Cultural Tips And Tricks For US Execs Doing Business In Mexico

An increasing number of US and Canadian companies have been contracting manufacturing to Mexico. We’ve written a lot about the benefits of manufacturing in Mexico, but we haven’t spent as much time talking about the challenges.

For example, US and Canadian companies often have some cultural challenges when working with Mexican manufacturers. This article will help US and Canadian execs understand some of the key cultural differences they may face, as well as offer suggestions.

A Good First Impression

mexican business etiquette

When meeting with a Mexican business contact for the first time, there are a few things you can do to make a good impression:

  1. Dress formally, as this is expected in Mexican business meetings. Unlike the USA, business casual hasn’t quite caught on in Mexico.
  2. Constant eye contact is sometimes considered rude in Mexico.
  3. Don’t say “no.” In Mexico, a hard no is considered a disagreement. Instead, say “maybe” and open a discussion.
  4. Handshake etiquette is different too. In Mexico, men should not initiate handshakes with women; women should initiate handshakes.

While these things aren’t too different from conducting business in the U.S., understanding these differences can help make the initial meeting go smoothly.

The Line Between Business And Personal Relationships

For many US and Canadian business people, there’s a clear distinction between a personal relationship and a business relationship. In Mexico, that line isn’t as defined. Therefore, US and Canadian execs should plan on spending time both building and maintaining relationships. In Mexico, a close relationship facilitates word-of-mouth recommendations, which can lead to all sorts of positive benefits.

This is not to say that US and Canadian execs should meet with Mexican execs and act familiar. In fact, Mexican businesspeople prefer to be addressed by their professional title or a courtesy title until they give permission to be addressed by something less formal.

When planning to meet with a Mexican executive:

  • Expect to meet for a few hours
  • Expect to discuss more than just business (family, art, culture)
  • Expect to be invited to the executive’s home, and if you’re invited there, do not focus on business matters (instead, focus on getting to know the person more)
  • Do not expect to conduct business on weekends

Finally, it should go without saying, but US and Canadian opinions about drug cartels, immigration issues, and poverty are not always appreciated or welcome. It’s a good idea for US and Canadian execs to avoid these topics.

mexico pyramid

Mexico’s history and culture stretches back thousands of years, and the country is blessed with many natural wonders. Asking questions about history and natural wonders is a great way to start a conversation.

Flexibility Is A Virtue

Business relationships in Mexico are developed over time, and time is not viewed in the same way by Mexican, US, and Canadian executives. Many US and Canadian execs view time as something that must be maximized – meetings start on time, end on time, and are to the point. In Mexico, perspectives on time are more relaxed. Meetings may not begin immediately on time and may wander off topic. This is to be expected.

Additionally, some Mexican businesses do not place an emphasis on an actual delivery date. In fact, it’s customary to tell a purchaser that the order will arrive “sometime next week.” Unless a deadline is rigorous, it’s best to have a flexible perspective.


Doing business in Mexico offers many rewards. US and Canadian executives who take the time to learn about Mexican culture – and who acknowledge that Mexican ideas about time and relationships have a lot of value – will enjoy more success.

Interested in doing business in Mexico? More reading for you:

November 16, 2016 Tagged: ,