A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
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When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do!
Take it easy ("tomalo con calma") and go with the flow ("dejate llevar"); be friendly ("se amistoso") and show respect ("muestra respeto") − some basic rules to live by when traveling in Mexico. Of course, some cultural norms and social customs worth observing require explanation, so you don't accidentally say or do something that raises eyebrows while on your Mexico vacation.
Within its own borders, Mexico is very diverse. When Spain invaded the country in 1521, it governed the land's native Indians (Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, Mayans, and others), Spanish settlers, and mestizos (Indian & Spanish mix) for 300 years. After Mexico's independence in 1821, other foreigners settled in Mexico too, adding to the country's multicultural diversity.
As you can imagine, Mexico's cultural norms vary from state to state and sometimes even within the same region. Keeping these 10 standard cultural norms in mind while traveling to Mexico may just prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth.
1. Slow down! Take the fast pace down a few notches. Mexico moves at a more leisurely stride.
2. Proper greetings are essential in Mexico, which involve an initial exchange of pleasantries with everyone and a general inquiry about each other. Anything less is considered rude and impolite.
3. When first meeting, two Mexican men typically shake hands. When two women or a man and woman meet, they kiss each other once on the cheek. As men and women become more familiar with each other, they greet with a gentle hug, a pat on the back, and then shake hands.
4. Interpersonal conflict and confrontation are discouraged. Conversations begin politely although informally and gradually ease into the topic. Mexicans tend to be agreeable and pleasant, and expect similar responses.
5. Indirect speech is the style of communication in Mexico. Mexicans rarely make straightforward statements about a topic, speaking instead rhetorically and elaborately in generalities. Speaking itself is an art, so enjoy the conversation! After all, it is one of the Romance languages and is music to the ears.
6. Positive social and professional relationships are what matter in Mexico. Mexicans are social people who value interpersonal fellowship more than goal-oriented exchanges. The better your relationships are with Mexicans, the more you'll receive.
7. Traditionally, Mexican men and women are raised with distinct social rules that prepare them for gender roles as adults. Men are expected to exemplify masculinity and dominance, while women are expected to embody femininity and submission. Observing these gender role expectations while traveling may enhance your interactions.
8. Mexico is a patriarchal society where the family - commonly an extended family - takes center stage. The traditional male role is the boss and the traditional female role is the caregiver and model of morality and religion. Each member has a duty to help each other. Interdependence, rather than independence, is expected; respecting this difference will encourage cooperation.
9. Religion, primarily Catholicism, is the nucleus of Mexican families and society. Catholic beliefs, traditions, and ceremonies permeate daily Mexican life, since the Catholic Church has been a powerful influence since Spanish rule. Acknowledging these values will earn you their respect.
10. Mexico operates as a hierarchical system where government, business, and society are highly stratified. As an authoritarian society, a person's rank and position determine roles of leadership and service. Inquire who's in charge of a specific issue before addressing it, otherwise breaking the chain of command could create problems for both you and them.
Recognizing these basic cultural norms may improve your experiences while traveling in Mexico. The most important thing to remember is all people are different, and when traveling to a foreign country, adapting to their culture will serve you well. Mexicans are spirited, friendly, hard-working people who, when given respect, will bend over backwards to please you.
About the Author
Christina Famiglietti is a professional writer and editor with experience in various industries. Her most recent passion is the Mexican Caribbean, where she lives and is inspired to write about her beloved Mexico — its nature, culture, travel, and tourism.
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Great article!!!! Just do as the Mexicans do and enjoy their culture!!!They’re wonderful and very friendly!!!
Thanks for your comments, Dianne! We’re glad to hear you appreciate the cultural differences too. Mexico IS a delightful place with delightful people. Hope to see you in Mexico soon. =)