For several years now, Mexico has been an increasingly popular destination for expats. A lot of them end up in major hubs such as Mexico City, Querétaro and Puebla. People on assignment there are often confronted with the country’s cultural peculiarities not only in business situations, but also in everyday life. In today’s blog post, you’ll find out what you need to keep in mind as an expat in Mexico.
Mexico – what associations do you have when you think of this country? Good weather, delicious food and old Mayan ruins? These are all important parts of Mexican culture. However, as an expat, you’ll quickly notice that Mexico has other cultural characteristics that aren’t perceived as quickly and easily as the aforementioned examples.
This is why culture is often compared to an iceberg in specialist publications; there’s a small visible part above the water and a much larger indiscernible part under the surface. In this blog post, we’d like to address the things that are under the surface and that often cause difficulties indiscernibly.
Making contacts + forging plans
Mexican culture is relatively collectivistic, meaning that the individual is less important than the collective. In practice, this is manifested in tight groups such as families, old school friends and work colleagues. Being a member of these groups comes with a lot of privileges, but also duties. For example, members of a group are encouraged to support other members with things like financial problems, and they can all count on similar support in turn.
Since these groups cover most [social] needs, it’s often difficult for expats in Mexico to establish deeper personal relationships with Mexicans, as has been affirmed by numerous testimonials. Don’t take it personally, though. Stay patient and talk about private topics as much as possible. This way you can gradually try to become a member of a social group. And one more tip: contacts like to meet over meals [“la comida”], as copious meals signify a high quality of life for many Mexicans.
You should also keep in mind that while you may place a high value on detailed and long-term plans, things are a bit different in Mexico. Due to an assumption that the future can only partially be controlled, which could make it difficult to make plans, a lot of Mexicans refrain from making them at all. This cultural difference is grounded in history, but also in the country’s economic and political instability, and it’s still palpable to this day.
And in business?
We’d like to give you some other useful tips to help make your business in Mexico successful:
- Most Mexican business partners have good English skills, but you should still master a few chunks of Spanish. This will facilitate a general understanding as well as your integration into society. It will also help you break the ice faster with your business partners – for instance, with a friendly greeting in Spanish.
- In comparison with some other countries, Mexico tends to have fewer businesswomen. But don’t make the mistake of believing that the business world lies exclusively in the hands of men. It’s common in Mexico to treat women very politely. Doors are held open, bags are carried and checks at restaurants are often paid. Try not to feel patronized by these things; just allow them and politely offer thanks. Even if you refuse them in a friendly way with the best intentions, it will likely make your Mexican partner feel snubbed.
- According to recent studies, Mexico remains one of the most dangerous nations in the world. Robbery and muggings, for instance, are regrettably not uncommon in major Mexican cities. You and your company should be prepared for this and take necessary precautions. As an expat, it’s better not to openly flaunt jewellery or other luxury items. On top of that, your company should prepare you for potentially dangerous situations with an appropriate safety training.
Of course, other hurdles could await you while you’re in Mexico on your international assignment. If you need more information on international business customs – for instance, regarding employee leadership, the conduct of negotiations or meeting management – we recommend taking Eidam & Partner’s cross-cultural training.