This is Carnival week in Brazil. Traditionally it is a time where the entire country takes almost a week off to celebrate at parties that are so elaborate they have often taken a year to plan.
If you use Google to find a list of all the national holidays in Brazil then it is almost certain that Carnival will be included. Here is an example for 2012 that lists Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week as all being national holidays – though it does add a note saying that Wednesday is ‘unofficial’.
Given that many people wind down for Carnival starting on the Friday before Carnival week, it is a very difficult time to do any business in Brazil – it feels like the entire country is closed for a week.
But here at IT Decisions we have meetings scheduled today – in person or online – with companies in the USA, New Zealand, and UK. All countries that don’t celebrate the Carnival and have scheduled meetings with us today, something that led me to mention our “holiday work” on Twitter, only for another Twitter user to point out that none of these holidays are actually legal – they are cultural rather than being mandated by the government.
Why is this important?
Well, any foreign firm trying to do business in Brazil might well be scared off if they come to visit during Carnival. There is no postal service right now, no banks are open, some restaurants have closed up for the week, and many shops are reducing the hours they are open. And yet the British firm we are meeting today made the mistake of coming to have a look at the Brazilian market this very week – it’s business as usual in the UK so they assumed it would be here too.
But given that these holidays are cultural, rather than mandated by law, it is up to every company to determine how to handle them. Your company could go with the flow and shut down for a few days so the staff can samba in the street, or you could take the opposite view and just make everyone work – though they might resent you for that. The often-used option here on the ground is that in the weeks leading up to Carnival, people work extra days at the weekend or late into the evening to store up enough hours to take time off this week.
But if you are running a contact centre or IT firm that has international customers, you need to be aware of your international clients – they won’t accept that your company is closing down for a week so everyone can enjoy the party. Knowing that these holidays are a cultural expectation, rather than a legal requirement, can help inform the decisions of anyone planning to invest in Brazil for hi-tech services.
Brazilians are flexible people and their love of the Carnival heritage is a great attraction. However you choose to solve the problem of a week-long shutdown, your team will support you more if you include them in the planning process. After all, Carnival happens just once a year!
Photo by Prefeitura de Olinda licensed under Creative Commons