Mexican Customs for Business People

In America, we do business with others that we know not at all. In some foreign countries business is conducted only with the proper introductions. In Mexico, for instance, your business deal will go over much better if you’ve been properly introduced to those of importance to your business. One introduction leads to another and then business can be done. It’s important to have at least one Mexican connection who can be responsible for introducing you, the foreigner, to those of the land. Do this over a period of time until you and the other parties feel comfortable around each other.

In most Mexican cities business is conducted from nine a.m. until six p.m. but government offices are often open much later. Business is rarely conducted on Saturday or Sunday. Business luncheons are very popular, but the lunch hour is often much later than in America. From one in the afternoon until three thirty is considered an acceptable lunch meeting. In some cases, lunch isn’t taken until after four in the afternoon.

Appointments are usually considered tentative until you have informed the associates, or secretaries, of your arrival. If you call ahead to let them know you are on your way, it’s still considered proper protocol to inform then upon your arrival in the country. Punctuality on the part of the Mexican business people is sometimes of little priority. Allow the Mexican associate to choose the meeting time and place, when possible. When invited to a party it is acceptable to arrive at least thirty minutes late.

Being invited to dinner at a Mexican associate’s home usually means your relationship has progressed to friendship. Home invitations are normally reserved for parties or dinner, not for business discussions. Women should hold business meetings in the restaurant of the motel where she is staying, signing the bill in advance. The reason for this is that the Mexican gentleman will insist upon paying unless arrangements have previously been made.

There are various meanings of the Spanish word “manana”. It can mean in the morning, tomorrow, sometime in the future, or “no”. Read between the lines when Mexican associates use the term. Using the names “Jesus” or “God” in vain is totally taboo, in any form. Never make the thumb and forefinger symbol for “ok”as it is seen as vulgar. If you’re indicating how tall someone is use only the index finger to show height. Using the entire hand is reserved for discussing animals.

Standard dress types for men or women are conservative but meticulous. Colorful attire is reserved for parties and such. Umbrellas are popular in the rainy season, which runs from May to November, but raincoats are seldom seen. Shorts are not worn in Mexico by adults. Jeans are acceptable in a less formal setting, but never wear jeans with rips, stains or fraying.

Gift-giving is acceptable but never ask them what they would like to have. A nice gift is inviting the person or people to dinner and paying for it. Never give silver items or flowers that are red or yellow in color. Gifts for children whose home you’re visiting are considered extremely thoughtful. Gifts should be something from America or general toys.

During introductions, men shake hands with men, but women should initiate any handshakes between themselves and a man. Gentle hugs are given between men who have developed a friendship. Conversations are often held in closer distance than is comfortable for some Americans. Backing up to put distance between you and the associate is considered rude. If you are touched on the shoulder or arm by a man during business, this is a kind and trusting gesture. Do not pull away or act offended. Eye contact can be seldom made and no offense is meant by that. Studying someone directly in their face for too long is rude. Making a “psst” sound to grab someone’s attention is considered totally acceptable. Shake hands with all parties concerned before leaving a business meeting or an affair of any type.

Stance is important. Placing hands on hips is considered a challenge and putting hands in pockets is extremely rude. A handshake at the end of a business meeting signifies that you’re in agreement with the discussions of the meeting.

When shopping never put your money or credit card on the counter. Place it in the merchant’s hand instead. A good idea is to visit the city before any meetings or introductions, just to get a feel of the culture and the city. Learn some simple phrases so your associates will know you’ve taken the initiative and are interested in the people and the country. Compliments on the country, landscape or attractions are noted by the people. Go online or to the local library to learn more about customs, etiquette and protocol in the area.

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