Doing business in Mexico | BCBusiness
TITLES Showing respect is key in Mexican culture and courtesy titles such as Señor (Mr.) and Señora (Ms.) should always be used when addressing business partners. First names are generally reserved for family and close friends—you shouldn’t use them unless invited to do so.SHAKE ON IT Handshakes are common and should be done upon arrival and departure, regardless of gender, age or seniority.LOOK AWAY Avoid making lengthy, direct eye contact when engaged in conversation with business associates. Mexicans often avoid eye contact as a sign of respect.
RELAX Time is flexible in Mexico, so punctuality and timekeeping are less closely observed than in B.C. Mañana is a commonly used term, literally meaning “tomorrow,” and it is often used as a way of saying “later.” When hearing it, you should expect things to be done at some point in the future, without a definitive deadline in mind.GIFTS Bringing a gift is not necessary, but you may want to bring something small to an initial meeting. Ensure that it is not an extremely valuable gift—something inexpensive will still be appreciated greatly.
A.M. MEETING Business meetings are rarely conducted over dinner, as the evening is often reserved for family. Some are scheduled over breakfast, but the most popular time to meet is over lunch from 11 a.m. until noon.BOTTOMS UP Drinking over lunch is common, so enjoy an alcoholic beverage if you feel inclined—beer and tequila are obvious choices.DINING Shared dishes are not common practice when eating out, instead everyone will order for him or herself. Be prepared for a heavy meal, as meats, refried beans and avocados are common, while leafy greens are rarely served—even at lunch.
LANGUAGE While many Mexicans speak excellent English, it’s a good idea to learn some introductory Spanish before meeting with business associates. Simple phrases like Cómo está? (How are you?) and Mucho gusto (Nice to meet you) go a long way.SHUT-EYE Partaking in a midday siesta (nap) is a time-honoured tradition in Mexico, so avoid scheduling a meeting directly after lunch as many business people use this as an opportunity to relax.BETWEEN THE LINES Mexicans rarely give a solid “no” answer, preferring to respond subtly, opting instead for “maybe” or “we’ll see.” Picking up on these indirect answers can save you—and your potential business partners—a lot of embarrassment and confusion.
ETIQUETTE PROFS Darryl Martins, director of Delta Maritime Management Ltd.; Manuel Otero, president of the Mexican Business Association of Canada