Excerpted from the Mexico Career Guide
Mexico is a modern country with a diverse and rich culture. More than half of the population is characterized by its Amerindian-Spanish heritage, a convergence of European and ancient Mesoamerican cultures and traditions. Another 15 percent of Mexico’s population is indigenous. This provides 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.
If you want to act like a local...
At restaurants, visitors are advised to order from fixed menus or comidas corridas.
Gringo or gringa is a neutral term for an American or European. One should not be offended.
Mexico City is referred to as el DF (short for Distrito Federal) or simply México.
If flowers are selected as a gift, white flowers have positive connotation. Red flowers should be avoided.
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. One thing that varies from other cultures, however, is the degree of casualness with which Mexicans may approach business. It is customary to hold meetings over lunch (usually around 3 pm). Often, the Mexican host will insist on paying the tab, saying that the other party ‘can pay next time.’ These meetings will usually begin with casual conversation and eventually evolve into the specifics of the business matters at hand. These lunches may last three to four hours and are primarily to establish a relationship prior to engaging in business.
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 usually conducted in Spanish, but if the Mexican businessperson is fluent in English, he or she may use English. If one is unsure about whether the Mexican businessperson speaks English, one should hire an interpreter.
Introductions via a contact are invaluable. It is important to establish trustworthiness, integrity and sincerity in order to build a good business relationship. Having good connections is crucial to ensuring business success. Nepotism is not infrequent. Mexicans prefer to do business with those they know and trust. Since hierarchy is important, those of similar rank should always conduct negotiations. To send a low-ranking representative may be understood as an insult or lack of interest.
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.