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A Journey Into Paradise

Modern-Day Etiquette in Mexico

20 January, 2014

Whether you are planning to live in Mexico full time,or just want to visit for vacation,it is important to understand some of the unique social nuances and rules of etiquette that are common among its citizens. By learning more about how to behave when interacting with the locals in Mexico,your experience will be enhanced and you will be able to avoid a variety of potentially embarrassing situations.

For starters,don't rush through the process of meeting and greeting new people. A hasty approach can be viewed as rude or standoffish. Instead,take the time to establish a real connection with each new person you meet by establishing eye contact,smiling warmly and making some sort of physical contact,such as a handshake,kiss on the cheek,or hug. Also,keep in mind that most Mexicans have three names. This includes their first name,a paternal name and a maternal name,although the maternal name is often dropped during formal introductions and abbreviated in writing. When introduced to somebody new in a formal setting,as a manner of common courtesy you should refrain from using his or her first name until you are expressly invited to do so.

When it comes to rules regarding personal space,it's important to note that in Mexico it is often customary to stand much closer together when communicating than it is in the United States or Europe,which can feel uncomfortable to travelers who are not used to the varying social norms. However,just remember that it is typical for people to interact with a foot or less of space between them regardless of gender,and that stepping away can sometimes be seen as rude,or as a sign that you are uneasy about the interaction.

While handshakes between men are the norm,it is also not uncommon for male friends to exchange a hug or “abrazo.” If you are uncertain what to do,just follow the other person's lead. A typical hug between two men typically entails a few pats on the back with one arm as an extension of the handshake. When a man meets a woman in a social situation it is customary for him to give a slight bow,and to remain prepared to deliver a light kiss on the cheek if the woman leans in for it. Women who are already friends generally exchange a hug and kiss on the cheek when coming together,while a handshake typically suffices for two women who are meeting for the first time,but in this situation a kiss on the cheek is also not unheard of. Again,take your cue from the other person if unsure. In most business situations,a handshake will suffice regardless of gender.

Perhaps most importantly,be sure to let down your guard and allow yourself to really connect with the locals during your time in Mexico. When meeting someone new in a social setting,for example,physical contact of some kind is considered to be essential and you should never just stand there and offer a verbal “hello.” Over time as your new acquaintances develop into real friendships,the unparallelled warmth of the local people will become apparent and you will begin to develop a true understanding of this fabulous country and its rich cultural heritage.

Finally,you need to be aware that punctuality is not always revered in Mexico the same way it is in the United States and Europe. In fact,there is a saying here that goes,“Hora Inglesa,” which literally means “English Time,” and is used to indicate a meeting time that must be taken very seriously. Although business meetings tend to operate with more punctuality,expect most guests to show up at least 30 minutes late for social gatherings. It is also not customary to list a specific time for the event to end on the invitation.