Cultural challanges in Mexico

Moving to Mexico permanently can cause some kind of culture clash. A lot of things work differently here than back home in the US, starting with the correct salutation of business partners and ending with punctuality (or the lack of it).

Communication and daily routine

For instance, there are some differences between the US-American and Mexican way of communication and behavior in the daily routine.
In Mexico, one of the most important things is to appear likeable and to establish mutual trust. Harmonious relationships are essential in private life as well as on a business level.

In addition, Mexicans are particularly considered to save face which leads to conflict avoidance and strong politeness. Another important etiquette is to address the counterpart with the right salutation, especially for written communication – usually according to the university degree, for instance “Licendiado/Licenciada” for a Bachelor’s degree in business or “Ingenerio” for an engineering degree.
The Mexican culture leans toward collectivism: Community and family are a priority.

Time and rules

When it comes to time or rules Mexicans are quite flexible. Living in this very moment is important, long-term plans play a secondary role. In addition, the Mexican culture is known for its polychronic understanding of time, which means that several things are done at the same time.

Also, be prepared for tardiness; being late is normal and even in a professional environment up to one hour of being late is accepted and tolerated. Keeping appointments or meeting deadlines do not have the same priority as in the US-American culture.
Concerning rules and laws, improvisation and a rather flexible handling are the norm.

Negotiations

In the context of business and negotiations there are a few things attention should be paid to. Companies are structured with a strict hierarchy. Physical appearance is important, as well as status symbols and the separation between private life and career.

Usually, negotiations start with small talk in order to get to know each other and to establish a trusting relationship. Accepted topics are family, the weather, Mexico’s travel destinations and culinary specialties. Topics implying criticism, for instance corruption, criminality and (a lack of) environmental protection, should be avoided.

It is common to have dinner with a business partner – just be aware that business topics won’t be discussed until after the meal. When it comes to negotiation itself Mexicans are masters of indirect statements and will probably not answer with an unambiguous “no”. Hence, a “yes” should be taken as “probably”.

Contracts are preferably negotiated and closed in person. In addition, although most business professionals speak English, contracts should always be translated and, if possible, negotiations should be realized in Spanish.