Meetings and Greetings
Before conducting business in Mexico, UK business people should be aware of the local customs that need to be taken into account.
Mexican companies and government departments are hierarchical and status conscious. Most decisions are made at the top and representatives will be received by somebody fitting their status. If you send junior sales representatives, they will not meet the main decision-makers.
Mexicans attach great importance to titles. Professional titles such as "Licenciado" (meaning "graduate") or "Ingeniero" (engineer) should be used as this recognises their status. Those without titles should be addressed with Mr (Señor), Mrs (Señora) or Miss (Señorita) followed by their surname.
When doing business in Mexico, you will find that first names are not always used initially as they are reserved for family and close friends. Wait for someone to address you by your first name before doing so yourself.
Men and women will shake hands when they meet for the first time in business and social situations. If they already know somebody from a previous meeting, men tend to greet men with a hug/shoulder slap and both men and women greet women with a kiss on the right cheek. On departure, you should repeat all the handshaking and kissing, and it can take 10 minutes to get out of a room! Time for this should be included in your programme; don't assume that you will be able to make a quick exit.
• In Mexico, business attire is more formal than that in the USA or Europe.It is therefore important to be well dressed for business meetings. This means dark suits, long-sleeved shirts and usually cufflinks for men and lightweight dresses for women.
• Business is personal in Mexico. Before doing business, try to ensure that you have contacts who can introduce you or vouch for you. Once an initial contact has been made, it is easier to move on and arrange future business meetings.
• Make business appointments in advance and confirm them with a brief phone call a few days before. Once you arrive in Mexico, call again or send an email or fax to ensure it is known that you will definitely be arriving.
• Timekeeping is relaxed in Mexico. However, due to the Mexicans' long-established business links with Europe, they are used to European business people being on time, so will also try to do the same. When having an appointment in Mexico City, always consider the traffic as it may affect your schedule.
• Business cards are usually exchanged at the beginning of the meeting. It is useful to have business cards printed in English on one side and in Mexican Spanish on the other. Consider having this done before arriving in Mexico.
• Mexicans don't like to cause offence and this can extend to not wanting to say "no". Not saying "no" doesn't necessarily mean "yes".
• Substantive business will only be done in person. The telephone is limited to making arrangements.
Below are a number of recommendations
for getting the best out of your interpreter:
• Though expensive, a well-briefed
professional interpreter is best.
• Try to involve your interpreter at
every stage of your pre-meeting
arrangements. The quality of
interpretation will improve greatly
if you provide adequate briefing
on the subject matter. Ensure that
your interpreter understands what
you are aiming to achieve.
• Speak clearly and evenly,
without rambling on for several
paragraphs without pause. Your
interpreter will find it hard to
remember everything you
have said, let alone interpret all your points.
• Conversely, don't speak in short phrases
and unfinished sentences. Your interpreter
may find it impossible to translate the
meaning if you have left a sentence hanging.
• Avoid jargon, unless you know your
interpreter is familiar with the terminology.
• Take into account that some interpreters
may be more familiar with American
English and have a little difficulty at
first with British accents.
• The UK Trade & Investment team in
Mexico can provide a list of specialist
• Avoid making or telling jokes. These
almost invariably fall flat in translation
and will confuse or embarrass your
audience. Compliments or observations
could be a more effective icebreaker.
There are two forms of interpreting. Consecutive interpreting means that you speak and then your interpreter interprets. This is the usual form for meetings, discussions and negotiations. Simultaneous interpreting is when you speak while the interpreter interprets simultaneously; but special equipment is required which is expensive to hire. Simultaneous interpreting is generally used only for large seminars and conferences, and there are always at least two interpreters who will interpret in 20-minute sessions.
Interpreting is a skill requiring professional training. Just because someone is fluent in English and Spanish, it does not mean that they will make a good interpreter.
If you are giving a speech or presentation, remember that the need to interpret everything will cut your speaking time approximately in half (unless using simultaneous interpreting). It is essential to make sure that the interpreter can cope with any technical or specialist terms in the presentation. It is better to be slightly restricted and speak close to a script than to fail to be understood because your interpreter cannot follow you. If you are giving a speech, give the interpreter the text well in advance and forewarn them of any changes.
Sophisticated PowerPoint presentations with multiple illustrations are the norm for many forward-looking Mexican companies, and it is advisable to take the same approach to create a good impression. Handouts and brochures in Mexican Spanish are recommended.
Never start a presentation apologetically. During presentations avoid slang and jokes specific to British culture and geography. Your Mexican audience may not understand. There is no need to be extremely formal. Do not speak too quickly, loudly, or in a monotonous tone.
At the beginning of the presentation, make it clear to the audience whether you prefer to take questions during or after the talk. Often, audiences are happier writing down their questions rather than asking them in front of others. If there is not enough time to take all written questions, tell the audience that you will reply to them by email - and do so.
Mexicans prefer doing business with people who they know and trust. Your success in Mexico is therefore dependent upon your ability to establish, build and maintain good relationships. Interpersonal skills are needed to fit in, cultivate relationships and win the favour of others. These can actually be more important than professional experience and know-how.
Learning Spanish is obviously of benefit. If you don't have time to become conversant, making the effort to learn basic pleasantries can go down well. The differences between Mexican and European Spanish are similar to those between British and American English (ie with differing accents and some different words) so if you speak European Spanish you should be understood. Joining the British Chamber in Mexico will give you access to a network of other businesses.
Mexicans make friends first, then do business and you should be prepared to spend time socialising. Only move on to business when you have built up rapport. Face-to-face contact is crucial.
You need to invest time in developing relationships with people such as by going out to lunch (breakfasts are a good option if you want to avoid traffic in Mexico City), enquiring about their family and talking about your personal life. Sports (especially football) are a common interest between Mexicans, as well as British music which is very popular in Mexico, The Beatles are always a good talking point!
Source - UKTI