The Do's And Don'ts In Mexico Business Culture

September 20, 2021

Thanks to the implementation of free trade agreements between the USA, Mexico, and Canada, doing business in Mexico has become a popular option for North American organizations—especially manufacturing companies. No matter the size of your company, there are a few do’s and don’ts to remember when conducting business in Mexico. 

While some of the basics are covered here to help clue you in, other topics require an article to themselves. If you need more information about offshore manufacturing or have concerns about maquiladoras, follow the links to their respective articles.

Speak The Language

One of the most important things you can do is make sure that you speak at least a little Spanish. It will be appreciated by the businesses you are hoping to work with and can help you make a positive impression.

DO: Stick with the basics, especially if you are new to the language.

DON’T: Try and deliver your entire pitch in Spanish if you are not fluent, as this can impact your credibility.

Embrace The Culture

The Mexican people are proud of their country, and showing your appreciation will go over well.

DO: Become familiar with landmarks and prominent features, and take the time to discuss these,

DON’T: Spend your time comparing Mexico to your home country.

Get Comfortable With Small Talk

If you are not a fan of small talk, then Mexico may not be the best place for you to do business. Many Mexicans will preclude business meetings with lots of chat about the city, your plans, the weather, and questions about your family. Being prepared for this, as it’s a normal part of their culture and will help you to build connections, improving your chances of success.

DO: Learn about Mexican culture - especially local foods, sports, and history.

DON’T: Avoid any questions about your own culture or country. Many Mexicans will be keen to learn more about the people they are working with.

Prepare To Meet In Person—A Lot

Unlike the US and Canada, a number of Mexican business owners will expect you to arrange multiple, face-to-face meetings in order to build and secure the working relationship. This is particularly useful in helping you to understand the significance of body language in Mexican culture. Depending on where you are, yes may mean no. With a little practice, you will soon learn to interpret the truth behind the words.

DO: Get comfortable with face-to-face meetings

DON’T: Insist on relying on the conference or video calls. Not only will this obstruct your understanding of Mexican business culture, but it could also be considered rude by some owners.

Go Local

In Mexico, getting to know the locals is essential. Having a local representative on the ground gives you an insight into local ways of working, thinking, and the do’s and don'ts that can make a huge difference to your chances of success in this country. Developing strong local relationships can also help you to handle any logistical issues, speed up responses, and increase your chances of a follow up.

DO: Make the most of local contacts. In many cases, processes and negotiations can be slow, and navigating the bureaucratic process can be tricky.

DON’T: Shun local representatives in favor of insisting on advisors from your home nation.

Watch The Clock

Mexico and the wider region of Latin America can have a more relaxed attitude toward time—especially if you’re working in a rural area. If you are working in a city, such as Monterrey or Mexico City, the traffic issues can also cause significant disruptions, causing your business partners to run late. 

Wherever you can, it is a good idea to try and get to meetings early—the security process can be arduous and, in many cases, very strict. You may be asked to show your passport and, possibly, to leave photo identification. Try to challenge the requirement to leave your passport in favor of another form of photo ID such as a driver’s license. This just helps you to have a little more security for your passport.

DO: Turn up to meetings on time or early, even, if possible

DON’T: Take it personally if your Mexican counterparts are late or delayed.

Look The Part

As the old adage goes, dress for the job you want—not the one you have. If you have doubts about the dress code, it is a good idea to overdress. Meetings in cities and business centers will typically expect a more formal attire than you may be used to in the US. In smaller cities, however, or very hot regions, dress codes may be a little less formal to keep participants comfortable.

DO: Overdress if you have doubts

DON’T: Make assumptions—always ask a local contact for advice if at all possible

Enjoy Yourself

Doing business in a forging country comes with unique rewards and challenges, but if you learn to overcome the initial culture shock and learn to enjoy yourself and the process, then there are massive opportunities to become involved with. By learning the do’s and don’ts of doing business in Mexico, you can help yourself get ahead of the competition by more quickly integrating with the local business community.

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