Business Meals And After Work In Mexico

Business meals in Mexico

Business meals and after work activities with Mexican partners are essential for initiating new projects and cultivating a business relationship based on trust. If you want to get to know each other or if negotiations are difficult, Mexicans use informal conversation to create a positive atmosphere and to suss out the mood of their business partners at the same time. Avoid rushing into discussing business topics. Instead, let your Mexican host bring up business matters.

Business Meals In Mexico

Mexicans go to lunch from 1 pm, on weekends often as late as 3 or 4 pm. Dinner time is from 8 pm. A business meal can last several hours.

Mexicans will opt for very good restaurants that offer typical local dishes or go to a steak house. Hospitality and generosity are generally of great importance in Mexican society. The choice of the restaurant reflects the esteem in which you as a guest are held. Take the opportunity to praise the restaurant, the food or the pleasant atmosphere!

If your Mexican business partner takes over the bill, it is important to return the favour at a later date with an appropriate return invitation. If, after an evening together, the bill is shared, it is divided equally. Neither the Mexican waiter nor your colleagues and business partners would understand splitting the bill to the exact amount of your own share, as is customary in some countries.

Private Invitations

An invitation is only really definite if your Mexican business partner repeats it several times and specifies a specific date and time. Otherwise, it is just courtesy.

Private invitations are also often hosted in restaurants. In a restaurant, the host can devote himself entirely to his guests. If your Mexican business partner invites you home, you can take this as a strong demonstration of trust. This means that you are seen as a good friend and no longer “merely” as a business partner.

Never show up on time when you are invited to the home of your business partners or colleagues. You should definitely be 30 minutes late. Even being 60 minutes late is still acceptable. If other Mexican people have been invited as well and the opportunity arises, ask them to pick you up. This way you can be sure that you will arrive at the right time.


A small gift will be appreciated by your Mexican host. Suitable gifts are chocolates or a typical souvenir from your home country. Flowers are not very common, and if chosen as a present then only in the form of a flower arrangement and not tied as a bouquet. Under no circumstances give the yellow funeral flower cempasúchil as a gift! If there are children, bring some toys or merchandising articles from well-known football or other sports teams.

A gift should always be nicely wrapped. A gift box or bag with a thank you card tucked in is usually appreciated.

Shared Activities

There is no strict separation between work and private life, and a circle of friends includes work colleagues. Therefore, it is common to do things together after work. Women often go out for coffee together. Men or mixed groups meet in a bar or eat tacos together. Despite a zero-alcohol limit for drivers, there is often a lot of alcohol being ordered.

Mexicans use almost every available opportunity to party. Birthdays can be celebrated on several days in a row and, if it is more convenient, even a few days before the actual date. Parties are always very cheerful and exuberant occasions; it is always fun. Young and old frequently party together.

Etiquette Rules

Mexican cuisine is both famous and notorious for the use of hot chilli peppers and herbs. Even lollipops and other sweets for children contain chillies. Do not rely on your Mexican business partners when they say that a dish is not spicy. Their sense of taste is probably different from yours. Mexicans know, however, that people from many other countries do not eat spicy food as much as they do and will therefore show understanding if you do not finish the meal because it is too spicy for you.

In A Restaurant

When visiting a restaurant in Mexico, you will see the division of labour that is common in Mexico: You drive up to the restaurant and hand over your vehicle to an employee of the in-house park service. Then you enter the restaurant and are greeted by a hostess. She will show you to your table. You are then usually welcomed by the head waiter who supervises and controls the restaurant. Then the waiter responsible for your table will bring the menu and take your order later. He will serve you your meal as well. However, clearing the table is not his job. For this, there is a special “busboy”, who also cleans up if something breaks. When you want to pay, let the waiter know. He will then go to the checkout where a cashier will make out the invoice and hand it over to the waiter. The different roles and associated tasks are respected by all. A receptionist will never take an order nor will the “busboy” take you to your table. You should respect this strict hierarchical division of labour.

Places often have a separate bar and restaurant areas. If you just want a drink and maybe a snack, they will take you to the bar. If you would like to have a “real” meal, you will be taken to a laid table in the restaurant.

Mexicans like to take their time eating and usually order a starter, a main course and a dessert. It is not considered rude to leave something on the plate. Every traditional dish always includes tortillas – corn or wheat flatbreads that are served hot at the table in a special container. Everybody takes some and more are ordered when they are eaten. Tortillas are eaten with your hands. Mexicans fill them at the table with meat, vegetables and sauces. Soft drinks, beer and, less often, wine are ordered with the meal. Whether with or without alcohol: there is always a lot of chatting, joking and laughing during the meal.

Desserts such as cakes, puddings or other desserts are presented by the waiter on a trolley. On this trolley, you will also find liqueurs and all kinds of tequilas. Good tequila is made from one hundred per cent agave and is indicated on the bottle label. Furthermore, there are three categories: young white tequila (blanco), older golden-brown tequila (reposado) and mature brown tequila (añejo). Older tequilas are milder in taste and more expensive. In a restaurant, after a meal, you will usually be offered a reposado or añejo in a water glass or cognac snifter. Mexicans drink tequila in sips and not in one go.

There are now also so-called 100% smoke-free zones in Mexico, where smoking is not allowed. The smoking ban in bars and restaurants is particularly strict in Mexico City and the neighbouring Estado de México.

Service is not included in the bill in restaurants, bars and cafés. The service staff only receive a low basic salary and rely on their tips. This should be between 10 and 15 per cent of the total amount. If you pay by credit card, simply enter the tip in the space provided. If you pay in cash, leave the tip in the folder containing the bill. It is not customary to ask the waiter to just round up the sum.

Dress Code

A well-groomed appearance, appropriate clothing and clean shoes are extremely important for Mexicans in their daily and professional lives.

The style of dress in business life is rather conservative. Male executives usually wear a dark suit with a long-sleeved shirt. Women wear blouse and skirt or skirt suit. Well-groomed hair, manicured fingernails, make-up, high heels, and light pantyhose are part of the business look as well. Mexican women often wear more figure-hugging clothes than is common in other places.

Executives who no longer rely on an authoritarian leadership style try to be seen as part of the team and omit to wear a jacket and tie. Many Mexican companies also have a Casual Friday, similar to the custom in the USA where people go to work in jeans and shirts or polo shirts.

For leisure activities with business partners or colleagues wear something smart casual. A short-sleeved shirt or polo shirt with cotton trousers are common. Avoid shorts and sandals unless you are on the beach. These items of clothing do not belong in an urban environment.

Always remember that air conditioning is installed everywhere in Mexico. These are often set to very cool temperatures and a thin sweater or a light jacket will prevent you from catching a cold.

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene is part of being well-groomed in Mexico. Mexicans typically shower two to three times a day! Before meeting up for dinner, your Mexican partners will take a shower and put on fresh clothes if they can. Wearing the same clothes for several days in a row is considered to be unkempt by Mexicans.

After lunch in the canteen, Mexicans brush their teeth. Whether man or woman, everyone has their dental care bag with them and goes to the washroom to freshen up. The fact that many foreigners do not do this is met with astonishment or even disgust by many.

If you are offered some refreshing chewing gum after a meal, you should not refuse it. You will also earn brownie points if you offer your colleagues some chewing gum or peppermint candy.

Alexandra Metzger

Extract from Business Culture Mexico, Courtesy of CONBOOK Verlag

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