The Mexican Business Culture: What to Know About Doing Business in Mexico

Sue Durio, Worldwide ERC® - Oct 03 2018
Published in: Ask the Experts

As one of the most important emerging markets in the world, Mexico is expected to continue to be a draw for the mobility industry. As in other world regions, successfully doing business here hinges heavily on understanding Mexico’s unique business culture. Here are a few tips to help your remote mobile teams speed their immersion into the Mexican business culture:

Understand the Context

Mexico is generally considered to be a “high-context” culture, meaning one in which connections have developed over years of interaction and a shared understanding of expectations. In high-context cultures like Mexico, mobility teams should be prepared to invest time in establishing relationships.  Communication is less formal, less explicit and decisions are built through long-term relationships and face-to-face interactions.

“In Mexico’s high-context culture, communication is much less direct as many ideas are inferred through vague communication, and direct remarks such as “If you don’t sign I will go with your competitors” can be taken as rude, over-aggressive and insulting,” notes Mexico Business Associates. The takeaway for mobility teams and assignees on the ground is to be patient and embrace the process of building relationships, which over time can build business.

Here, It’s Personal

Mexico is a country where family and personal relationships are priorities. So it should be no surprise that Mexican business associates are prone to mixing business and personal relationships. It’s not uncommon to be invited to a colleague’s home for dinner, or even a weekend gathering.

Without the context of that personal relationship, little if any substantive communication can take place, and necessary levels of trust are inadequate to undertake most business arrangements.

Mobile employees should also take note of the importance of family connections. “Family ties provide access to business joint ventures, to favorable terms on negotiations, and to reaching people in power in Mexico. Family ties provide little of this in the United States,” notes the Reference for Business. In the absence of family ties, mobility teams can strengthen business bonds by building personal relationships of trust with their Mexican colleagues.

Related: Mexico: The Emerging Hub for Global Business in Latin America

The Concept of Time

As a high-context culture in which relationships play a significant role, mobility teams and assignees should not be surprised by long lunches in which little business may even be conducted. Or, multiple meetings to negotiate a deal – with actual negotiations relegated to the last few minutes.

As Dwellworks’ VP, Latin America, Jack Fraind shared in Mobility magazine:

“Mexicans see time as flexible and flowing with a stronger emphasis on personal interaction than formal conversation. It doesn’t matter how long something takes, just that it gets done.”

This means, he adds, that it is very common that people will be late to appointments. “In Mexico, being anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes late is considered acceptable.”

Speak the Language

Understanding the “business language” in Mexico doesn’t mean simply understanding Spanish. “Many foreign business people often mistake Mexican warmth and kindness as an immediate willingness to move forward with a business deal,” writes John T. Hyatt in “Mexican Business Culture: Essays on Tradition.“ In Mexico, yes may not always mean yes, no doesn’t always mean no, “manana” might mean another day and the promise of a follow-up appointment might not be as certain as in a Western country.” Watching for non-verbal communication cues will help your remote mobile employees to speak the business language.