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By Felicity Clarke, Contributing Reporter

Happy people at the Young Professional Happy Hour. Photo by Camille Richardson
Camille Richardson, center, among patrons of the Young Professional Happy Hour, photo provided by Camille Richardson.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Starting a life in a new place is always a challenge and building a social circle and a professional network often depend on chance meetings and can take a painfully long time.

Happy Hours help. The city bars buzzing with professionals enjoying discounted after-work drinks provide a perfect opportunity to socialize and network in an informal environment. Yet the concept is curiously under-exploited in Rio and, even so, penetrating a group of people without a specific intention can be a daunting prospect.

The lack of opportunities to meet like-minded professionals was something that struck Camille Richardson, Principal Commercial Officer for the U.S. Consulate in Rio and organizer of Young Professionals Happy Hours in Rio de Janeiro (YPHH). “I’d moved from Buenos Aires where Happy Hours are an important part of business life and the after work social scene,” explains Camille. “I was surprised there wasn’t the same networking culture here in Rio.“

Networking at the seventh YPHH, photo provided by Camille Richardson.
Networking at the tenth YPHH – a Holiday Happy Hour, photo provided by Camille Richardson.

Understanding the importance of networking for both social and business life, Richardson was inspired to organize events to provide opportunities for professionals, and expats in particular, to meet.

Working with the U.S. Consulate, she started YPHH with a small event in April 2008. After a series of three fund-raising events at the Marriott , and a successful holiday happy hour at Rio Scenarium in December 2008, the positive feedback from attendees inspired Richardson to institutionalize the get-togethers, making the YPHH an in-demand, regular bi-monthly event. Attendance skyrocketed from 60 people at the initial event to over 400 at the event to welcome the new U.S. Consul General, Dennis Hearne, in September 2009.

Richardson has several objectives for the events: “Primarily, they’re to help expats integrate, but they also promote connections for professionals with the Consular corps as well as introduce people to hip chic new venues they may not otherwise know about.”

Upscale venues with style and service are the specification, with recent venues including Cais do Oriente in Centro, Casa Cor at the Jockey Club in Gavea, and the new ZoZo restaurant in Urca. These parties are not about the awkward hand-shaking and stilted conversation that the term “networking” can conjure, but rather stylish, evening events with an opportunity to meet interesting people.

Networking at the seventh YPHH, photo provided by Camille Richardson.
Networking at the tenth YPHH, photo provided by Camille Richardson.

While the initial target group for the events was professionals aged 25 to 40, there’s no age limit and the events attract a wide range of attendees, both Brazilian and expat, from the oil industry, to embassies, to NGOs to entrepreneurs.

“We also have Afro-Brazilian business people attending,” says Richardson, “which I think is notable because although Brazil is a mosaic society , there’s not always a lot of social mixing and it’s important for people to know that there is an Afro-Brazilian professional class.”

With a 2,000-plus contact list, a partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce, and support from the International MBA Association, the Hash House Harriers (a British social club and worldwide organization), and the American Society of Rio de Janeiro, the YPHH is poised to continue serving the networking needs of Rio’s business community with style and flair.

Plans for 2010 include a pre-Carnival feijoada party, quarterly networking events, some more focused seminars and professional development workshops as well as the possible launch of the initiative in São Paulo.

For anyone new to Rio, visiting, or looking to expand their professional and social networks, YPHH events provide interesting new company and sophisticated venues, making the process a lot more enjoyable.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Camille; I think you came up with a very nice idea bringing both “Brasilian” and expats. But I think you need for your self to see where the rest of the Brasilians who are not YPHH. You need to see the family make up. I think you may have by now but if not meet some families of some of the members of the YPHH and you will see what Brasilians are made up of as far a mixed families with a wide cultural mix. This is where “Your American Thinking” gets in the way. When you mentioned “We also have a Afro-Brazilian” etc. It reminds me of the typical American “black and white” thing. Why are you smoothly trying to segregate the “Afro-Brasilians” from the rest of the other YPHH. And saying they don’t mix enough. Keep that American Crap in America! There is enough problems in Brasil as it is. I know alot of Brasilians with Japanes, Chinese, Middle Eastern etc. But they don’t call them selfs Japanes-Brasilian, or White-Brasilian, or Asian-Brasilian. They are proud “BRASILIANS”. Like I said I like you idea but leave the title crap in America and enjoy how the food, music, family get togethers mix. Oh, “Feijoada” with African background for example, alot of Brasilian rich and poor eat this very tasty dish (I like it very much). But in America take “chitlins or ox-tail soap” and see how many non-black-Americans eat those. I like that stuff alot but not many other will. Anyway I like your idea and maybe do some workshops that interact with the local schools or favalas and reach out to them. Share the skills and education. Make more YPHH by starting them up young if you have not done so already. You would be great! But don’t forget, leave the Brasilians Brasilian and without the “Tag-Brasilian” crap out. Meet some families out of the City Centro. You will love them even more where “less is more”.

  2. I think Camille’s statements about it are spot on, as a white liberal American doing business here, I’ve been struck by the economic divide that faces black Brazilians. We’ve come a long way in the US in addressing the difficult past of racial subjugation – and the only reason Brazil hasn’t dealt with it is because in a 3rd world economy – they’ve had bigger fish to fry… but the time are a changing.

    Getting the BUSINESS community equally represented is a strong indication of a balanced, democratic society. Huge challenges that take time and lots of small and big steps. Brazil’s ethnic make up is fascinating, as is Malaysia and the US, and with international support I’m sure they can translate the the “on-the-street” culture of openness to real political and economic equality.

    Optimistically – Feliz Natal.

  3. Though very politically sensitive, Camille’s remarks are right on spot. She has travelled the world, worked with all times of people, and knows many Brazilians families. Her great effort has brought many together regardless of background all dancing and networking regardless of hue: THIS IS VERY RARE IN RIO. The “Morenos” e “Negros” at these events are a professional minority in a country where they compose more than half of the population. They are not serving us, nor are they musical or entertainment help…they are our peers. When I can walk the streets of Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa and see a diversity of of neighbors living in the high rises, eating in the resturaunts, and shopping in the store composses the same ethnic diversity and has the same economic opportunities as the current demographic group that composes those neighborhoods, then the myth of a racial democracy will become a reality. Great effort Camille. Though your intentions weren’t about race mixing, you’ve been used as a tool to create remarkable opportunities of cultural exchange. Deus te- abencoe, te- ilumine e proteja!! Paz ETERNO!

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