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Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Work etiquette in Mexico is not too different from that of other Latin American countries. However, Mexico’s proximity to the United States and strong trade ties between the two countries have also shaped the business culture. Business culture may therefore differ depending on the type of company with which foreign partners engage (branches of U.S. companies vs. traditional family businesses). Personal relationships, loyalty, strong hierarchy and status consciousness are the main characteristics of Mexican business culture.

Unlike the United States and Canada, the decision-making process remains almost exclusively from the top and no input is expected from junior employees. Therefore, lower-level employees may not be able to make big promises when negotiating. As a subordinate, it is not well regarded to provide ideas unless asked formally. Mexican business contacts are also flexible with the amount of time it takes to make important decisions. It is recommended to avoid insisting on reaching a decision quickly.

Personal relationships play an essential role, to a point where the impression you have and level of relationship you maintain with your local counterparts can override your business proposal. Mexicans usually spend much time and effort into their relationships, and getting to know those whom they work with and networking is not done without intent. It is recommended to present yourself as personably as possible in order not to come off as a distant business representative.
First Contact
Mexicans prefer face-to-face communication and to do business with those whom they know and trust. It is advisable to confirm the date and appointment several times in advance as it is regarded as an eagerness to meet. If face-to-face communication is not available, Mexican business contacts are more likely to talk over the phone rather than by email. Mexicans tend to be status conscious and therefore it is recommended to book engagements in settings that reflect ones position and status. If the first meeting with high-level representatives is set to take place outside the office, first-class hotels and restaurants are appropriate.
Time Management
Mexicans tend to have a looser sense of time compared to other countries in North America. Arriving on time for a meeting is still important; however, you may be kept waiting 30 minutes or more. If it is a first meeting, small talk can take up a significant amount of time. There is usually 5 to 15 minutes of small talk in the beginning of follow-up meetings. Meetings may not always follow the proposed agenda systematically. There may be an outline, but it mostly serves as a rough guideline.
Greetings and Titles
When meeting someone from the opposite sex, a regular handshake will suffice. The handshake is rather on the gentle side; however, it may be combined with slight touches on the arms and/or elbows. Women meeting someone from the same gender would either shake hands or give a light touch on the forearm. As the business culture is rather formal, it is very important to address Mexican business partners directly by using their professional title or Mr., Mrs. or Miss, followed by the surname.
Gift Policy
Simple gifts may be exchanged after a first business meeting. Gifts are not required but may be viewed as a gesture of good will. Gifts from one’s company (i.e. a gift with the company’s logo) are appropriate for an initial meeting. If invited to a Mexican partner’s house, it is appropriate to bring wine, chocolate or flowers (avoid marigolds and red flowers).
Dress Code
Mexicans are usually very status conscious and successful people are expected to dress smartly. It is important to be impeccably dressed in both business and social situations. Business dress in Mexico City tends to be more formal than in other parts of the country. Dark coloured suits with shirts and ties are appropriate for men. Women are also expected to dress classic business suits or dresses with matching shoes. Women are almost always made-up.
Business Cards
There is no formal protocol surrounding the exchange of business cards. It is advisable to give business cards that are in Spanish on one side and present the card with the Spanish side facing the recipient. Business cards are usually exchanged with everyone at the end of an initial meeting.
Meetings Management
Business meetings tend to take longer than scheduled and topics that do not appear on the agenda may be introduced as meetings are seen as opportunities for the free flow of ideas and information. While English is increasingly widely spoken, it is not safe to assume that all Mexican business partners will be fluent in English. It is best to check in advance that translators will not be necessary.

The business culture is on the formal side (as evidenced by the business attire, use of titles). However, open signs of emotion are very common and even seen as a sign of active engagement rather than a loss of control or an aggression. If a Mexican business contact becomes emotional during a meeting, it is usually sign of them conveying their sense of commitment and interest. It is also best for foreign business contacts to appear as friendly and open as possible and personalise every proposal by explaining how it could benefit the company but also Mexico as a whole. 

Mexicans tend to take a lot time before reaching a decision and it is best to resist voicing quick decisions to avoid appearing too hasty. Hard selling, pressure tactics and confrontation are also to be avoided as Mexicans value relationship building and harmony. Small side meetings may occur during a meeting and it is not uncommon for people to interrupt colleagues mid-sentence. When negotiations are over, it is better to return to small talk for a bit.

Business entertaining is an important part of negotiations and are seen as an opportunity to establish deeper relationships. Business meetings may take place at breakfast and, more commonly, at lunch. Both breakfast and lunch meetings tend to long and may last more than two hours. Business issues may be discussed. However, it is best not to be the first to raise the topic unless it is essential. Alcohol is offered with lunch and dinner but is more commonly taken with dinner. It is advisable to follow your Mexican counterpart in this matter. The party that extends the invitation is expected to pick up the bill. However, this rule can be overlooked in a supplier-client situation. If you are the client, it is better to offer to pay even if you have been invited. It is not advised to split the bill.
Sources for Further Information
Culture Crossing Mexico Business Etiquette
Giftypedia - Mexico Gift Giving Customs
Cultural Atlas - Mexico Business Culture
 
 

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Opening Hours

Opening Hours and Days
Banks: Open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Public Administration: Open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Businesses: Open Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is not uncommon for businesses to be open on Sundays.
 

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January
Mexican Constitution Day First Monday in February
Benito Juarez's Anniversary Third Monday in March
Good Thursday and Good Friday Falls sometime between 20 March and 25 April
Labour Day 1 May
The Battle of Puebla Day 5 May
Mexican Independence Day 16 September
Columbus Day 12 October
Day of the Dead 1 November
Mexican Revolution Day Third Monday in November
Our Lady of Guadalupe Day 12 December
Christmas 25 December
 
Holiday Compensation
The only holidays held the following Monday if they fall on a weekend are the Constitution Day, Benito Juarez Day and Mexican Revolution Day.
 

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Christmas Vacations One week from 25-31 December, depending on the company.
Holy Week Vacations The last week before Easter.
Summer Vacations One week anytime in between July and August.
 
For Further Information
Holidays in Mexico

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Latest update: June 2022

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