CUSTOMS AND PEOPLE
Mexico’s culture has a rich history and is solidly based around family, religion, and tradition. Family, in particular, plays a vital part in the Mexican way of life. For example, several generations of the same family frequently get together for lunch or weekend excursions. Children tend to live with their parents until they are married, even if this means staying at home until their mid-30s.
Mexicans are very warm and friendly and, especially, in small communities they will make you feel welcome and help you where they can. Mexican love to hear about different people and places. The more effort you make to integrate yourself into their communities and their way of life, the more receptive they will be to you.
Mexicans are a very proud people – proud of their heritage and accomplishments. In terms of aesthetics, image, and status, Mexico is very traditions (e.g. titles are considered very important here). Anyone with professional degree should always be addressed with the title of Licenciado/a or their professional equivalent (i.e. Doctor/a, Ingeniero/a, Arquitecto/a). Generally, people take pride in their appearance. Women tend to dress more formally than in the U.S., especially when going out in the evening.
Mexico is a class-conscious society; politeness and courtesy is expected and in all situations, however frustrating. Conversely, a display of impatience, anger, frustrations, or lack of general respect tend to fall of “deaf ears” when dealing with most people here.
If you invite someone to eat out, it’s sometimes assumed that you will settle the bill. Younger people are inclined to split the bill, but older people often expect the bill to be paid by the host. The invitee(s) will always offer to pay; this is social grace and one that should always be politely declined. If you are invited out for a meal, you should also offer to pay.
The meeting and greeting formalities are very important; failure to follow social protocol may be interpreted as rudeness. Correct physical contact is essential to build trust and respect with others.
When meeting a group of people, it’s polite to greet each person individually and not everyone en masse. Likewise, it’s important to say good-bye properly; never walk out without saying good-bye. Men should always shake hands with men; between friends, it’s common to hug (starting with the handshake before moving closer and patting each other on the back). In business situation, both men and women exchange handshakes. Where the situation is more relaxed or people are friends, you should give one kiss on the cheek.
CULTURE IN MEXICO CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
- Purses on the floor are bad luck (and good advice against potential theft).
- Do not give the OK sign, it means something very vulgar and inappropriate in all company. Thumbs up is a better option.
- When bargaining in outdoor markets, expect a 25% markdown on all artisan ware.
- Families are of paramount importance to Mexicans, as is the network of school friends. For this reason it may be difficult breaking into the circle.
- At Mexican parties and gatherings, all ages from baby to the great grandmother are at the same party. All age groups may take part in the conversation of adults if they have something to add.
- Mexicans have little regard for strangers. This can manifest itself by cutting in line, honking rudely in traffic, or grabbing your parking spot, for example. If they already have a personal relationship with you, the same person that committed the above, may go to great lengths to help you.
- Generally, people are not future oriented and planning is not necessarily a commonplace occurrence. You may be invited to a dinner party at the last minute – it does not mean you were a last minute fill-in for someone who cancelled.
- When women friends kiss in greeting “hello” or “good-bye,” they do not actually kiss. They touch cheeks and kiss into the air. Women will greet the men usually with a handshake the first meeting and then on subsequent meetings (only if comfortable with it) will “kiss” the men on the cheek.
- If you are invited to a party to begin at 9:00pm, do not expect to eat until 10:00pm or possibly 11:00pm. Also, be sure to ask what time the other guests are expected to arrive. If the party begins at 8pm the guests may not start arriving until 9 – 9:30pm.
Tipping is expected for almost all services. Here are some suggestions (all amounts are in pesos):
- Gas Station Attendant – $3 – $5, if he washes windows, checks oil, etc
- Hair Dresser – 10% – 15%
- Manicure – 10% – 15%
- Parking Attendant – $5
- Grocery Bag Boy/Girl – $3 -$5 pesos if they deliver to your car; $1 – $2 if they just bag
- Phone Book Delivery – $5 – $10
- Red Cross or Green Cross – $5 – $20
- November 12th – Mailman Day – $20 and/or plate of cookies
- Christmas – any delivery people, garbage collectors, cleaners, etc., $50 and/or plate of cookies
If people come to your door asking for money, it is a good idea not to give them any because they will return. For people you encounter while driving, the local churches sell food coupons to hand out.