To make a good impression with Mexicans, dress smartly and sharply. Be patient, warm and compassionate if the need arises. Don’t shrink away from someone who stands too close – physical contact is stronger here than most Americans and Northern Europeans are used to.
Show respect for Mexico, its art and culture, and its history. Don’t criticise the country’s politics, or draw attention to its poverty. Be a good listener but expect to be interrupted yourself. Always ask after somebody’s family and show respect and deference to older people. Refer to people from the USA as North American rather than Americans. Mexicans are Americans.
Accept all social invitations and return the favour. Business entertaining is an essential part of commerce and you will be judged on whether you join in, and how entertaining you are as a guest. Being charismatic, or known to be able to tell a good story is always a benefit.
Remember that saving face is important in Mexico. Be aware of differences in your communication style and customs that could cause somebody to lose face. What you perceive as small talk may be perceived as overly personal in a different culture; what you think is feedback may be taken as criticism; when you are being business-like, you may be seen as impersonal. Take time to understand local perceptions so you can avoid making a bad impression.
Top 10 essentials for working with Mexicans
- See the modern Mexico. Mexico is a powerful economy, open to global trade, with a motivated, educated workforce, and presents itself as a land of opportunity.
- Be sure to foster personal relationships. Put building a trusting relationship before making a fast profit.
- Respect the hierarchy. Mexico is a patriarchal society. Decisions are made at the top and information might not filter down to lower ranking employees.
- Save face. Saving face is important in Mexico and key to maintaining personal relationships. Do not criticise someone in public or expect 360 degree feedback from employees.
- Switch to Mexican time. Mexicans have a different concept of time; flexibility and multitasking are key. Schedules are treated as guidelines and meetings may overrun.
- Keep it formal. Reserve the use of first names for friends and close colleagues, and only when invited to do so. Use formal titles to recognise a person’s status. Show good manners; polite greetings are appreciated.
- Show up in person. A visit is more important than a phone call or email. Make appointments in advance and confirm before and on arrival in Mexico.
- Understand the collective nature of society. Mexicans are group-orientated, loyal to family and friends, with members of a group taking responsibility for one another.
- Maintain a balance. Family is very important to Mexicans and creating a work-life balance is essential.
- Don’t appear cold. Do not back away from physical contact, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Mexicans are more tactile than many other cultures and to back away could be considered an insult.
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