Country Crash Course: Mexico

Getting the right introductions and building trust

Mexicans prefer doing business with people whom they know and trust. Your success in Mexico is therefore dependent upon your ability to establish, build and maintain good relationships. Before doing business there be sure you have contacts that can introduce you or vouch for you. Once an initial contact has been made it is easier to move on and arrange for business meetings.

Relationships & Communication
The right connections facilitate business success. You will be judged by the person who introduces you and changing this first impression is nearly impossible. Since the initial meeting is generally with someone of high stature, it is important that your delegation include an upper-level executive. After the initial getting-to-know-you meeting, the senior executive may not attend meetings or be visible. This indicates you are now getting down to business and they are no longer needed to smooth the introduction.

Demonstrating trustworthiness, sincerity, and integrity are crucial to building relationships. Expect to answer questions about your personal background, family and life interests.

Greetings & Introductions
When greeting in social situations, women pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, rather than shake hands. Men shake hands until they know someone well, at which time they progress to the more traditional hug and back slapping. Wait until invited before using a Mexican’s first name.

Business Meeting Etiquette
Business appointments are required and should be made at least two weeks in advance. Reconfirm the appointment one week before the meeting. Reconfirm the meeting again once you arrive in Mexico and make sure that the secretary of the person you will be meeting knows how to contact you. It is important that you arrive on time for meetings, although your Mexican business associates may be up to 30 minutes late. Do not appear irritated if this occurs as people often run behind schedule. Meetings may be postponed with little advance warning.

Initial meetings are formal. Have all written material available in both English and Spanish. Agendas are not common. If they are given, they are not always followed.

Business Negotiation
Since Mexicans are status conscious, you should always have someone on your negotiating team who is an executive. If you do not speak Spanish, hire an interpreter. It will take several meetings to come to an agreement. Face-to-face meetings are preferred over telephone, letters or email. Negotiations and decisions take a long time. You must be patient. Deadlines are seen as flexible and fluid, much like time itself. Negotiations will include a fair amount of haggling. Do not give your best offer first. Do not include an attorney on your negotiating team.

It is important to bear in mind that the tips we have provided act as basic and general introductions only. They are not in any way definitive. We do not intend to stereotype, pigeon-hole or try to quantify any culture or people. Each society, country and culture will have numerous nuances that would make it irresponsible to suggest a uniform approach to understanding any country’s social/business culture or etiquette. One also has to take into account the personal cultures of individuals, whether they be religious, regional, gender, corporate or other. However, loose guidelines can assist in bettering understanding and avoiding offence, and these tips are meant only to achieve that.

As this may be a lot of information to take in, we will leave you with three final tips for your own cultural insurance policy:
•    Be self-aware of your own behaviour and how other people are reacting to you.
•    Watch what other people do and learn to copy the behaviour of others for things like touch, eye contact and speaking distance.
•    Develop listening skills to make you a more effective communicator.

Click here for information on Japan, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

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Caroline Osinski is global training manager at Kwintessential, a cross-cultural communications consultancy that provides intercultural training, translation, localization, interpreting and design services, based in Somerset, UK. She can be reached at Or follow on Twitter at @kwint_train

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