Mexico is a wonderful and beautiful country with a long and rich history. It is also conveniently located between the United States and South America. Although the country has achieved some notoriety for kidnappings and violence in recent years, it is also a great country to do business in. However, if you do decide to do business there, it is important that you recognise that the country has its own particular business etiquette and it is essential that you follow it to make a good first impression.
Personal relationships are extremely important to Mexican business. Mexicans are reluctant to do business with people that they do not have a strong personal rapport with. The better the personal relationship, the more they are likely to trust you and this means that they are more likely to enter into a business deal with you. In most cases, relationships are actually more important than experience or credentials. One way of helping to create a personal rapport is to either learn Spanish or bring an interpreter with you if you don’t speak the language. You should not assume that all Mexicans speak English. Another way is by going to social functions with them. This is usually as simple as going for a meal or a round of golf.
Mexican culture is extremely hierarchical and also extremely male dominated. This means that decisions can take a long time as they are decided at the top level. It also means that women can have a hard time doing business in Mexico given the extremely chauvinistic nature of the country as a whole.
Given the hierarchical nature of the society, titles are extremely important to Mexicans. Professional titles such as "Licenciado" (meaning "graduate") or "Ingeniero" (engineer) should always be used. If a person does not have a title then they should be addressed as Senor(Mr), Senora(Mrs), or Senorita(Ms) followed by their last name. It is bad manners to address someone by their first name unless you are a close friend or relative. Addressing someone by their first name at an initial business meeting would be very rude.
Men and women in Mexico will usually shake hands at a first business meeting. If you have met on previous occasions then men will greet men with a hug and shoulder slap and both men and women will greet women with a kiss on the right cheek. The exact same rules apply when leaving a room, so it can take 10 minutes or more to leave a meeting.
The Mexican business dress code is quite conservative and people usually dress to impress. Both men and women are expected to wear navy, black and dark grey colours. Men should always wear a shirt and tie. Women usually always wear make-up to fit in with the immaculately dressed culture.
Spanish (rather than English) is the language of business in Mexico. It is best that you bring an interpreter with you unless your Spanish is extremely good - as most meetings begin with roughly 15 minutes of small talk before actually getting down to business. This is not bad though as it can help you to develop a personal relationship with your Mexican counterparts.
Gifts are not a necessity; however, they are always appreciated. The best gifts to give are non-personal gifts with your corporate logo. If you have been invited to a potential business partner’s home, then you should always bring flowers.
Although foreign business people are expected to be punctual by their Mexican counterparts, it is usually not reciprocated. It is quite common to be kept waiting for up to 30 minutes after your meeting is due to start before your Mexican counterparts arrive.
Business cards are not a necessity, however, they are appreciated. If you do decide to bring business cards it is best to have them printed double sided in both Spanish and English. It is important that you include your official title and any academic degrees that you may have. The business cards will usually be exchanged at the beginning of meetings, but there are no strict rules attached to them.
Mexico can be a wonderful place to visit and do business in as long as you appreciate the unique customs and culture of the country. If you fail to appreciate these factors you could lose out on a great business opportunity.