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There are a variety of common courtesies that Americans should observe when in Mexico. Some of the important issues of cultural etiquette are described herein. When in Mexico Americans should refrain from calling themselves “Americans. ” Mexicans consider themselves Americans too since the whole continent is called America. Another part of Mexican culture that may be shocking to American’s traveling there is the way machismo is verbalized by male members of Mexican society. Making sexual or derogatory remarks at women is a typical part of the culture and should not be seen as harassment.
Wearing a wedding band and mentioning children usually will stop these types of comments. Attempting to speak Spanish even if your Spanish is not good is appreciated. When speaking in English slang and idioms should be avoided. Using broken English does not aid communication and can be seen as offensive. Many Mexicans speak English but many more read English. If possible, a written copy of what you are saying should be provided.
Mexicans do not often say no because it is considered impolite. Consequently, it is important that you recognize this and look for other clues as to what the real answer is.
If a Mexican says maybe it is a good indicator that the answer is definitely no. Asking for a yes or no response to a specific question repeatedly is tolerated but you must be patient because it will take a while before the real answer comes out. People stand much closer to each other in Mexico.
It is considered unfriendly to back up when a Mexican approaches you in conversation. You must be aware of the tone of voice you use when in Mexico. Using a quick pace or a sharp or forceful tone will make you come across unfavorably. Eye contact is not as direct or long as in the United States.
Mexicans are status conscientious so what you wear or what you drive makes a clear statement about who you are in society. When attending a social event you should arrive 30 minutes late. Arriving earlier is considered rude. At small parties your host will introduce you. At large parties you may introduce yourself. When dining you should not sit until you are told where to sit and you should not eat until the hostess starts. It is polite to keep both of your hands visible while eating and to leave some food on your plate when finished. Only men are permitted to give toasts.
The traditional greetings used in Mexico vary depending on the sex of the participants and the amount of time they have known each other. It is important to greet each member of a group individually. Women will pat each other on the forearm or shoulder as an initial greeting where men use the handshake in situations where they are greeting someone for the first time. Handshakes consist of a gentle grip and a quick sharp shake. After men develop a relationship hugs or back slapping called abrazo replace the handshake. Women will progress to a series of air kisses on the cheek.
Air kissing is also the appropriate greeting between a man and a woman who know each other. The first kiss is in the air near the left cheek and the second is in the air near the right cheek. Unmarried women receive an additional kiss as a wish for marriage. Receiving an abrazo or air kiss is an indicator that you have been accepted into the group. These traditional Mexican greeting are indicative of gender characteristics. Females are supposed to act open while men are expected to act closed. Foreigners should politely accept these greetings from Mexicans but should not initiate a move from one greeting to the next.
This is especially important for an American man who is greeting a Mexican female. The American man should never initiate the air kisses as it may be interpreted as sexual advance which damages the women’s honor and her partner’s machismo. Women are even expected to initiate a handshake with men. It is important to wait until invited to call a Mexican by his or her first name because of the emphasis on formal hierarchy with in the society. Until then you should use the correct honorific (Senor, Senora, Senorita) and the family name. If you do not know if a woman is married or not you should use Senorita followed by her family name.
In oral communications you should use the father’s family name only. In written communications it is appropriate to use the father’s family name first followed by the mother’s family name. A respectful smile is always appropriate during greetings. Saying goodbye in Mexico is very similar to the process used for greetings. The host will walk the guest to the door and the goodbye will be said with the same procedure as the greeting. If you received a handshake, abrazo, arm pay or air kiss upon arrival expect the same upon leaving. Etiquette about who initiates the goodbye is the same as for greetings.
It is polite to thank your host for the good time. Gift giving in Mexico is very similar to gift giving traditions in the United States. When invited to a Mexican’s home, it is considered polite to bring a gift of sweets or flowers. White flowers are a good choice because they are viewed by Mexicans as uplifting. Red flowers are not appreciated because they are used when someone is sick. Marigolds should not be given because they symbolize death. Gift wrapping does not carry any special significance. Gifts are opened immediately in the presence of those who gave them. It is appropriate to respond enthusiastically.
Gifts are not used very often in Mexican business. However, bringing a small gift from home to a business partner you have worked with before is okay. Another accepted use of gifts in business is to give chocolates to the secretary. Since gifts are not used frequently, giving chocolates to the secretary will usually help future business run smoothly as you will be favored. It is extremely important for American men who are presenting females with gifts at work to state that it is from the wife or family. Presenting a gift to a female from a male may be seen as a sexual advance.
Colors have been assigned definitions since the Aztec empire in Mexico. However, the definitions of what each color means has changed a lot since then. In the Aztec empire green was a symbol of royalty, white meant death, yellow was a symbol for food and blue symbolized sacrifice. Today’s definitions for colors are representative of Mexican cultural conventions. Warm deep colors that reflect the landscape are used in decorating. Bright reds and yellows are fiesta colors. Today white symbolizes purity. White items are believed to have the ability to ward off black magic. Red stands for unity and protection.
Using a red handkerchief to cover your mouth when passing a house where someone has died or been sick is believed to protect you from illness or death. Yellow is a mourning color. Consequently, marigolds are planted in cemeteries. Dark blue is also a mourning color. When attending a funeral Mexican’s are expected to wear dark blue. Green is a symbol of independence and hope. Humor is understood and appreciated in Mexico. Situational humor as well as “slap-stick” humor are enjoyed. Humor that demeans someone to advance someone else can only be used in limited contexts to promote machismo and, consequently, should be avoided.
Jokes using Mexican stereotypes or dealing with the Alamo and Mexican-American War are not appreciated. Since humor in Mexico involves many social nuances, it may be better to avoid trying to intentionally make jokes. However, if your host makes a joke smiling and laughing are expected. Mexicans typically work a 5. 5 day work week with 8 hour days Monday through Friday from 9-5 o’clock and a half day on Saturday. Mexican law requires that the work week does not surpass 48 hours per week and that lunch hour which is from 3 to 4 o’clock must be paid.
However, this schedule varies by the type of business. For example, government workers often work the entire 48 hours in a five day workweek and take off for lunch at 2 o’clock for two hours. Consequently, government workers often work very late into the evening. It is very important to establish a friendship with a Mexican business partner before getting “down to business. ” As a result friendly conversation on home life is often mixed into business conversations as a way to get to know people. Breakfast and lunch are good times to have mixed discussions that can lead to better business.
However, Mexicans work to live not live to work so business talk should be left out of social situations unless initiated by the Mexican. Between 8 and 11 million children under the age of 15 are working in Mexico, approximately 20% of the population of children. This number does not include children working on farms. Although it is illegal to employee children under the age of 16, it is still commonly practiced in Mexico because children provide a cheaper source of labor. Many children use fake ID’s to obtain employment because of the financial need of the family.
Businesses are not usually punished for illegally employing minors. Alcohol is used regularly in Mexico. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18. There are responsible drinkers and alcoholics in Mexican society. Approximately 13% of the population has experienced alcohol dependency. Unfortunately incidents of alcoholism are rising. Alcohol is used disproportionatly by men because of Mexican gender roles which promote risky behavior for men and conservative behavior for women. Alcohol is permitted in both business and social settings. In business alcohol is most appropriate during lunch or diner meetings.
Mexican leisure activity is similar to that of the United States. Mexicans enjoy television, concerts, movies, picnics, shopping and sports. Soccer is the most popular sport. Businesses that provide picnic tables and soccer fields for use by employees on their lunch hour are viewed very positively by Mexicans. Fiestas, birthdays and traditional holidays are also enjoyed by all members of Mexican society. The types of leisure activities that Mexicans enjoy do not vary for the different income levels. Only the amount of time and money one can invest in these activities varies from one class to another.
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