Jeitinho Brasileiro can be literally translated to "Brazilian way to do things"! Wikipedia has an article about it.

There are various meaning to this expression and one gives the idea of "Malandragem". I want to know an english expression that can pass the same idea of this expression, that is: in an imaginative and dubious way, you circumventing a rule not in fact violating it.

This is a rea example of Jeitinho Brasileiro. There is a law that every cultural event needs create 50% of discount to students. But businessmen created an imaginative way to solve it. Put the price of ticket in $100 then create a promotion: If you give one kilo of food, you will win 50% of discount. But if you are a student, you pay your 50% of discount in the full price. Everyone has discount, but in fact, no one has it! How can I call what he did?

The Brazilian version of Blame it on Lisa from The Simpsons uses this expression, but the original version is:

Bart: Hey, look! There's Copacabana beach! The heart and soul of Rio!
Lifeguard: Excuse me, Americans!
Homer: How did you know?
Lifeguard: There is a dress code on this beach. But we can help you.
Bart: I feel so European.

When the lifeguard says "But we can help you.", in Portuguese he say "But we have the Jeitinho Brasileiro". This doesn't help to much.

So, what expression can I translate it in English with? What expression do you use when someone is being malandro with you?

  • For what it's worth, I think I understand exactly what the OP is looking for, but though I think there is a word or phrase in English that answers the question, I can't remember what is it (if indeed I ever knew it). I believe the OP is asking if there is an accepted expression that means in English what "Jeitinho Brasileiro" means in Brazilian Portuguese. My thought: if you are familiar with the old US sitcom, "Green Acres", there was a character named Mr. Haney who could come up with the most outrageous ways to skim money off of others -- what would you call that "way"? It's the answer! Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 23:28
  • Off topic (translation request).
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 5:24
  • 1
    This is an excellent question for ELU if we can see the point of the OP. It's not about the Brazilian way per se but about a way for form a hypernym for any cultural 'mannerism' in general. (cf. The term Americanism ... chiefly alludes to the United States and American culture. -WP)
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 6:42
  • Cyberherbalist and Kris, yes you are correct. Maybe I want a expression that pass the idea of "Malandro" and any english culture can understand (lol, wikipedia give this names for malandro: bad boy, rogue, hustler, rascal, scoundrel)
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 21:43

6 Answers 6


I asked a local Brazilian and she said that the phrase is more commonly used to just mean the Brazilian way of doing things:

We put garlic in our rice; it's just the Brazilian Way.

When I mentioned the specific meaning you were aiming for she frowned and took offense. And then offered these suggestions:

Opportunist — unprincipled resourceful person: somebody who takes advantage of something, especially somebody who does so in a devious, unscrupulous, or unprincipled way

Shyster — unethical person: an unscrupulous person, especially a lawyer or political representative

Adding a few of my own:

Circumventing — get around restriction: to find a way of avoiding restrictions imposed by a rule or law without actually breaking it

Loophole — gap in law: a small mistake or omission in a rule or law that allows it to be circumvented

Workaround — way to bypass a problem: a technique that enables somebody to overcome a problem without actually putting things right

  • For what it is worth, we also use the phrase "The American Way" to describe anything we think is particularly American in nature. This would include derogatory stereotypes such as having lots of guns, tourists wearing fanny packs and not being able to locate other countries on a map.
    – MrHen
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 23:45
  • Thanks for this cultural research. Yes, a "Malandro" is a Opportunist and shyster can be a good translation!!! Maybe I am innocent and don't exist an easy expression that give the same idea. But this just help!
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 22:26
  • Wait! I did you think about this question more than now, even making you do a research for free!! This is my power of "Malandragem"!! (In a opposite way, I give you an excuse to talk with this brazilian girl) :D
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 22:48
  • @Rodrigo: No problem. :) Feel free to accept the answer if you think it fits what you were looking for.
    – MrHen
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 23:04

In case you would be interested in a culturally neutral term (and this sort of behaviour is far from being idiosyncratically Brazilian):


someone who finagles i.e uses dishonest or devious methods to bring something about

snollygoster - a loanword from a German phrase meaning quick-witted and by extension shrewd and unprincipled (and therefore usually reserved for politicians).

A good metaphor that may apply is monkey business.

monkey business: improper or underhanded conduct; trickery.


Being a dual citizen and having lived equally in both countries, I'd like to throw in some thoughts:

  • I can relate to @MrHen acquaintance to taking offense to the OPs way of explaining it. It's not about breaking the rules to cheat people out of their hard earned money.
  • I also relate to the example of the rice. It can be about doing something that only Brazilians do so.
  • "jeitinho" is also used to the same way as "Spit and baling wire"
  • I don't believe "jeitinho" and "malandragem" should be associated. The latter implies a harsher degree of breaking the rules.
  • Lastly, Wikipedia does a great job of adding context to "jeitinho" which is very important since it carries so much culture with it. I really like this take on it:

savvy, cunning, or sly individuals who use common sense and prior knowledge, as well as naturally gifted intelligence in their thought processes


I would say, the Brazilian way, which may furthermore be understood as a Superman reference ("truth, justice, and the American way").

In formal or literary English, the à la <(French) adjective> construction can be used. In this case, you could say, à la brésilienne (no capitals).

  • I haven't the faintest idea how this answers the question. Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 23:11
  • @Cyberherbalist: in a purely literal way. 'The Brazilian way/ à la brésilienne' is grammatical and idiomatic English where 'Brazilian way/ Jeitinho Brasileiro' is not. Not very imaginative, but it isn't very clear what OP actually wants. Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 23:18
  • @TimLymington, I think I know what he's asking, but I don't have an answer. Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 23:27

To hack the system.

To take advantage of a situation

To find an easier way.

Idiomatic expressions rarely find true equivalents in other languages. So I suggest you take your donkey in, out of the rain. ;)


I am an American who has lived in Brazil for more than 30 years so I might be qualified to offer an opinion. The phrase "bending the rules" will convey the idea pretty well in situations where creative interpretation of the rules is involved. It does not work in all situations. Brian in Brazil

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