Your guide to expat life in Mexico

Working in Mexico

With its booming economy, Mexico is often ranked among the world’s top emerging markets – and it’s a popular destination for expats from all walks of life, including teachers, entrepreneurs and senior executives.

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Doing business

While some aspects of Mexico’s infrastructure need to be modernised, the country is still a good place for expats to do business. It’s among the strongest economies in Latin America, with an impressive projected growth, making it an increasingly popular place for multinationals to set up offices.

Mexico is a big exporter of crude oil and has abundant mineral resources, including silver. Since the country signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it has strengthened economic ties with Canada and the USA, which is its principal trading partner.

In The World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Mexico was ranked 38<sup>th</sup> out of 189 countries, scoring particularly well for getting credit and resolving insolvency. The government is working hard to reduce bureaucracy, as well as actively encouraging foreign investment, especially in its energy sector.

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Business culture

At the heart of Mexican business culture is the belief that successful business partnerships are built on trust and good rapport. This means that a lot of business is done face to face. Personal relationships are crucial – so you should try to organise introductions to potential business partners through one of their existing contacts.

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Management style

Hierarchy is very important in Mexican companies. But even though decisions are always made by the most senior person, junior employees are encouraged to share their opinions and take part in discussions during meetings.

Communication style

The Mexicans’ style of communication isn’t very direct. To avoid disappointment, they tend to tell people what they want to hear, sometimes agreeing to do something that’s impossible or underplaying project costs. Direct refusals are seen as rude – so if someone doesn't like an idea they’ll use a more diplomatic expression such as 'let's wait and see' or 'let me think about that'.

Flexibility

Business dealings often proceed slowly because people like to cement personal relationships before they start a negotiation. Be patient and don’t rush anyone. The concept of time is also flexible, which means deadlines are often targets rather than fixed dates.

Meetings

Business meetings are scheduled well in advance and then confirmed a few days before they’re due to take place. Agendas are seldom used (or adhered to) and meetings often start with small talk to help people get to know each other. Displays of emotion are often used to emphasise a point or show engagement and passion.

Punctuality

Although your Mexican associate may be up to half an hour late for a meeting, you’re expected to be on time. Try not to show any irritation if you’re kept waiting.

Machismo

Traditionally, Hispanic culture has very clear-cut gender roles and you may encounter machismo in the workplace.

Fast facts

Business language

Spanish is the official language but English is widely spoken.

Business hours

Usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with a two- or three-hour siesta in the early afternoon.

Dress

Business dress tends to be smart, formal and stylish – and people are expected to put a certain amount of effort into their appearance. Men wear ties and dark colours while most women go to work in business suits, high heels and full make-up.

Greeting

The standard business greeting is a handshake accompanied by a slight bow. When you greet a professional, it’s important to use their title, such as ingeniero if they’re an engineer or maestro if they’re a skilled tradesman. For people without a title, use Señor or Señora followed by their surname.

Gifts

While gifts aren’t often exchanged at business meetings, a small token branded with your company logo will be appreciated. If you’re invited to a colleague's home, take wine, sweets or flowers, but make sure the flowers aren’t red or yellow.

Gender equality

Women are generally treated as equals in the Mexican business world, often rising to senior positions. But you may still come across chauvinist behaviour in some companies.

Expat salaries

Expats in Mexico tend to earn less than they would in some Western countries, but this is offset by the considerably lower cost of living. If you’re a high-level executive, there should be less of a gap between your earning potential in Mexico and other expat destinations.

If setting up a business, be mindful of your expectations. Keep them realistic yet challenging. Research everything, be optimistic and hopeful but not naive. Avoid the following pitfalls: disregarding cultural differences, ignoring tax and other legal frameworks, and underestimating the emotional effects of not working.

Doris Fuellgrabe, Expat Explorer guest blogger

View more hints and tips for Mexico

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.