When doing international business, it is important to be aware of cultural differences in order to avoid misunderstandings and embarrassment. This is true across the world, and it’s no different in Mexico, so if you’re gearing up to move your production to this rich and vibrant country, there are a few key pointers to bear in mind.
In this article, we will take a look at the key differences between Mexican and American work culture, and explain how to develop a relationship of mutual respect with your Mexican business partners.
The differences between Mexican and American business culture
With such close proximity between Mexico and the United States, it’s no surprise both countries have a history of strong trade ties. While most Mexican businesses are used to dealing with American counterparts, taking the time to understand their culture may play a key role in the success of your business.
Here are some of the main differences between Mexican business culture from the US that you should bear in mind when doing business in Mexico:
- Importance of personal relationships
When it comes to business negotiations, Americans often get to business immediately. We often cut to the chase, drop the small talk and get straight into the first point on the agenda. However, when it comes to speaking with your Mexican business partners, it’s important to take the time to get to know them and build a rapport.
Mexico’s business culture places a high value on relationships. Business meetings in Mexico usually begin with small talk and personal questions. For example, it is not unusual for people to interrupt colleagues mid-sentence or conduct side discussions during a meeting.
In the US, it’s often considered unprofessional or rude to ask for too much personal information from your business partners, especially during the first meetings. But the exact opposite holds true in Mexico, where business is built on mutual trust and respect. When doing business in Mexico, Americans should present themselves personally and make an effort to get to know their business partners. A personal touch goes a long way!
- Respect for hierarchy
American bosses are often quite egalitarian, and it’s not uncommon for subordinates to give their views and opinions during meetings. Mexico, however, is very hierarchical. The boss is the boss, and when they speak, everyone else listens. Top-level executives are almost exclusively responsible for making important decisions, and junior employees are rarely involved.
It is important for Americans to respect the chain of command and avoid appearing too informal when conducting business in Mexico. When arranging a meeting with an important agenda, we should ensure that the correct parties with decision-making authority are invited, and you should address your questions to them.
- Pace and perception of time
The American workplace is a punctual one, and it’s almost universally considered rude to be late to meetings and engagements. The concept is sometimes slightly looser in Mexico, where it’s a little more common for people to arrive slightly later for meetings. While egregious lateness can still be disrespectful, for the most part a little tardiness is a normal thing.
We’re often told that time is money, so it’s tough to move past the feeling that 5 minutes early is too late, but when you’re doing business in Mexico this can sometimes be detrimental. In Mexico, meetings are often flexible, and executives can take their time to come to an important decision. Insisting on a fast turnaround for an important decision could appear to be a little too hasty, which is often a hard sell.
- Status consciousness
In America, it may be acceptable to hold a meeting in a casual setting, such as a cafe or restaurant. In Mexico, executives are sometimes a bit more status conscious, and the choice of the meeting location should reflect a sense of respect for the position of the attendees. For example, if you are meeting with a senior executive, it may be more appropriate to conduct it in a top hotel or restaurant.
While Mexicans can seem very personable, their business culture is still rather formal when it comes to addressing colleagues. One should avoid addressing someone by their first name unless invited to do so.
It is also important to look smart, especially in professional settings. The way you dress will be noticed immediately by your Mexican counterparts. It is appropriate for men to wear dark-colored suits with shirts and ties and for women to dress in a formal and conservative manner.
- Working hours
In America, the standard workweek is 40-hour long as compared to 48-hour in Mexico. While Mexico already has some of the longest average working hours, many employees do not finish work on time, instead defining their strong work ethic based on how much time they spend at work. In some instances, it may even be frowned upon to leave work punctually, as it can be seen to demonstrate your lack of care for the company.
Mexican workers also have far less vacation time as compared to their peers in America. The amount of paid time off that an American worker receives annually may be shocking to a Mexican, and Mexican labor law only mandates paid vacation days once an employee has finished serving their first year of employment.
To wrap things up
There are some notable differences in the business culture between the US and Mexico, so it’s important to develop an understanding of these differences if you want to do business in the country. By understanding and respecting Mexican business culture, you can not only avoid misunderstandings, but you’ll also prove to your potential partners that you value their time, helping you cultivate relationships that will be prosperous for everyone involved.
At Zipfox, we want to make networking with potential manufacturing partners as easy as we can. If you are ready to get started doing business in Mexico, why not click here to browse our hand picked selection of the best factories in Mexico?