Mexicans are warm and vivacious people. Individuals have an incredible zest for life. Though in major towns and cities, most local people will be able to speak fluent English, any effort to speak in Spanish will be greatly appreciated. Even a warm Buenes Dias, will go a long way to earn you respect in the eyes of locals.
An old Mexican saying is that the North Americans live to work, but Mexicans work to live! . Mexicans have a particular sense of uniqueness, which is expressed in the popular saying como México no hay dos (Mexico is second to none). This sense is also expressed in various other elements of popular culture too, such as food and music. They identify strongly with the nation state, and nationalism is vigorous. The Mexican national culture emerged from a process of accommodation between the local indigenous cultures and the Spanish colonial domination that lasted three centuries. Hence even the most pronounced symbols express and reinforce national culture. The Mexican culture has been very effective in nurturing national symbols, especially post revolution; the state has nurtured national symbols and heroes. In fact the revolution itself has become a source of national identity.
The Mexican flag has three vertical coloured stripes. The green stripe on the flag represents hope, white stands purity, and red for blood. In the center of the flag, on the white stripe is an image of an eagle perched on a cactus plant and eating a snake. This image represents the myth of the foundation of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Another significant icon of the Mexican national culture is the image of virgin of Guadalupe. The icon signifies the pervasiveness of Roman Catholicism in the national culture. The dark skinned Virgin Mary was used as an icon during the struggle for independence against the Spanish.
The Mexican society has low levels of individualism. The society is more collective in nature. Loyalty in such collectivist culture is paramount. A long term commitment to members of a group is expected be it family, extended family, or extended relations. The society also experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation of roles. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure. Men in Mexico are hence more flirtatious. Teasing comments and odd whistles therefore must be accepted as compliments. A woman traveling alone should avoid any confrontation as it will lead to get you nowhere. Such an authoritarian structure leads to a population of women that is more assertive and competitive, though not at the level of the male population. This may seem chauvinistic on the surface but it is important to remember that one is a guest in the country and therefore need to be tolerant of other customs and beliefs. As far as marriage is concerned Mexicans are free to choose their marriage partners. Informally, however, there are rules that constrain choices, most importantly those related to class and ethnicity.
The society also experiences inequality of power and wealth within the society. The houses of the well to do Mexicans are inward looking since colonial times. The front side of the house consists of plastered walls, and barred windows. This reflects a desire to protect themselves from the outer world. The poor Mexicans live in much smaller modest houses. Building ones own house is an important cultural imperative. The population is predominantly catholic and has defined rules and laws, to control situations.
Clothing: For men a conservative dark suit should be appropriate. A man's wardrobe should include suits with classic lines and tailoring in gray or navy. White and light blue shirts should be a good choice. A white shirt is more formal and should be worn for a formal occasions. Men may also wear pants and a light shirt for casual. One should have a casual wardrobe using the classic colors, along with a camel colour, and you will be ready for a casual occasion.
One must not miss out on an opportunity to wear a guayabera , it is a wonderful traditional lightweight shirt, and one wears out over their pants. This design is very comfortable, especially in warmer weather. Though people in Mexican cities wear clothes more or less like any other city in the US, Europe, or Asia, in more isolated smaller villages one may see the traditional clothing. Men wear sandals called huaraches and protect their heads with large brimmed hats called Sombreros. The sombrero is made of straws, and protects them from the hot sun. The men protect their heads with a large brimmed hat called a sombrero. During cold or rainy days, they wear ponchos. This is like a blanket folded in the middle. With a slit made at the fold to stick their heads through. At night, they wear a more colorful wrap called a serape. A serape is sometimes worn across one shoulder during the day.
Women should wear a dress or a skirt blouse. A classic suit may also be worn. A wardrobe using classic lines and classic basic colours such as gray, navy, white should be apt. Traditional wear for women includes something called a Rebozo. It is a shawl with fringes, used to cover the head; it is also used to wrap their babies, and then tied around the back. Tight or low cut clothing is never appropriate.
One must not be surprised to be kept waiting, for a meeting. Punctuality is not rigid since personal obligations are given more emphasis. Business lunches rather than dinners are more popular forms of business entertainment. Theses lunches are an essential part of business to establish personal relationships. Working breakfast and meetings at 8:00 or 8:30 at your hotel, lasting two hours at the most are popular.
Men shake hands upon meeting and leaving. Men should wait for a woman to be the first to offer her hand. Women may shake hands with men and other women. Many times a woman may also pat another woman's shoulder or forearm, or kiss on the cheek. Longtime friends may even embrace. Conversations in a Mexican society take place a close physical distance, the people are warm and friendly and make a lot of physical contact. They touch each other on the arm. Pulling yourself back from a touch or moving away during a conversation is considered insulting.
Gifts are not required for a dinner guest, but will be appreciated a good choices maybe candy, flowers (sent ahead of time), or local crafts from home. As far as business is concerned, gifts are not required , small items with a company logo (for an initial visit) are appreciated.
Secretaries do appreciate gifts. Valuable gifts, such as perfume or a scarf, maybe presented on returning from a trip. A man giving it to a female secretary must indicate that the gift is from his wife, and not him, as it maybe misunderstood. While presenting people with flowers, one must keep in mind that yellow flowers represent death, red cast spells and white lift spells. Also gifts made of silver should also be avoided since these are associated with trinkets sold to tourists.
One must take care to place the money in the cashier's hand, on any purchase from a store. Tipping is always appropriate, since the wages are so low they always help the workers.
One must refrain from using first names unless invited to do so. One may also address people by their titles. If titles are important they should be included on business cards. People without professional titles may be addressed by his or her surname. Senor is Mr., Senora is Mrs., and Senorita is Miss. A married woman adds her husband or her fathers name to her first name. These are also used to refer to people. Hispanics generally use two surnames. The first surname listed is from the father, and the second surname listed is from the mother. When speaking to someone use his or her father's surname.
Names must never be written in red ink. Mexican's often use a psst-psst sound to catch attention, though this is not considered rude. During meetings good conversational topics are Mexican culture, history, art, and museum, though Mexican-American war, poverty, illegal aliens or earthquakes may not be appreciated.