Mexico Business Etiquette

Posted by Lindsay Geoffroy

 

¡Bienvenido a México! (“Welcome to Mexico!” in Spanish)

Mexico is more than just the country to the south of the United States. It is a large country with a population of over 120 million people. Mexico is known for its beautiful beaches and delicious food. Although there have been some historically fraught moments between the two neighboring nations, Mexico is actually the third-largest exporter to the United States. Therefore, business relations between the nations are very important.

Let’s learn about the dos and don’ts of Mexican business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The national language of Mexico is Spanish, but there are 68 native language groups.
  • The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, and the government is a federal presidential constitutional republic.
  • Mexican residents are predominantly Catholic, so keep this is mind during conversation.
  • The family is the center of Mexican life, and Mexican people tend to have very conservative, traditional family values.

Dressing Sharp

  • Men should wear conservative suits in dark colors (black, navy, or grey) along with light-colored shirts. In more casual settings, pants and a light shirt are acceptable.
  • Women should wear should wear a conservative suit (pants or skirt are acceptable) in dark colors. Blouses are also acceptable, but should not be revealing, tight, or low-cut.
  • Jeans are not typically acceptable in the business environment.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Both men and women will shake hands at the beginning and end of the meeting.
  • Standing with your hands on your hips is considered aggressive, as is making eye contact, so try to avoid these actions.
  • Because of the importance of family in Mexico, punctuality is not as important as in other cultures. It is understood that either party might have personal matters which need attention.
  • Do not use the first name of the Mexican party until you are invited to do so.
  • Titles are important – if you know the title of the Mexican party (eg, Dr. or Professor), use it.
  • Good topics of conversation include: art, culture, and local sites such as museums.

Dining Decorum

  • Business breakfasts are popular in Mexico, as are business dinners.
  • Arrive at least 30 minutes late to dinners – arriving early or on time can be considered inappropriate.
  • Do not sit down or begin eating until you are instructed to do so.
  • Always keep your hands visible while eating.
  • It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate at the end of a meal.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Gift-giving in not required in the Mexican business setting, but small gifts are appreciated. A gift with your company’s logo on it will suffice.
  • Secretaries appreciate receiving gifts.
  • If attending a dinner party, you can bring a gift for the host(ess). Acceptable gifts include: candy, a gift from your home country, or flowers.
  • If giving a gift of flowers, do not give yellow flowers (in Mexican culture, yellow symbolizes death).
  • Avoid giving a gift containing silver, as this is considered “cheap” in Mexico.

Down to Business

  • Mexican business is hierarchical – decisions are made by executives. It is a wise move to have an executive present at negotiations.
  • In-person meetings are preferred to phone or email and it can take several face-to-face meetings before negotiations are finalized.
  • Haggling is appropriate in negotiations.
  • Deadlines may not be followed, as Mexicans are not rigid in respect to time.
  • Be patient!

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Mexico, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! 

¡Adiós! (“Goodbye!” in Spanish)