Heading to Mexico City, Part 2
In Part One of this blog post on the wonderful Mexico City I outlined five things to think about before you leave for your business trip. In this second part, here are five practical and intercultural etiquette tips that will help smooth your visit after you have arrived:
- 1. Getting There: Benito Juarez Airport is Mexico City’s main airport, located close to downtown. Only commissioned taxis are available there, so travelers must hire these services and pay their rates. However, this apparent restriction provides considerable safety for travelers carrying valuables, since all taxis and drivers represent well-established and trusted companies.
- 2. Currency: ATMs are available everywhere and using them is more convenient than using exchange services that tend to impose high commissions. Just be cautious about using public ATMs, as you would in any large city.
- 3. Traffic: As in any major city, traffic here is chaotic and unpredictable at peak hours. Plan ahead for delays when possible, and realize that even though your hosts may suggest a trip could take 45 minutes, it could take up to twice as long—or longer.
- 4. Transportation: While taxis can be hailed in the street, it is safer to use radio-taxis booked over the phone. They will pick you up at an agreed location within 20 minutes and are likely to charge a fixed rate. Although more expensive, this is certainly the safer option, especially at night.
- 5. Communication: Mexican businesspeople prefer to avoid overt disagreements. Instead of saying “no” they’ll often use “maybe” or “I’ll get back to you.” However, they not get back to you and this should be understood as an indirect rejection, or a negative response to a proposal.
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10 Reasons to Head to Mexico City
Entrepreneur-in-residence at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information and CEO/Founder of Bigwig Games, Gary Hoover, recently offered “10 Reasons You Should Jump On the Next Flight to Mexico City.”
Mr. Hoover is absolutely right; Mexico City is a wonderful destination for business travelers and tourists alike! What I particularly loved was his enthusiastic description of Mexico City as the country’s “primate city,” meaning that in his opinion it far exceeds any other city in Mexico, in terms of size and importance.
In order to capitalize on the strategic economic importance of Mexico City to the future of the United States, it is vital that during your business travels you understand and embrace its culture. In this two-part blog post I have listed practical and intercultural etiquette tips to help you navigate this thriving, exciting city. In Part One, I cover five things to think about before you set out; in Part Two, five things to bear in mind while you are in Mexico City itself.
Before You Go:
- 1. Business Attire: Appearance is important to Mexicans. Conservative, stylish, high-quality clothes and a well-groomed presence are crucial in business. Think carefully about your accessories, including a briefcase, handbag, pens, watch, and cell phone. Brand names for these, as well as your attire, help make a good impression. Professional women wear suits with skirts and dresses. Keep in mind that you may be judged on the way you present yourself in both business and social situations.
- 2. Relationships: Mexicans place considerable emphasis on personal relationships, which is why introductions from family and close friends may take precedence over professional credentials and even experience. Never pass up an opportunity to cement friendships by accepting social and business invitations, and book the length of your stay to take socializing into account. This is one way of ensuring that your hosts will freely introduce you to other members of the business community.
- 3. Names & Titles: Mexicans have two surnames: the first one is the father’s surname, the second the mother’s. It is important to practice how you will handle introductions and greetings in advance, especially if you are not familiar with the Spanish language. Upon initial introduction, Mexican businesspeople should be addressed by their professional title (e.g. Licenciado, Ingeniero, Abogado, etc.) followed by their father’s surname. As a sign of respect, assistants or subordinates refer to their bosses by title only, for instance El licenciado. However, if you don’t know someone’s professional title, you can always use courtesy titles (e.g. Señor or Señorita). It is best to address Mexican businesspeople by their first names only when they invite you to do so. Most Mexicans appreciate being addressed by both surnames in writing. Official documents or contracts require all first names and surnames.
- 4. Health: Pollution has been cut in half since the early 1990s, and on most days you can once again see the volcanic peaks that ring the city, situated some 2,200 m (7,218 ft.) above sea level. At that altitude, summer temperatures rarely exceed 27ºC (80.6 ºF), and winters are cold but not freezing. If you tend to suffer from altitude sickness, be sure to take the necessary precautions such as drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcohol. If you have this, bring your preventative medication with you.
- 5. Time: It is important to confirm meetings several times before your arrival, including the day before, especially if these were set far in advance. Many Mexican businesspeople consider appointments with visitors to be tentative until they know for sure the person is actually present in Mexico. As with any large city, the traffic makes it very difficult to predict commuting times. In terms of international etiquette, it is not uncommon for meetings to start from half an hour to an hour late, so schedule your appointments with that in mind.
My Book, Access to Asia, is Here!
Asia is a beautiful continent with unique cultures that are as varied as its beautiful silks. My experiences in Asia, along with countless hours with my co-author Liz Alexander, have culminated in what we hope will be a valuable guide for global travelers!
You can order and receive it hot off the presses, and follow other news about the book, on my Amazon Author page.
Here’s a summary to give you a taste of what to expect:
Be culturally smart and build lasting business relationships in 10 Asian countries.
Over the last four decades, Asia has been the primary engine of global economic growth. This year the economy in India is expected to grow more than 6 percent, according to the IMF and OECD. China, the world’s largest economy adjusted for raw purchasing power, is sitting on $15 trillion in bank deposits, growing at $2 trillion annually. And since opening its borders to global trade in 2012, Myanmar, formerly Burma, is creating an extraordinary entrepreneurial environment owing to its “greenfield” advantage: a rare opportunity to build a fit-for-purpose economy to suit the modern world.
What does this mean for global leaders? Asia’s economic force signifies a call to action: executives, entrepreneurs, and emerging leaders, whether they presently do business in Asia or not, would be well served to become culturally smart about their Asian counterparts. Only then, as opportunities knock, can they build successful, long-lasting business relationships.
In my new book “Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships” (Wiley), I offer a one-stop guidebook to intercultural relationship building and international etiquette in 10 Asian countries: China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Additionally, I explore the U.S. business culture for any leader seeking a deeper understanding of the United States.
In “Access to Asia” I explore belief systems to business etiquette, customs to communication styles. I also share advice and anecdotes from interviews with more than 100 business professionals and regional gurus.
Advanced Praise for Access to Asia:
“This handbook provides US Americans with detailed awareness of their own cultural habits of thinking and behavior and pinpoints those that they are most likely to meet in key Asian partners. Its extensive information, essential as a starting point for doing business together, serves as a compass for the reader, stimulating informed curiosity and questioning in real-life contexts.”
Dr. George F. Simons, world-wide consultant, founder, author and editor-in-chief of diversophy® intercultural training games, Nice area, France
“Unlike typical regional business guides, Access to Asia focuses on the deeper side of cultural understanding. It goes beyond rules and facts and helps the reader make sense of the often subtle, yet profound, cultural differences found in Asia—something that’s critical for building successful relationships. Sharon Schweitzer understands that cultural understanding is not just a set of techniques to use, facts to learn, or rules to follow. By learning the cultural perspective of others, we explore the hidden parts of our cultural self. Access to Asia provides a great starting point for this profoundly satisfying journey.”
Joseph Shaules, director, Japan Intercultural Institute, Author of The Intercultural Mind: Connecting Culture, Cognition and Global Living, Tokyo, Japan.
“In a world of highly commoditized products and services, differentiation often comes in the form of human connection. At our core, we humans are remarkably similar. We all care about family, share anxieties, and aspire to greatness, although our definitions may vary. Our cultural norms and beliefs are the gateway to our hearts. Access to Asia is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the cultures of Asia. Sharon’s practical approach offers a fast track to insider status in some of the most exciting economies of our day. Culture does matter!”
Stig Nybo, President – U.S. Retirement Strategy, Transamerica Retirement Solutions. Award Winning Author of Transform Tomorrow: Awakening the Super Saver in Pursuit of Retirement Readiness