Overt confrontation and contest, or even bluntness, are generally avoided in Mexican culture, in favor of diplomacy, coalition-building and deference.
Background: This is part of the ‘power paradox’ in Mexico. Standing out from the crowd is to be avoided, mainly if you are not a power holder. On the other hand, material status is fervently sought after and shown off when attained. Wealth (or giving the appearance of wealth) is a vehicle for signaling to others one’s position in the hierarchy and obtaining recognition.
Though they may refrain from questioning authority, Mexicans yearn to learn new things because it helps them feel more integrated into the natural order of the world. So they respond very well to a leader who is willing to teach them new things and give them tools to do their work better and develop themselves. This is perceived as having significant and immediate value, and it helps them become more trusting and cooperative.
Background: Although Mexicans do not always appreciate being told what to do (especially by a foreigner), they tend to accept a vertical command-and-control structure and will be disinclined to question things directly. Instead, they will resort to more subtle ways of testing the boundaries of the system or the work relationship. Sometimes, it may very well be that they are not entirely clear about what they need to do but are afraid to say so. A good rule of thumb is to follow-up to make sure they understand the scope of work and what is expected of them. Offer your support by asking and answering questions, as well as guidance. Note that a little bit of hand-holding may be necessary, and it might actually yield great outcomes.
Mexican “machismo” has been widely documented for decades, if not centuries, and it is a hallmark of the national culture. Although gender roles continue to be gradually redefined, there is still a clear separation between how men and women are expected to show up and interact with each other.
Background: Mexico is largely considered a masculine society (Mexican wrestling and bullfighting are great symbols of this). Interestingly, however, its high score in masculinity does not manifest as strongly in terms of competitive drive, high performance, the pursuit of victory, and ‘being the best’. Mexicans love drama yet they tend to avoid conflict; and despite the culture's patriarchal structure, the maternal figure is considered a critically important (nearly sacred) stabilizing force in every community. And despite a deeply-rooted and traditional Catholic belief system, one of most revered religious figures is the Virgin of Guadalupe (a.k.a. “la Virgen”).
Mexican society is highly accepting of hierarchical order and centralized power. For the most part, people expect to be told what to do and will defer decision-making to those who are in a position of power, whether in the context of family, religion, work, government or foreign affairs.
Background: A leader/manager in Mexico is perceived first and foremost as the boss (“el jefe” or “el patrón”). The boss is in charge and directs his subordinates, whose main job is to accept and follow his/her directive. That said, the work environment in Mexico can also be extremely political. On the surface, the boss-subordinate relationship may seem fairly straightforward, but behind the scenes team members are usually jockeying for position, building alliances and doing whatever they can do to get ahead and advance their interests. One of the underlying concerns is to be dealt the short end of the stick, and people feel the need to fend for themselves amidst a system that is perceived to be rigged in someone else’s favor.
Though Mexicans derive much greater value from human connection than material achievement, showing off material well-being is a way of signaling one's position in the societal/corporate hierarchy and gaining a sense of certainty and security.
Background: The combination of a high PDI score (81), a high Indulgence score (IRV 97) and a very Short-term Orientation (LTO 24) might help explain some of what drives the status-seeking mentality of Mexicans. Because of their very complex history with power dynamics, Mexicans live with an underlying fear that someone will come and pull the rug from underneath their feet (or flat out betray them). They will, therefore, resort to coping mechanisms and strategies to assert their place in the world, or at least try to stand on more solid ground. "Instant gratification", in whatever form it may come (e.g. material acquisition), is one of these mechanisms.
If you are in the process of negotiating something, the stronger the personal connection the better. In Mexico, it is very common to conduct business over breakfast, lunch or dinner, which can last anywhere between 2 to 4 hours, and a good portion of that time is spent on building rapport.
Background: Mexico is a high-context communication culture, and negotiations must usually be approached accordingly. Allow your local counterparts the opportunity to speak and express themselves. Be a good listener and observer. Most of all, be curious and patient. Asking open questions can yield great insights about the people and the companies you are dealing with. Try to identify what your counterparts really would like to accomplish and how you can be of help. The more you can show them that you can offer something of value, the more cooperation and reciprocity you are likely to experience.
Due to targeted public financing and contributions from market players, the aerospace, automotive and biotechnology sectors are most innovative in Mexico. Among other rapidly developing and scientifically advanced sectors are renewable energy and clean technology, nanotechnology and advanced computing sectors.
Background: The oil sector is one of the major contributors to economic growth, as it accounts for 40% of total government revenues. The automotive sector in Mexico is the 7th largest in the world. It is also becoming a major manufacturing center for electronics. Mexico City has emerged as a major start-up center and hosts a large number of international business events, particularly those that focus on business opportunities in Latin American countries.
Mexicans have a very strong service-oriented mentality and are renowned for their hospitality.
Background: Over the centuries, Mexicans have mastered the balancing act of being welcoming and benevolent, yet vigilant and skeptical at the same time. “Mi casa, su casa” (my home, your home) is a well-known axiom of the Mexican mindset, and it relates back to the tension between the desire to connect and establish meaningful and lasting relationships with others, and the trauma of loss and betrayal that became associated with enacting that impulse at key moments in history.
Mexico’s innovation, science and technology ecosystem has significantly improved in the last decade. The continuous efforts of the government and economic growth encouraged entrepreneurship and enabled public support for innovation. The National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT) became a central instrument in advancing technological modernisation and in devising strategies for development of human resources.
Background: The electronics industry is also expanding in Mexico, due to the development of telecommunication technologies. The country has a large, young population of engineers and technology designers, and a good supply chain network in the electronic industry. As a result, a growing number of investors find the country attractive for business.
Indeed, creativity in general acts as a sort of social glue for Mexicans, as well as a source of national pride.
Background: Mexican creativity is largely influenced by the fusion of indigenous and European traditions and styles, as well as an extremely rich social life. But more importantly, Mexican creativity is constantly nourished by the on-going turmoil, ambiguity and paradox that characterizes the culture. The country has consistently produced internationally famous painters, muralists, sculptors, singers, architects, comedians and film makers.
What should you keep in mind while negotiating with Mexicans? Is Mexican "machismo" only a myth? Test your knowledge of Mexican culture and innovation in our quiz!