Culture Differences Between the US And Mexico In Business

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


The culture of a business is inevitably affected by the culture of the country it is in. Global businesses wanting to do business in North America, especially the US and Mexico, will have to understand the differences between the US and Mexico culture in business.

 Although the US and Mexico are neighboring countries, they have opposing attitudes towards the way they do business and communicate. Strategies or models that are effective in the US might not be so effective in Mexico because of the same reason.

What’s more interesting is that the population of Mexicans and Latinos in the US is the highest compared to other minorities. 

That means that even if you don’t work in Mexico, you are still likely to encounter people from Latino cultures (Spain, Puerto Rico, etc.) in the workplace. When that happens, it is necessary to put your American way of doing things away and follow the Mexican ways.

Similarly, when a person from Latino cultures does business with Americans, they should try to understand them and act their ways. By doing this, we will be able to avoid unnecessary slips and bumps in communication.

cultural differences between the US and Mexico

In this article, we will explore the major differences between Mexican / Latino and American business cultures. These differences actually came from the culture of the country itself. We want to help workers, employees, managers, and people from the 2 countries bridge the cultural differences and communicate better.

1. Mexicans care about the good of all, while the Americans care more about their own values

This is the biggest difference between the 2 cultures. 

Mexican and Latino cultures are more group-oriented. They put the values of the group above theirs in business situations. Mexican workers are highly valued in the US labor market for their readiness to contribute to the organization and the community. 

They are hard workers. They are better prepared for their work. Thanks to these characteristics, we can see them perform incredibly well in skilled labor occupations or manufacturing.

The US workers, on the other hand, are highly individualistic. 

In fact, the US has always been the symbol of individualism and freedom. Although not all Americans are individualistic, in general, they still have a higher sense of self than the Mexicans. 

They put the value of themselves above the group. Although this may sound negative, it is actually not. Putting the value of oneself above others is good in a lot of situations, as long as you are not acting too selfishly.

Americans value their hard work. Therefore, they are more ready to stop contributing to an organization or company if they find that they are not respected there. 

Americans have an easier time walking out on a company to find another one if they think that what the company is doing conflicts with their internal values.

People who lived in the US, but are influenced by Latino culture, also express Latino values at work. To them, there seems to be a sense of “guilt” when they can’t contribute to the organization. Even if they want to walk out, they still think that it is not the right thing to do.

2. Americans are more straight-forward and direct. Mexicans tend to be more indirect.

The characteristics of a country are reflected in the language they use. Mexicans speak Spanish, and it is quite a poetic language, which means that it is indirect.

In communication, Americans prefer to say things directly and straight to the point, while being highly expressive with their gestures. They use both verbal and non-verbal means to communicate, which makes them really confrontational. When faced with such assertiveness, Mexicans can be a bit intimidated and uncomfortable.

In communication, Mexicans prefer to say things less directly. We will explore the reason for this later. They don’t want to say things straight to the face of the other person. They will instead try to indirectly convey the messages. 

One of the clearest examples of this is that they really don’t want to say the word “no”. To them, the word “no” is impolite, informal, and in some cases, disrespectful. If you are talking to a superior in Mexico, saying the word “no” means that you are bringing trouble to yourself. They want to avoid conflicts.

In case that Mexicans want to say something that might be a bit hard to hear, they will try to say it in a longer and more subtle way. If they want to talk to a superior, they will delegate the message to someone closer to the superior. This person will transfer the message to them. This is not always the case, though. It is just an example to show that Mexicans tend to express themselves less.

Even communication with people of the same ranks and levels is of high context. Mexicans expect others to “read the air” when communicating. If there is something wrong, you should know it by yourself and handle it privately. You shouldn’t try to bring the problems out to the public attention, because it may affect the group and the person’s reputation. 

In a way, this is similar to Asian cultures. 

In Asian cultures, people are expected to notice subtleties in communication and carry out actions without having to say anything. 

Americans, on the other hand, believe that it is better to bring the problems out and solve them as soon as possible. Americans think that letting a problem sit there only makes it worse, and try to solve it as soon as possible. Mexicans approach those problems in a slower and more private manner.

3. Americans are more egalitarian. Mexicans are more hierarchical.

This is the exact reason why Mexicans are more indirect in their communication. 

Due to the social structure in their society, people behave according to their position. If they challenge their superiors, they have upset the wrong person. The consequence of that is not good at all. 

Mexicans are expected to watch their mouths while communicating with the authority, too. This leads to a restrained initiative attitude in society. People are less willing to show their thoughts and ideas. They wait for their boss to give the command, and they follow suit.

Americans, on the other hand, tend to be more egalitarian. They believe that everybody is equal. 

In a business setting, the boss, or the leader, still has full command over everybody else in the team. However, if the employees have something to say, they are more ready to challenge their bosses and their leaders. Their straightforward culture allows them to disregard any hierarchy in place and just talk to people as equals.

This is also reflected in the language they use (English). 

English is a language that is very limited in hierarchical pronouns. There is almost no way to address a person’s social position besides their title (Mr. / Mrs. / Miss. / Ms.). Moreover, there is only one word to address oneself: “I”. 

In other languages, there are a lot of ways to address oneself, and each way is used for a different level of hierarchy. This lack of pronouns erases any sense of hierarchy in its users.

In a business situation, these differing attitudes towards power, authority, and oneself can cause a bit of trouble. 

Let’s consider a scenario where an American works with a Mexican boss. The Mexican boss expects the American employee to show respect to his authority. However, the American employee thinks of the Mexican boss as an equal and communicates with a really informal tone. This cultural difference may make the Mexican boss form a negative view of the American employee, while in fact, the employee is just acting like how they normally act.

Another scenario is when a Mexican employee works with an American boss. This American boss expects the employee to show their thoughts, ideas and tell if there are any problems with their work. However, the employee doesn’t want to express their thoughts directly. This can also cause unnecessary misunderstandings in the workplace.

4. Mexicans value the collective. Americans value the self.

Mexicans and people from Latino cultures are more group-oriented. 

They want the responsibility to be shared in a group. If there is a problem, the group has to be involved in it all. Everyone has to do something to contribute to the group. 

It makes sense that they also highly value their family. Family, in a way, is a community where they can be respected and loved. Businesses with a Latino-oriented culture, therefore, are more welcoming and somewhat friendlier, just like at home.

When working with a Mexican group, people are expected to behave by the group’s will. Although this sense of unison and community is not as strong as Asian cultures, they are still really noticeable and worthy of respect. 

If an American works in a Latino environment, they might feel that they have to comply with the group’s rules. There is less autonomy allowed there. The Americans may find that their function is less important than group cooperation.

Americans, on the other hand, value the self. They are expected to work things out by themselves. 

A consequence of individualism is that the group gives little consideration to its members, and there is less solidarity. Businesses in the US are less welcoming, and people come to simply work, not to find a sense of community. 

Americans identify with their community less than Mexicans do. The result of this can be conflicts and dissonance, which can easily be made worse by their confrontational way of communication. If a Mexican works in an American environment, they can easily feel isolated, as well as a lack of community to guide their value, 

5. Bridging the culture gap: how the younger generation is doing

The younger generation is slowly bridging this cultural gap. 

Generation Z – those who hold the key to the future – is slowly changing the world with their open-mindedness and readiness to embrace innovations. This generation is showing a trend to make this world a flatter place, in a cultural sense. 

This doesn’t mean that the uniqueness of each culture will disappear. This means that they will be more willing to change and accept the difference of each other, therefore facilitating a more diversified business environment.

The main key to bridging this cultural difference is to realize and accept it. 

When working with people from Mexico, or America, you should acknowledge their culture, and try to act accordingly. 

For example, if you – an American – are managing a team of Spanish, who are influenced by Latino culture, try to create an environment where they feel comfortable to express themselves. 

Similarly, if you are a Mexican managing a team of US workers, you should accept their high individualism and help them use it to their full potential. 

Keep in mind that this is a just generalization of culture, and you should evaluate the personality of the team members before deciding anything.

At the end of the day, both cultures have their own pros and cons, and effective communication only comes when we all show respect and understanding for each other. This will not only facilitate smooth business operations but also consolidate the connection between the employees, colleagues, and the people of both countries.

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