Mexican Communication Styles

Although English is increasingly widely spoken in Mexico, it would be dangerous to assume that all business acquaintances will be fluent in the language.

English language levels vary widely and it is best to check in advance that translators will not be necessary. It goes without saying that you will be at a great advantage if you speak good Spanish.

It is common for colleagues to address each other through the use of family names, moving on to first name terms only when the relationship is very well established. If in doubt about which name to use, it is probably safest to err on the side of caution by starting with the family name. In addition, titles such as Liciendo/a (a professional such as a lawyer) or Ingeniero/a (an engineer) are also commonly used terms of respect.

Emotion is not suppressed in business situations and discussions can appear heated and at times acrimonious to those from a culture which frowns upon any visible shows of emotion during business dealings. This outward show of emotion is seen as a positive and implies engagement and emphasis.

Mexican body language differs from North American and Northern European body language. People stand much closer to each other and have far stronger eye contact than in many other cultures. It is important that you are not intimidated by these issues, as lack of strong eye contact or maintaining too great a distance could be misconstrued as standoffishness or untrustworthiness. Try to mirror the Mexican approach in these matters.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Mexico

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

As part of the world’s largest trading block (NAFTA), Mexico must be an attractive potential market. It is strategically positioned between North and South America and as such is a great base for further expansion in the region. In addition, Mexico has negotiated a strategic network of free trade agreements which give it preferential access at least 46 countries with a combined population of in excess of one billion people.

Whilst Mexico does represent an attractive market entry proposition and doing business in Mexico is likely to bring rewards, there are several impediments which need to be taken into consideration. Bribery and corruption remain a problem – although progress is being made in this area – and organised crime still poses a serious threat both in the cities and the regions. Mexico could also be considered a little too dependent on the robustness of the US economy – if the States is doing well, Mexico is usually flourishing as well.

However, one of the key considerations you need to factor in when looking at doing business in Mexico is the local business Culture. Mexico might have a border with the USA but their business cultures are poles apart. Whereas the USA puts business firmly before relationships in business dealings, Mexico is the exact opposite. In a strongly hierarchical culture, who you know and how well you know them are absolutely critical to success. You need to forge great relationship and you need to know how to forge those relationship. Take the time to make the right type of contact and you will be rewarded.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Mexican business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips