With globalization still on the rise, cross-border business deals are more common than ever. However, many deals are threatened and fall through due to simple cultural blunders that could be avoided with a little research and tact. Here at A Plus Translations, we feel it’s important to remind international businessmen and women of simple behaviors and cultural pitfalls that may jeopardize a deal or an entire relationship.
Let’s start this series with Mexico. Mexico is one of the United State’s most important trade partners and is actually the third largest exporter to the U.S. As an overall rule-of-thumb, deals are done in person with an emphasis on personal relationships and family.
Below we’ve laid out several business scenario categories along with quick tips that will help you close deals and not commit a cultural faux pas.


  • Overall, Mexicans initiate more physical contact than Americans by way of shoulder pats or arm holding during a conversation. Pulling away is considered insulting.
  • Upon arrival men shake hands and await women to initiate the shake.
  • Women shake hands with both men and women, however it is common for women to pat each other on the shoulder or arm as a form of introduction.
  • A brief embrace is not uncommon between longtime friends, and after several meetings you may also receive a hug.
  • Meeting at your hotel is not uncommon to conduct a working breakfast.
  • Conversations are commonly conducted in closer proximity than Americans are used to. Be sure not to adjust for your personal bubble here, as it can be considered unfriendly.
  • Personal obligations always take precedent over punctuality. The ideal time to setup meetings is between 10am and 1pm.
  • Gifts are appreciated but not required. Do not give silver as it’s considered a tourist trinket.


  • Hold off using first names until invited to do so.
  • Use red ink sparingly and never to write an individuals name.
  • This may go without saying, but never bring up poverty, the Mexican-American war, illegal aliens, earthquakes, or “Montezuma’s revenge”.
  • It’s common and not considered rude to get someone’s attention in public with a “psst – psst”.


  • Suits with classic lines are the standard with a colored shirt. White shirts are generally reserved for more formal meetings
  • Light, un-tucked shirts are commonly worn with khakis and can be ideal for outdoor meetings in the heat.
  • Jeans are rarely appropriate and tight or low-cut clothing is never appropriate
  • If no eye contact is made in conversation, don’t take offense as it’s considered a sign of respect.
  • Standing with your hands in your pockets or on your hips is considered impolite.

This series will continue in future blog posts so keep checking back for cultural etiquette business tips.

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