The Mexico Etiquette

At the beginning, foreign cultures bring along numerous stumbling blocks and blunders, which must be successfully avoided in order not to immediately nip new relationships in the bud and instead steer them towards a successful business.

As a little help, we provide you with a concise culture and business guide for Mexico, which includes important topics such as the sense of time, behavior in the company and towards business partners.

Characteristics of Mexican Culture

The Mexican culture has some basic characteristics that are reflected above all in the way Mexicans think, such as their perception of power and power distribution. Mexicans are willing to accept that there is an unequal distribution of power and accept their position in this structure. Therefore, they are hierarchy loving and know exactly where they stand. Furthermore, Mexicans confirm the prejudice of being machos. Not only do men like to pay and open the door for their girlfriend, they also compete with each other and see great importance in both status and power. In contrast to their competitiveness, Mexicans have a very high group consciousness and feel a strong family affiliation. This is more important to them than to realize their own dreams.

Another aspect of Mexican culture is the affectionately called “Mañana” effect, which refers to their rather elastic sense of time. It is not unlikely that Mexicans show up 30 minutes late to work or even to an arranged business meeting. Whereas in European countries this behavior would most likely have consequences for the employee, it is usually tolerated in Mexico, even if there are counteracting rules that are regularly broken as a result.

Many companies in Mexico pay their employees’ salaries bi-weekly or even weekly, as Mexicans tend to spend their money easily. They like to treat themselves to a few beers after work on Thursdays and attach more importance to regular pleasure than saving for old age.

This basic understanding of the Mexican way of life makes it easier to understand the following guidelines for business relationships with Mexican partners.

Time and sense of time

What’s true for Mexicans shouldn’t be automatically transferred to your own behavior. While Mexicans like to be up to 30 minutes late, the punctuality of foreign business partners is expected and valued. Therefore, you should bring a little extra time, especially if you are establishing new business relationships.

Anyway, you should send a confirmation before the meeting, as Mexicans might otherwise assume that the meeting has been cancelled.

Communication and body language

Mexicans often interact with closer physical contact and give friends a kiss and a hug as a greeting. Women also get a kiss on the cheek in business relationships, men usually shake hands.

It is also important to adopt an open posture and not to cross hands or arms if possible.

Furthermore, it also helps to speak Spanish. If this is not possible yet, a few words like “Buenos días”, “Gracias” or “Mucho gusto” will be appreciated before the negotiation continues in English. Mexican managers usually speak English fluently, but employees do not necessarily speak English. It is therefore of advantage to employ bilingual employees as a link between the foreign parent company and the Mexican subsidiary.

Moreover, it should be noted that employees of the same rank use a rather informal language, while the formal “usted” is used between manager and employee. At business meetings one should wait for the Mexican business partner to offer the informal “tu”.

As far as the content of the negotiations is concerned, Mexicans like to first discuss personal matters and the well-being of each other. This is considered polite and lays the foundation for a successful business relationship.

Corporate structure

If there is a plan to establish a subsidiary in Mexico, it is also important to establish a suitable corporate structure.

Since Mexicans like hierarchy, a clear structure with assignment to a direct manager is necessary. Employees like to know who gives them directions and develop a strong bond and respect for their supervisor. Nevertheless, the Mexican way of working often requires more control than usual, as employees like to hide problems. In addition, Mexican employees tend to be more loyal to their superiors, whereas in Germany, for example, corporate image and identification with the company are more important.

Conduct towards business partners

To run a successful business in Mexico, you also need regional partners. When building these relationships in Mexico, the focus is on establishing a friendship, because Mexicans prefer to do business with friends. As a newcomer, you can achieve this either through existing contacts who introduce you or through “business lunches” where you can get to know each other better before you get to the point. This approach may seem a waste of time for European or American managers, but it is worth it if you plan to stay in Mexico for a longer period of time.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to advise you and give you further information about culture and business in Mexico.