In Mexico, a city’s name can provide a hint about its inhabitants. “Monterrey” means “Mountain King,” a name fit for this wealthy city at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental. As international travelers, we know that an entire nation is seldom a homogeneous group. Regional differences can be dramatic, and this may be particularly true for first-time business travelers to Monterrey. Intercultural and international etiquette tips to consider are:
- Climate: Monterrey is located in the northeast of Mexico with weather that varies from 50°F (10°C) in winter to 93°F (34°C) in summer. Business visitors may experience heat during the day, and cool evenings.
- Attire: Business attire includes professional or business casual for both men and women, depending on the industry. Light fabrics and short-sleeve shirts for men are popular during the warmer months. Women wear designer dresses and suits with heels.
- Gender Roles: Behaving like a gentleman is a courtesy in Mexican business and not considered sexist. It is expected that a man will open the door for a lady. Women appreciate these courtesies, smile and say ‘thank you.’ The Global Gender Gap Index 2014 ranked Mexico 80th out of 142 countries in terms of gender equality.
- Gifts: Gifts are not expected, especially during first meetings or if you have not met your business counterpart previously. It is common to have lunch or dinner to celebrate new business acquaintances or new deals. The party who initiated the business relationship requests and pays the bill discretely. Unless separate checks are requested, if a check is split it is done proportionally.
- Fast Fact: Monterrey natives refer to themselves as “Regios” just as Mexico City natives are known as “Chilangos.” “Regios” are proud people who are regarded as industrious and outspoken. However, these are not terms to be used by visitors. It is said that these traits created Monterrey’s reputation as the wealthy “Queen of the North.”
- Avoid Comparisons: It is advisable to avoid comparisons between Monterrey and Mexico City because it will cause unnecessary controversy. Monterrey accounts for 7.1% of the total GDP but represents only 4% of the total population. Monterrey has traditionally been the industrial hub of Mexico; however, new areas like Queretaro are developing rapidly.
- Relationships: Traditional Mexican culture preserves and promotes family ties. This is evident in Monterrey business culture where many successful companies are still run by families whose main executives are relatives. In Monterrey, “everyone knows everyone who is of business relevance.” Research company history and stakeholders beforehand to understand company structure.
- Time: Confirming appointments the day prior, or even just hours before the meeting is always advisable. Time management is more relaxed and informal than in the U.S., so be prepared to adapt to last-minute changes.
- Meetings & Agreements: Waiting for an appointment is expected; be aware that meetings can be easily extended for hours or days if your counterpart has sincere interest. A deal or agreement should be confirmed in writing. Verbal agreements do not convey the same force as in other business cultures—so discussion will not necessarily lead to action. It can merely be a statement of intention, not a commitment.
- One last thought: It is important to notice the difference between “ahora” (now) and “ahorita” (some time soon). Although “ahorita” is a derivative of “ahora,” it has a different meaning referring to an indefinite period of time. If you hear an “ahorita” as a response, it’s better to try to get an “ahora.”
Enjoy Monterrey, Mexico and share your experiences with us!