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While Mexico is separated from US workplaces by only a single border, there are several notable differences with Mexican workplace culture. US companies doing business in Mexico may be caught off guard by Mexican norms, customs, or regulations dissimilar to those in the United States.
For this reason, it is advantageous for US executives to thoroughly understand the way Mexicans conduct business in their offices and factories. Mexican workplace culture, while in many ways different from that in the US, also has many similarities. Taking the time to appreciate these contrasts will afford the US manager an advantage in Mexico.
While the Mexican workday is typically eight hours just like that of the US, the work week is actually more like 48 hours. Mexican workers usually stay later than the prescribed working hours, as it is considered rude to leave promptly at “quitting time.” But generally speaking:
In spite of a generally longer work week, Mexican workplace culture affords a strong vacation regimen and paid holidays to balance it out. For the first year of employment, employers are not required to give any special vacation time off. But after this, federally required paid vacation days number:
In addition to being paid at the usual salary for these vacation days, employees are also given an additional 25% vacation premium. This is also true for all national holidays, which are required by national labor laws. The following are required paid holidays:
When travelling or doing business in Mexico, it pays to understand how your Mexican counterparts expect you to behave. There are several notable differences between usual Mexican workplace culture and usual US business culture. Here are a few of the most notable:
Mexicans are still divided to an extent by social classes and very socially conscious. At business meetings, be sure to bring comparable seniority to match their executives. Address people using their full names and proper titles. In the factory or office, do not expect lower-level workers to have the authority or vested interest to make promises or input above their pay grade.
Time is more fluid and flexible in Mexican workplace culture. While arriving to work or meetings on time, it is not uncommon for people to be 15-30 minutes late. However, it is also customary to stay late by at least half an hour. “Mañana” may mean tomorrow, but more often it just means sometime in the near future. “Ahorita” may mean right now, but again, it usually just means soon.
Mexicans love work lunches. But theirs are very different from those in the US. Expect this to be the primary meal of the day and for very little business to be accomplished. This is the whole point. Mexicans want to know their business associates well. Relax, prepare for a lot of small talk and personal sharing. “La comida” typically lasts from 12:00 to 2:00 pm.
Email communications, even with long-time colleagues, use highly polite and formal language. Yet, expect meetings and interactions to often incorporate emotional language and displays. This shows commitment and involvement, not a lack of control.
In general, Mexican workplace culture holds to formal hierarchies and traditional roles. Yet, the Mexican people are warm and authentic in their interactions, preferring a hug and light kiss in lieu of the more formal handshake. Colleagues frequently have personal discussions and emotional connections. The culture is relaxed, especially where time is concerned. But the Mexican worker is typically very devoted and hard working. Understanding these key points will help US executives doing business there to get consistently better results.