Knowing them is essential for good management, in any country you operate in.
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 behaviours distinctive to Mexican culture that foreign companies must consider when hiring employees in Mexico.
Look for These Cultural Behaviours When Hiring Employees in Mexico
Their Perception of Time is Less Strict
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. Americans, on the other hand, are sticklers for time and being late is considered slack and frowned upon.
Deadlines are sometimes seen as general target dates by Mexicans. For Americans, a deadline on Tuesday at 1 PM means just that. In Mexico, a deadline can many times be disregarded if there is no reminder of its importance.
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 may be considered 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.
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 can make Mexicans feel uncomfortable.
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. Socialisation 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. The executives 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.
Differences in Social Status
For Mexicans, the idea that everyone in society is equal or has equal opportunity is nonexistent. There is evident class distinction and performing certain roles is not seen as appropriate to some privileged Mexicans. Yes, machismo is all pervasive in Mexico. It plays a great role in identity and shaping culture. However, the term has been badly distorted. There is truth behind the concept of the strong, successful patriarchal Mexican man with a sense of purpose, reliability, and courage, but it is nowhere near as demeaning as popular stereotypes would have it.
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. Most Mexicans are Catholic, and religion is serious business that often infuses into organisations. 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
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. Accountability can be a struggle for some and being very clear about expectations is strongly advised. 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, it helps to have a business associate who is bilingual. Gifts are uncommon in the American culture, yet highly appreciated in Mexico.
The world is increasingly diverse. There is a need to understand, appreciate other cultures, and build alliances with different groups. Although Mexicans have a rich and colourful 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 Americanised 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.