
personally. It’s just part of the culture.
Very few executives in Brazil answer their own fixed line telephones. Operators, receptionists, assistants or
secretaries inevitably answer. When the caller asks for Mr., Mrs. or Miss so and so, the person answering will ask "Who wishes to
speak." Then the caller is usually put on hold.
While the caller waits and wonders if he or she merits the attention of the person called, usually weird music or
advertisements are played. Then, if the caller is lucky, the person to whom he wishes to speak will come on the line. More
often, however, the person who answered the phone in the first place or some other mysterious voice, will come back on the
line saying that the person to whom you wish to speak is 1.) away from his desk, 2.) in a meeting, 3.) is traveling or 4.) has
just stepped out for a moment. The caller then wonders why he was not told this in the first place before the answering
person asked who was calling.
Sometimes the caller will be asked if he would like to leave a message. This is rare, however. So in the hopes that the
person being called may reappear and is not merely avoiding the call, the caller may plead to leave a message. The chances of
this message being passed on vary.
Most calls are not returned unless the person being called perceives some immediate advantage in doing so or is
sincerely interested in speaking to the person who called.
With mobile phones, the person being called cannot dodge calls unless he knows who is calling. This is becoming
easier now with new technology.
Callers must be persistent and keep ringing back to leave messages. After the third or forth attempt, however, it is
tempting to give up and assume that the person really does not want to be bothered to talk with you. The caller should not take
these situations personally. It is just part of the culture.
Richard Edward Hayes first came to Brazil in 1964 as an employee of Chase Manhattan Bank. Since then Hayes
has worked directly and as an advisor for a number of Brazilian and international banks and companies. Currently he is a
free lance consultant and can be contacted at