Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: The Brazilian Jeitinho

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Whether in business, government, or their personal lives, Brazilians have a knack for getting around difficult situations. They do this so often that there is even a word in Portuguese to describe it—jeitinho. Jeitinho literally means “little way” and can be used in positive or negative contexts.

Brazilian anthropologist Lívia Barbosa describes jeitinho this way:

…To be considered a “jeitinho,” the situation must involve an unforeseen and adverse event to the individual goal. The solution must be a special way—efficient and fast—to deal with the “problem.” It cannot be any strategy. It must produce short-term goals. … It does not matter if the solution is or is not final, provisional, ideal, legal, or illegal.[note]Barbosa, L. (2006). O jeitinho brasileiro ou a arte de ser mais igual do que os outros. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Campus[/note]

Jeitinho can also be used in a negative context. Usually, this means that an individual, business, or even the government will act in a way that best serves their interests, even if it has a negative effect on those around them. A classic example involves individuals who only have a short time left on their lunch break and run to the bank to pay a bill. They see that the line is very long, but they also realize that one of the tellers is an old acquaintance. They walk to the front of the line and tell the teller about their desperate circumstances, managing to pay the bill while the rest of the line gets angry.

Not everyone uses jeitinho to skip a line or bend a rule. Business owners are sure to be impressed with the ingenuity and resourcefulness of their employees as they channel this trait in a positive way. As you prepare to visit or set up shop in Brazil, be prepared for everything its beautiful culture has to offer, and don’t be too surprised when you see someone finding their own “little way” to get something done.


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