Many business executives are not aware of the role that culture plays in the management of a company and more so when venturing into foreign territory. The steady increase in growth of trade between the U.S and Mexico has created a need for understanding the Mexican culture and how it affects U.S companies doing business in Mexico. Though the U.S and Mexico share a common border, the cultural differences between the two countries cannot be ignored. The history of Mexico is quite different compared to that of the U.S, hence a different perception and way of doing things.
U.S companies doing business in Mexico should, by all means, contact local recruitment agencies to help them understand hiring protocols and cultural barriers. The following are cultural behaviors distinctive to Mexican culture that foreign companies must consider when hiring employees in Mexico.
Look for These Cultural Behaviors When Hiring Employees in Mexico
Their Perception of Time is Less Strict
At a very young age, Americans are taught the importance of planning for the future. They love making deadlines and commitments and feel obligated to meet them. However, in Mexico, time is relative and deadlines are more flexible, as their culture places more emphasis on the moment and not the future. This makes them more prone to procrastination.
It is not unusual for Mexicans to arrive ten to fifteen minutes past the scheduled meeting time. This is actually at times acceptable according to Mexican standards. Americans, on the other hand, are sticklers for time and being late is considered slack and frowned upon.
Deadlines are sometimes overlooked by Mexicans as targets but not absolutes. For Americans, a deadline on Tuesday at 1 pm means just that. In Mexico, a deadline can many times be overlooked if there is no reminder of its importance and the repeated mention that it cannot be missed.
Less Personal Space
Mexicans are warm and welcoming in nature. It is therefore quite normal for them to stand 3 to 4 inches closer which is considered rude and unacceptable according to American standards. They are more open to physical contact compared to their American counterparts, shaking hands, hugging, and bowing are also a part of their culture. Handshakes have a longer duration, and it is normal to see men patting each other. A man kissing a woman on the cheek is also a common occurrence. If physical contact makes you uncomfortable, you may be considered rude, unfriendly or untrustworthy.
Mexican Business Protocol
Mexicans rarely go straight to business like their American counterparts. They will often start meetings with small chit chats and inquire about the places you’ve visited in their country and what aspects of their culture you’ve liked. It is common practice to hold meetings with top executives first, and you should not feel offended if they don’t show up in mid-level management meetings and in meetings with technical staff.
Most business lunch meetings will last 2 to 3 hours and are never about business until the latter part of the meeting. Breakfast meetings are shorter, and most Mexicans are willing to discuss business over breakfast and lunch, but never supper. It is important to follow the tone in these meetings to be able to build good relationships.
Professional titles are quite important to Mexicans. Addressing people by their titles (Doctora, Licenciada, Ingeniero) followed by their last names is protocol. If the professional title of a person is unknown, titles like (Señor, Señora, Señorita) are considered a sign of courtesy.
In the work environment, you are supposed to dress conservatively and professionally and remember to maintain a good posture in meetings; slouching is interpreted as boredom and disrespect. Constant eye contact is considered rude.
Emphasis on Relationships
For Mexicans, work extends beyond the work environment. Oral agreements are as important as written ones. Trust and respect are precursors to healthy working relationships. Socialization outside the work environment is the norm. Inviting work colleagues home and introducing them to family members is typically part of Mexican business culture.
Women Executives in Mexico
It is not smooth sailing for women bosses in Mexico, although this is changing. Theexecutives you may encounter may not have dealt with women in positions of authority. As a woman, you should always demonstrate your competence, skill, and authority. What may be considered sexist and inappropriate in the U.S may be a non-issue in Mexico. You may also experience unusually playful behavior or light joking from your male counterparts.
Differences in Social Status
Mexico is stratified socially. Upper-class Mexicans often times feel that their path in life is superior and therefore they cannot perform certain roles. Traditionally, machismo plays a great role in Mexican identity and shaping Mexican culture. A macho attitude is many times drilled into males from birth. One has to be aware of such aspects of the Mexican society especially when dealing with male employees.
Family and Religion
In the Mexican and Latin American culture, the family is the most important unit. The family dynamic at times permeates through companies, especially smaller ones. Family members are expected to help other members in their careers and financially; this could even include hiring family members. In the U.S this is uncommon and at times could be considered nepotism and unacceptable, while in Mexico hiring of family members can generally guarantee loyalty. Most Mexicans are Catholic, and religion is serious business that often infuses into organizations. Being aware of this is important when doing business in Mexico, as religious festivities and traditions are often celebrated in corporate environments.
Subtleties of the Mexican Culture
Mexican employees struggle with accountability, which can greatly affect their performance. While Americans are considered more direct and aggressive, Mexicans speak in softer and calmer tones and have an indirect mode of communication. This makes them sensitive to public critique; hence the need to correct them in private. Additionally, it makes a good impression to Mexicans if you speak Spanish or at least make an effort. This demonstrates interest in their country and culture, helping create good relationships. If you cannot speak Spanish (or add “gracias” or “buenos dias” to your conversation), it helps to have a business associate who is bilingual. Gifts are akin to bribery in the American culture, yet highly appreciated in Mexico.
Although Mexicans have a rich and colorful history, undoubtedly unique, there are many things that set them apart. To think every Mexican adheres to the same beliefs and behaves in the same manner is a misconception. As a rule of thumb, the further away Mexicans are from their culture, the less noticeable these characteristics will be. By that token, northern Mexicans are more Americanized than in the rest of the country, as a result of their proximity to the United States and exposure to American influences. In this light, be mindful that the above are generalizations—Mexico is the fifth largest country in the western hemisphere by total area and no two Mexicans are alike; neither are any two Mexican employees.
Barbachano International Staff