Bridging Cultural Differences When Manufacturing in Mexico


Part of why Mexico’s manufacturing industry has grown so much in recent decades is because of the shelter program. Shelter companies help foreign manufacturers in several ways: they protect the company from legal risks and liability when manufacturing in Mexico, provide administrative support, and offer business consulting and advice.

They also assist companies in navigating the cultural differences between the US and Mexico. Although these differences are not as extreme compared to the differences between the US and China, for example, it’s still important to be aware of them so your operations in Mexico can be more successful.

Here are some common cultural differences our clients encounter when they start manufacturing in Mexico:

Business Culture

Mexican business culture places a strong emphasis on personal relationships. It’s not uncommon for an executive to invite a client to his home for dinner, or even invite them to stay for a weekend. Partners and clients tend to get to know each other’s families well. These relaxed settings provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship and discuss business in an informal manner.

Non-Verbal Communication and Body Language

There are many small but important things to know about communication. In Mexico, for example, it’s considered impolite to stand with your hands in your pockets. Putting your hands on your hips is seen as aggressive. Mexicans also tend to be comfortable with less personal space than their US counterparts, and greetings in the workplace are more likely to include a hug than just a handshake.

Modes of Dress

Especially in business settings, Mexicans tend to dress conservatively. Expect to wear suits in any formal setting.

Social Organization

In Mexico, everything centers around the family, and that extends beyond the nuclear family to include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and in-laws. It’s much more common for multiple generations or members of the extended family to live together in one home.

Cultural Context

Mexican culture is highly contextual. In other words, when you’re having a conversation, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. US manufacturers need to pay attention to their tone and how they deliver a message and listen well for non-verbal cues from their Mexican counterparts and employees.

These are general, widely seen cultural differences, but when manufacturing in Mexico, your experience may vary depending on where you set up operations in the country, your industry, workforce, and more. Working with an experienced shelter company means having a constant guide to help you understand and navigate the cultural divide.

Learn more about how shelter companies help US and other foreign businesses succeed in Mexico—contact us for a consultation today.

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