Doing Business in Mexico
Mexico is commonly referred as the “Horn of the abundance”, not only because of its characteristic geographic shape resembling a horn located between U.S.A., Guatemala and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but also due to its “abundant” natural resources, beautiful landscapes and friendly people. A particularly culturally-diverse scenario is present in Mexico, where businesses are carried out in the traditional occidental way, influenced by old-customs and modern life, mixed with vivid Latin-American rhythms, and complemented with the particular tequila and mariachi Mexican essence.
The official language in Mexico is Spanish, although in some small provinces people still speak old Mexican languages. In general, Mexicans’ level of English can vary from very basic to proficient, therefore it is advisable to hire a translator if you do not speak Spanish.
In Spanish the word “you” can be translated as two different words “Usted” and “Tù”. In general “Usted” represents respect and is used when talking to people who are considerably older than you, who have certain authority, or people whom you do not know very well. “Tù” on the other hand is generally used when talking to friends or people who are the same age. For business, it is recommended to start communication with the “usted” style and to use titles until the person asks you to refer to them by their first name. The form of the verbs in Spanish will change depending on whether you are using “Tù” or “Usted”.
General titles are similar to those in English: “Señor” (Mr.) and “Señora” (Mrs.) for married or older people; “Señorita” (Miss) and “Joven” for younger or unmarried people. If you are uncertain about a woman’s age or marital status, it is better to use “Señorita” since some women can feel old and consider the inappropriate use of the word “Señora” to be rude.
Meeting and greeting
Mexican names tend to be very long and are usually composed of two first names followed by the father’s family name and the mother’s family name (for example, “Luis Enrique Torres Flores”). With regards to business, in both written and verbal communication people should be addressed by the degree they hold followed by the first surname, this shows respect and admiration for the person and indicates professionalism. The word “Ingeniero” is appropriate for bachelor’s degree in engineering while the word “Licenciado” can be used for any other undergraduate degree. On the other hand the word “Maestro” (master) has a different meaning and it is used as a synonym of teacher or professor.
When meeting for the first time a firm handshake is appropriate for greeting and saying goodbye, although when people become more friendly it is common to greet and say goodbye with a kiss between two women or a woman and a man, or with a friendly hug and slapping of the back among men.
The use of business cards in meetings is common, as it shows professionalism and courtesy. It is recommended to have one side of the card printed in Spanish. The business card should show all your degrees and professional qualifications since it proves your capacity and expertise in a subject.
It is necessary to make appointments for meetings perhaps one or two weeks in advance and to confirm your attendance to the meeting in question a couple of days before. It is very important to arrive on time to meetings. Considering that Mexico City is very large and it can take more than one hour to get from one place to another (especially in peak hours!). You should also bear in mind that most large companies will ask you to register yourself and your laptop at the entrance, so it is important for you to allow more than an hour for arriving at your meeting.
It is considered polite to offer to pay for the bill at the end of a meal, the other party will most likely reject the offer and insist on paying themselves, which leads to a polite argument about who is going to pay and after the other person insists an average of three times you can accept the invitation saying that you are very grateful and that next time it will definitely be you who pays the bill.
When you are invited to a house or party Mexico is perhaps the only place in the world in which it can be considered rude to arrive on time. It is advisable to arrive about half an hour late in order to give some extra time to the host in case he/she is not ready yet, and to wait for the other guests to arrive. You should take with you something you can share during the meal, for example a bottle of wine or a nice dessert, although taking flowers is not very common.
As in many other cultures it is impolite to start eating prior to the rest of the people on the table, so you should wait until all the plates are served. If you are going to serve yourself a drink offer to first serve the people who are near you.
Table manners and protocols are the same as in Europe, nevertheless some Mexican food is eaten with fingers, so don’t feel embarrassed to do so yourself. Additionally some Mexican dishes, especially salsas, can be very hot and spicy. Mexican people are used to it so even if you hear from someone that the salsa is not so hot be careful!
Leaving food on your plate can be considered bad in some Mexican families, as some Mexican grandmothers would say “given that so many people in the world die of starvation, you are lucky to have food on your table every day, so wasting it is a sin”.
When going to a restaurant a tip of 10% is considered sufficient. Also, you can refer to the waiter as “Joven” and the waitress as “Señorita”.
Any topic for conversation is acceptable in Mexico. In fact, Mexican people are very respectful and open-minded.
Politics and football are very controversial topics and Mexican people can be very passionate about their beliefs on these topics.
Having foreign visitors is not as common as it is in Europe, hence Mexican people will enjoy any comments about your country, culture, religion, customs, etc.
Red flowers mean love, so do not give red flowers to friends or in business.
For some people yellow flowers mean bad luck.
It is common to send cards or presents to your business partners for Christmas.
Important national holidays
September 15th is the day when Mexico gained independence from Spain.
November 1st and 2nd are the “Death’s days”, and during them the deceased loved ones are remembered with food, music and flowers.
December 12th is a Guadalupe’s Virgin day, on which there are fairs and celebrations in all churches starting at 6:00am with mariachis and proceeding with singing of “Las Mañanitas”.
Working hours and opening times
Most of the banks open at 9:00am and close at 4:00pm. They are open Monday to Friday.
Office hours start at 9:00 and finish at 6:00, lunch time is between 1:00 and 3:00pm. Although the lunch break normally continues for an hour, some companies have a two-hour-lunch. Some government institutions close at 4:00pm.
Shopping centres and supermarkets close at 10:00pm.
Restaurants close late at night and some offer a 24-hour-service, where all kinds of international food can be found.
The business dressing code in Mexico is the same as in Europe. Men should avoid short sleeve shirts and white socks, and women should avoid sleeveless blouses and open shoes.
Image is very important in Mexico. Smart clothes and a fancy car is an indication of success. The better you are at your profession the more money you make and this would be reflected in your dressing and car.
Networking is very important for business progression in Mexico. Friends and acquaintances are commonly used for sales and business contacts.
Mexico still keeps some old traditions, Mexican men are considered to be “caballerosos” (word that derives from the word gentleman), and this involves the following customs:
Men usually offer their seat to a woman who is standing up. This happens even when travelling by bus or tube, especially if the woman is old, pregnant or carrying a baby.
It is common for a man to lend his jacket to a woman if it is cold.
Men are expected to open the door for a woman when going in and out of a car.
It is accepted that men will let ladies go in or out of a building, house, etc. first.
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If you would like to know more about Mexico, please visit our country profile page.
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