Excerpted from the Mexico Career Guide
Mexico is a very modern country with a very diverse and rich culture. At least 60 percent of the population is characterized by its mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) heritage, a convergence of European and ancient Mesoamerican cultures and traditions. Another 15 percent of Mexico’s population is indigenous. This provides for a wide array of cultural expressions and interactions throughout the country, differing from region to region. This diversity of expression impacts both business and everyday activities.
Communication in Mexico tends to be subtle and non-confrontational. Mexicans may avoid saying 'no' directly by using phrases such as 'maybe' or 'we'll see.' Mexicans will shake hands upon greeting and parting. A man should wait for a woman to extend her hand before shaking it. Women will often kiss on the cheek. Hugs are appropriate only between close friends or colleagues. In general, Mexicans are not afraid of light physical contact and will often use hand gestures when speaking. Mexicans also have a smaller sense of personal space than other cultures.However, they may avoid making eye contact as a sign of respect.
Mexico is a fluid time society, meaning that time is viewed as flexible and that relationships take priority. It is therefore important to be flexible. Deadlines are more like general target dates. Mexicans tend to change plans or improvise on the spur of the moment. Being punctual and formal is important to create a good first impression, but foreigners must learn that doing business is definitely not as formal or strict in protocol as in many other countries. Even if others are late, in business settings, foreigners are expected to be on time. This emphasis on formality is an important part of doing business, but do not be surprised if a meeting or interview begins 30 minutes behind schedule or if the recruiter is late.
Below are some helpful words and phrases in Mexican Spanish, including a list of 'false friends,' words that sound alike in English and Spanish but have very different meanings.
agencia de empleo --employment agency
ahorita – right now
boleto – ticket ....
Asistir does not mean to assist, but to attend
El campo means the countryside and not to go camping
Un compromiso means a commitment, not a compromise
Contestar means to answer (in reply) and not to contest (a bill)...
Many aspects of conducting business in Mexico are similar to those of the United States or other Western cultures. The use of strong handshakes, business cards, résumés, interviews, and other recruiting practices and protocol are widely used. Something that varies from other cultures, however, is the degree of casualness with which Mexicans tend to approach business. It is customary to hold meetings over lunch (usually around 3 pm); often the Mexican host will insist on paying the full tab, saying that the other party ‘can pay next time.’
The best way to ensure managerial success is to have the support of a member of the local business community or someone in the office. Otherwise it will be difficult for foreign managers to command respect. Management follows a strict hierarchical system in Mexico.
Business is almost always conducted in Spanish, but if the Mexican businessperson is fluent in English he or she may use English. Otherwise, if one is unsure whether the Mexican businessperson speaks English, one should hire an interpreter. Mexicans appreciate any effort by a foreigner to speak Spanish.
Business correspondence in Mexico is formal and respectful of hierarchy. Dates are given as day, month and year, separated by a space , e.g. November 1, 2010, would be written 1 de noviembre 2010. It is also common to indicate the location, e.g. México DF. .Time is written according to the 24-hour military clock. The metric system is used for weights and other measures.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete Mexico Guide.