Brazilians are known for being very outgoing, and social greetings are an important part of that. Regardless of how extroverted or shy you are, in Brazil you need to greet people throughout the day: Whether you’re talking to a supermarket cashier, a lawyer or the old man at the bus stop, pretty much every conversation begins with a greeting. Here are my best tips on how to say hello in Portuguese!
Everybody knows that when you’re learning a new language, you generally start with “hello.” In Brazilian Portuguese, this part’s easy because you only need two letters: Oi. Alternatively, you can also say Olá — which isn’t as common, but just as correct (it is, however, the standard in Portugal). Heads up though, you don’t want to get this mixed up with Alô, which is only used to answer the phone.
In Brazil, the distinction between formal and informal situations is pretty subtle. Oi goes just as well with surfers in Rio as it does with business people in Brasília. With the latter, however, it would be advisable to use bom dia (good morning) until noon. From lunchtime until it’s dark, you should say boa tarde (good afternoon). For “good night” and “good evening” there’s only one corresponding expression in Portuguese: Boa noite. It’s used as a greeting, but also to say goodbye and before going to bed.
After greeting someone, the question that usually follows is “How are you?” The closest literal translation in Portuguese would be Como vai?, but Tudo bem? (literally “Everything well?”) is much more popular. A practical aspect of Tudo bem is that it can be used both as a question and an answer:
- Oi, tudo bem? (Hi, is everything well?)
- Tudo bem! (Everything’s well!)
This expression is so versatile that it can also be used as a stand-alone greeting, which means you can leave out the Oi:
- Tudo bem? (Hi!)
- Tudo bem! (Hi!)
Like Oi, Tudo bem can be used in both formal and informal contexts. A colloquial variant is E aí? which literally means “And there (with you)?” But don’t be misled by the literal translation — E aí? is closer to “What’s up?” and therefore shouldn’t be used in formal situations, but rather with friends or close acquaintances. Another colloquial expression that shouldn’t be left out is the popular, Beleza? It’s another alternative to Tudo bem and literally means “beauty.”
So when are you going to start greeting Brazilians in Portuguese? You now know everything you need! What are you waiting for?