Doing Business in Mexico

So you want to do business in Mexico? Consider this . . .

  •  Conversations happen at a closer proximity in Mexico than in the United States. Men in Mexico make a lot of physical contact, often touching the shoulders or arms of the other person in the conversation. It is considered rude to pull away in either scenario.
  • When making purchases in a store, place your money in the cashier’s hand, not on the counter.
  • Referring to yourself as a citizen of the United States in Mexico can cause confusion. Mexico’s official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos (The United States of Mexico).
  •  There are plenty of great business opportunities with our neighbors to the south, but there are also plenty of potential pitfalls, not to mention lots of cultural differences between the USA and Mexico.

Keep reading to discover some valuable tips that will help you navigate the often tricky and confusing cultural maze of the Mexican business market . . .

Important tips

  • Mexicans often use “elaborate, effusive courtesy” when communicating. They may politely say one thing and do another.
  • Eye contact is viewed very differently in Mexico than in the U.S.; not making eye contact in the U.S. can be viewed as untrustworthy, whereas continually maintaining eye contact can be considered aggressive in Mexico.
  • Mexicans view the family as the most important institution in their lives. Hiring and promoting family members is an accepted practice.


  • Though being on time is respected, it is not strictly necessary. You should plan to be at a meeting on time, but be prepared to wait for your counterpart.
  • Plan late arrivals to social functions. If attending a party at someone’s home, arriving 30 minutes late is appropriate. Social occasions within the city often have attendees arriving one to three hours late.
  • Business meetings are typically set for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, at the discretion of the individual you are setting the meeting with. Your appointment should be scheduled a couple of weeks in advance. Make sure to confirm a week prior.


  • Negotiations should be “friendly, gracious, and unhurried.” Be patient and build delays in decisions into your expectations.
  • Relationships matter. Get introduced by a trusted source. If that is not possible, make friends with your contact. Who you are matters more than what company you represent.
  • Dignity is of the utmost importance. Never pull rank, criticize, or humiliate anyone. You should be courteous and diplomatic. How you act is more highly valued than your status or wealth.
  • Over-compromising can be a sign of weakness, but you should build in room to negotiate prices with your first offer.
  • A common barrier in negotiations is “financing the cost of foreign goods and services.” Plan for this.


  • This is an opportunity for building the relationship. Great topics of conversation include your family, your working life back home, popular sites in Mexico, soccer, baseball, basketball, and bullfighting. Do not discuss immigration, Mexico’s territorial losses, or illegals in the United States.
  • Often one person will pick up the check following the meal. It is appropriate to haggle over this, but if your counterpart picks it up, invite them to have another meal at a later time.
  • Business meetings often occur during breakfast or lunch and are usually held at a guest’s hotel. Businesswomen should not meet with their prospect alone, but should invite their prospect’s spouse as well.

Morrision, Terri, and Wayne A. Conaway (2006). Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, 2nd edition. Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation.