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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/poladamonte