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Mexico Business Etiquette, Culture, & Manners

Mexico - etiquette, manners, culture, gift giving, protocol, dress, communication, behavior           Mexican cultural etiquette and manners

Mexico Introduction

Three times the size of the state of Texas, Mexico has a population of almost 88 million. The ethnic composition of the country is 60 percent mestizo (a mixture of Indian and European), 30 percent Amerindian, 9 percent white, and 1 percent other. Mexico is a federal republic. Spanish is the official language of Mexico, although over 100 Indian languages are also spoken. English is widely understood by educated people and in urban centers. There is no official religion, but almost 90 percent of Mexicans are Roman Catholic. Protestants account for around 5 percent.

Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trade partners. It is the third largest exporter to the United States, and its international trade products include oil exports, tourism, and the products of its many assembly plants (called maquiladoras). Most of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector.


Mexico Fun Fact

One must know a person before doing business with him or her, and the only way to know a person in Mexico is to know the family. Personal relationships are the key to business success. In order to make this connection intermediaries are used. It is critical, especially for a high ranking meeting, to use a person who is known to the Mexican businessman or woman you are meeting. This is your "business family" connection, the person who will introduce you. This person is the bridge that builds the trust necessary to do business in Mexico.

Mexicans are warm and gracious. They embrace the manana attitude, and do not embrace the time-is-money mentality of many other cultures. The old Mexican saying is that "North Americans live to work, but Mexicans work to live!" Respect their sense of time and traditions. If your natural tendency is to speak quickly or you have a forceful or sharp tone of voice, become aware of how you are coming across. Become sensitive to the pace and tone used in Mexico. Otherwise you will destroy a relationship with your caustic tone and behavior. Also, it goes without saying that jokes about "Montezuma’s revenge" are inappropriate.


Geert Hofstede Analysis for Mexico

Hofstede Cultural Scores for Mexico

Mexico is similar to many Latin countries when Hofstede's Dimensions are compared and analyzed (see Latin America Hofstede graph below).

Mexico's highest Hofstede Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) (82), indicating the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

Mexico has a low Individualism (IDV) ranking (30), but is slightly higher than other Latin countries with an average 21. The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group

Mexico has the second highest Masculinity (MAS) ranking in Latin America (69). This indicates the country experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation of roles. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure. This situation generates a female population that becomes more assertive and competitive, although not at the level of the male population.

Another Dimension in which Mexico ranks higher than other Latin neighbors is Power Distance (PDI) with a rank of 81, compared to an average of 70. This is indicative of a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. This condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the culture as a whole.

In many of the Latin American countries, including Mexico, the population is predominantly Catholic (see Religions Graph below). The combination of Catholicism and the cultural dimensions, shown in the Hofstede Graphs above, reinforce a philosophy predicated in the belief that there is an absolute ‘Truth”. As Geert Hofstede explains about peoples with a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, their attitude is, “There can only be one Truth and we have it.”

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See accompanying Article)

Based on our studies and data, the large majority of predominantly Catholic countries (those with Uncertainty Avoidance as their highest ranking Dimension) have a low tolerance for ambiguity. This creates a highly rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty within the population.

Click Here for Geert Hofstede country scores

To review, the Geert Hofstede analysis for Mexico has high Uncertainty Avoidance ranking that represents a societal concern for the lack of stability and security. The culture also ranks high on the Power Distance and Masculinity dimensions indicating a male dominated authoritarian structure. The culture is collectivist with close ties between extended families and communities. This is particularly true in the more rural areas.  More Details

Written by Stephen Taylor - the Sigma Two Group

Religion in Mexico


In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See accompanying Article)


Mexico Appearance

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Men should wear a conservative dark suit and tie. Your wardrobe should include suits that have classic lines and tailoring in gray or navy, and white or light blue shirts. A white shirt is more formal and should be worn when the formality of the meeting dictates.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Women should wear a dress or skirt and blouse. A classic suit may also be worn. Build a wardrobe using classic lines, classic skirt lengths, and basic classic colors - gray, navy, white, and ivory.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Men may wear pants and a light shirt for casual. Plan a casual wardrobe using the classic colors, plus camel, and you will be casual, yet polished. Should you have the opportunity to wear a guayabera, the wonderful traditional lightweight shirt, you wear is out over your pants. This design is very comfortable in warmer weather.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Women may wear a blouse with pants or a skirt for casual. To present yourself as professional and polished, even in an informal setting, build your casual wardrobe using classic shades of gray, blue, camel, white and ivory.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Jeans are generally not appropriate, and tight or low cut clothing is never appropriate.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Standing with your hands on your hips suggests aggressiveness, and keeping your hands in your pockets is impolite.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Mexicans may not make eye contact. This is a sign of respect and should not be taken as an affront.


Mexico Behavior 

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Men shake hands upon meeting and leaving, and will wait for a woman to be the first to offer her hand.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Women may shake hands with men and other women. Many times a woman may pat another woman's shoulder or forearm, or kiss on the cheek.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Longtime friends may embrace, and after several meetings you may also be greeted with an embrace.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Punctuality is not rigid because of the emphasis on personal obligations. The best time for appointments is between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., with late afternoon a second choice.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Business lunches, rather than dinners are the traditional form of business entertaining and are usually prolonged affairs, beginning between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. and lasting three to four hours, with little time being devoted to actual business. Lunches are an essential part of business to establish a personal relationship.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Working breakfasts are also popular, meeting at 8:00 or 8:30 at your hotel, and usually lasting two hours at the most.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Conversations take place at a close physical distance. Stepping back may be regarded as unfriendly.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Mexican men are warm and friendly, and make a lot of physical contact. They often touch shoulders or hold another’s arm. To withdraw from this touch is considered insulting.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Giving gifts to business executives is not required. Small items with a company logo (for an initial visit) are appreciated.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Secretaries do appreciate gifts. If giving a valuable gift, such as perfume or a scarf, present it on a return visit. A man giving it to a female secretary should indicate the gift is from his wife.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Gifts are not required for a dinner guest, but will be appreciated. Good choices are candy, flowers (sent ahead of time), or local crafts from home.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  When giving flowers: yellow – represent death, red – cast spells, and white – lift spells.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Do not give gifts made of silver, as it is associated with trinkets sold to tourists.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Women should not invite a male counterpart for a business dinner unless other associates or spouses attend. Also, Mexican men will graciously attempt to pay for a meal, even though you are hosting it. A professional way to host a meal is to dine or lunch at your hotel. Pre-arrange to have the meal added to your hotel bill.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Tipping is appropriate for services provided. Wages are often so low that workers depend heavily on gratuities for their income.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)  Pay for store purchases by placing money in the cashier’s hand, rather than on the counter.


Mexico Communications 

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Refrain from using first names until invited to do so.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Titles are important and should be included on business cards. You may directly speak to someone by only using his or her title only, without including the last name.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Doctor is a physician or Ph.D. Profesor it the title for a teacher. Ingeniero is an engineer. Arquitecto is an architect. Abogado is a lawyer.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   People without professional titles are addressed using Mr., Mrs., or Miss and his or her surname. Senor is Mr., Senora is Mrs., and Senorita is Miss

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Hispanics generally use two surnames. The first surname listed is from the father, and the second surname listed is from the mother. When speaking to someone use his or her father’s surname.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   A married woman will add her husband's father's name to the end of her name, usually shown as de (name) when written. This woman would be formally addressed as Senora de (name).

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   In speaking to this same married woman less formally, you would simply say Senora (name).

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Do not use red ink anytime you are writing someone's name.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   The traditional toast in Mexico is Salud (Sal-UUD).

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Mexican’s use a "psst-psst" sound to catch another’s attention in public. This is not considered rude.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Mexicans refer to people from the United States as North Americans.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Good conversational topics are Mexican culture, history, art, and museums.

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes)   Never discuss the Mexican-American war, poverty, illegal aliens, or earthquakes.




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Page authored by: Joni Nicol & Stephen Taylor

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