I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?
To open communication with a Mexican is to treat them as a close friend. You talk about their feelings, family personal issues before anything else. Repetition of questions during the conversation is also expected. For example, how are you? Repetition is seen as if you really meant what you asked as opposed of only asking once. You have to show that you care for the personal well being of the person.
The most positive and most acceptable way to get to know someone is to inquire about their family. By showing interest in someone’s children, where their parents are from, and which pueblos they travel to in order to visit, you are showing genuine interest in that person. The interconnectedness of the individual and their family is really a cornerstone of Mexican culture, and even if everything else is going wrong, family is always a source of pride. Asking about where people are from, who still lives there, what food is typical, and what climate they experience there is also key, and expressing interest in visiting is very well received.
These subjects will then open you up to more personal discussions. In fact, Mexicans are often surprisingly open about many things that affect their lives, including their sorrows and failures, but this is where you should start in making a good impression. It is important to remember that while you are asking about people’s roots, this does not extend to racial (i.e. indigenous) background, of which people are often very sensitive for the negative connotations still associated with darker skin. Many foreigners make the mistake of bringing up native traditions, language, art, and family history because it is truly interesting to them, but this background is not always celebrated in Mexican culture when you dig a little deeper into the power structures and wealth distribution. This conversation may cut you off as many people are very defensive about race. When comparisons between your own culture come up, I think it is a great opener to talk about the Latin American community for one, and of course what makes Canada beautiful, but always come back to how much you appreciate the warmth of the Mexicans and what makes Mexico such an ideal place to live.
Be curious about places, history, and what people voluntarily share about politics, be an active listener. Also try to remember that sarcasm is non-existent, and that this form of humour can be misconstrued as negativity or offensive, but that Mexicans LOVE a good joke or funny story, especially at your own expense or at that of Argentineans!
What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?
Personal space is usually closer than it is for Canadians: about an arm distance. It is expected for females to shake hands and kiss on one cheek, particularly in a social setting. In a social setting usually a hug, kiss and shaking hands are common. Two men will not kiss each other, just a hug and shake of hands. You can touch someone while talking to them particularly if you are familiar to them or you are friends. A casual touch on the shoulder or arm is usually considered a sign of affection and not sexual harassment. Males with females should be a bit careful with this though. Better not to touch unless you are sure this is ok to do. A good measure for this is if the other person touches you, then it is ok to touch.
For business it is best to carefully observe each person’s degree of comfort. At least shaking hands will be expected in any context.
Eye contact and a smile are important. A low voice could be considered sign of a lack of interest or boredom. Loud to medium strong voice is better received. Mexicans are not direct; particularly if they want to ask or complain about something, or if talking about themselves, their family, or work. Directness is ok when it is a compliment.
Latino Mexicans do fall into the Latin American stereotype of much kissing, touching, close proximity, and generally warm body language when communicating with others. In introductions, for example, two women or a man and a woman will kiss once, right cheek to right cheek, while shaking hands or some other light contact, which two men will shake hands more formally. There are, however, a few important rules and subtleties to consider, which might really represent a reassessment or what we mean by "Latin American body language".
Touching in conversation is welcomed, as is a half-hug while walking down the street in conversation, but this is true only after establishing a relationship with someone. You will notice that strangers do maintain the personal space and distance we might consider normal in Canada. I don’t find hand gestures as much the norm as you might see in Spain, Greece, or even in French-speaking Canada for example, and while facial expressions are used to communicate, they tend to be more guarded not as nearly direct in their message as we know them to be.
Women tend to make very little, or sporadic, eye contact in general, and make you think they are not listening. This dynamic changes as you become better acquainted of course, but the general rule is to not push the level of eye contact so it becomes a power struggle. As a woman, you will notice that men will often try to make as much eye contact as possible. Especially if you do not know them, your responding to this level of eye contact will most certainly be misconstrued as flirting. I emphasize this because men in the street sometimes try to engage you in eye contact to make a virtual conquest.
In general, I think as a foreigner you have to acknowledge that your verbal and body language tends to be more direct and less guarded in its message, which can be seen as aggressive, especially coming from a foreigner. Despite this wonderfully personal and warm environment and acknowledgment of people in passing greetings, sitting down to eat, entering a room, etc, there are subtle levels of contact for your interactions that will easily become second nature with time.
Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
Very common. Mexicans are known for their passion and are usually pretty open about their emotions. Anger, happiness etc. are openly and loudly displayed.
Yes and yes. One interesting observation is that because young people tend to live with their families until they finish school, get married, or simply stay under their parent’s roof, they have very little privacy and it is often impossible to find a park bench or bus free of smooching couples. Indeed, most couples of all ages cuddle and kiss as they walk down the street. You might not feel comfortable being this public yourself for the connotations associated with it, as the reverse stereotyping of liberal, "loose" foreigners in Mexico for sexual tourism is still prevalent. Displays of anger are often facilitated by alcohol and fights are not uncommon when people have been drinking. In an urban setting, these will be quickly settled via the omnipresent "preventative police" so you would rarely feel like your personally safety is at risk. Certainly, dramas between lovers or friends can be seen in public as well, which you will become part of as you become integrated into society.
What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?
Mexicans usually dress more formally than Canadians for work. Blue jeans and sandals are not acceptable. Better to go more formal the first day and ask how other people are dressed before choosing a style. Hard to go wrong by being dressed formally. People are judged a lot by their looks: the clean, elegant, and formal looks are always well accepted; the opposite is not. Women are usually expected to wear pantyhose and high heels, even in hot weather; particularly if working at an office or school. Women wear makeup and have their hair done. A woman who shows up at work with no makeup will for sure not make a good impression. Make-up is usually heavier than in Canada.
Supervisors should be addressed formally (usted) and by their last name. As a Canadian or foreigner, it is advisable to be punctual, respect deadlines and not to be absent. The same should not, however, be expected of Mexican colleagues. The client, supervisor, colleague etc. might not be punctual or respect deadlines and might be absent often. Canadians should always keep this in mind and give themselves plenty of time for this to happen. It is advisable to set up deadlines a week before the "real" deadline. Always to have a back up: family and friends for most, if not all Mexicans, are more important than any work related issue. If there is a death in the family or someone is sick, they will go with their family instead of attending a meeting or working on a deadline.
It is important to train yourself in the use of "usted" (rather than "tú") to show respect and to address those you do not know well. You should address people with their title (Licenciado/a, Arquitecto, Ingenero, Maestro/a, Doctor/a, Señora) with the first last name of the two last names, and even once you get to know them well, your superiors might always want to be addressed in this formal manner. You should continue to use these formalities until you have the "just call me Jorge" conversation. Your dress at work will of course depend on your environment, but business, government, or similar office environments call for relatively conservative dress for both men and women. Women might arrive and wonder why I am suggesting conservatism when some of their neighbours are sporting what Canadians would consider sexy ware, but as a foreign woman you might feel more comfortable and command more respect by dressing more conservatively.
Productivity is certainly taken note of, but a lack of is less often the direct reason for dismissal in Mexico. Organizations often prefer to move un-productive people around to positions where this is not as important—but efficiency and effectiveness is celebrated and appreciated. I have noticed that absenteeism is not frowned upon if it is due to family issues or responsibilities. The Mexican mañana mañana approach to life does not apply to deadlines, and while meetings might start 10 minutes late, much later than that is not the norm. It is considered rude, however, to show up for social engagements on time and or to make the other person feel badly for keeping your waiting, so take your time!
What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?
First and most all, one of the most highly regarded qualities is how well known and established is this person by the local community (office and locally). In the event that the manager is not known locally, being recommended and "taken under the wing" by an influential local is a way of getting around this. Otherwise a non-local could expect little respect and effectiveness by his/her staff until he is known.
Another influential quality would be how publicly recognized has been that person in whatever his/her field. This is related to how known the person is. His experience and achievements would be far more important than his academic qualifications. At times an academic degree would add "value" to the person, but this would be diminished if this person is not known in the community. Leadership and being personable are two factors for success as well. A combination of the two would be highly regarded. A very personable superior with no leadership would be seen as weak and can be highly susceptible to being betrayed or not taken seriously. A leader who’s not personable will have less chance of people working hard for him.
Strong leadership which offers a firm hand in directing initiatives is highly valued in the sense that people often feel more comfortable being given a lot of support and direction in addressing their responsibilities. At the same time, enacting real changes is often a slow process, and someone, especially an outsider, coming in and trying to make rash changes all at once could experience a real backlash. I would estimate that educational background is as valued, if not more so, than professional experience, and this is consistently reinforced in the use of formal professional titles from every level of higher education to address someone (i.e. Arquitecto Roberto, Licenciada Cariño, Maestra Gómez). Personable managers are very much appreciated—personal relationships are important at every level of society—but again this idea of maintaining the professional hierarchy is important. You are most likely never going to know what your staff thinks of you, but your best bet to present yourself as open for direct discussion with them, or even better, open up group forums for discussion where they may feel more comfortable and empowered among peers to express their views on select topics.
The most helpful response I can offer for this question is a description of my personal experience in a role change from a relatively independent researcher to a position of substantial administrative responsibility. My boss first spent a half-hour explaining to me the importance of forming close personal ties with all the support staff so that when I was directing their work they would not only respect me, but trust that I was not edging them out of the picture. I had luckily already formed these relationships and while the dynamic of our relationship has changed, these relationships have served me well to establish a healthy work environment. What is interesting is that the dynamic of these relationships would inevitably change in the vertical, hierarchal framework so common in the Mexican workplace. What is more interesting is that my staff asked me to ensure this vertical partition: I was asked to "set the tone" of the workplace, that I show who was boss, keep them in line, and keep them busy with lists of daily tasks. When I countered with the idea that we were working as a team towards the same goals, and that I would prefer our focus to be on taking initiative, it was argued that I would never gain respect or get anything done with that outlook. They were right in some respects, and I have had to find a fine balance between maintaining our solid personal relationships and fulfilling my leadership responsibilities.
In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?
Decisions are made by the most powerful person in the hierarchy. For example, the owner of the business would be the one with the most power, then the immediate lower after that etc. It is acceptable and highly recommended to go to your immediate supervisor for answers, however most likely, the supervisor will consult his/her boss before making any decisions. It is important not to skip over an immediate supervisor, even it he/she will not be making the decisions. Skipping power would be seen as a betrayal.
Ideas are not really expected unless it is a managerial position. It is not well seen at all to provide ideas unless asked formally. An informal request for ideas should not be taken as a serious request. It is best to answer and give ideas in general terms and vaguely rather than direct and being specific. Referring to what other businesses are doing or what you would like to suggest for that company has better chances to be accepted that saying " I believe we should do this here". Always keep in mind that it will be the boss making the decisions and it is his/her role to make them. While giving ideas (only if asked for them repeatedly and formally), be humble and give them as suggestions.
One frustration you may encounter is trying to identify the decision maker, especially in terms of tough decisions that no one seems to want to take responsibility for. The up side of this is that if you offer to take the reigns on the decision in a diplomatic fashion (i.e. looking both ways twice before crossing the street), it is often appreciated. Generally ideas and decisions come from as far up the chain of commands as possible. There is a movement towards getting employee feedback and gathering ideas from below, but the mechanisms for acting on these suggestions are rarely in place. This might be somewhere where you could successfully have a lot of influence if you believed strongly in creating a more diplomatic system within your institution, because people are definitely going in that direction. It is acceptable to go to your supervisor looking for answers and feedback, and it is helpful if you have a very amicable relationship established so you are less likely to be sent elsewhere.
Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?
This is a very complex issue in Mexican culture. It is a matriarchal society where the "Mother" is the most respected figure in society. At the same time it is still pretty much male-dominated. Women nowadays do have influential positions, but their earning power will be lower than men. Women are still seen as sexual objects and the ones who should be in charge of household duties - even if they hold a full time position.
Mostly Catholic. Very important part of most people’s lives. Particularly for lower class and less educated. Religious holidays will be respected at work.
Mexican society is highly "classist" and elitist. The way you are seen by others and the position you hold in society will depend on the class you belong. People will treat you according to your class. Opportunities and education will depend on class. Class is usually determined by the amount of money you have: the more money you have, the "better" class you belong too. It is not impossible to climb to a higher class (e.g. winning the lottery) but still there will be several cultural issues that will make the climbing hard. A person can suddenly have money but if they did not have the adequate education (because they did not have the money) then it will be hard to get a job.
Highly influential as well in the way you are seen and treated. If you belong to an acceptable ethnic group you are treated with respect; if you don’t you are discriminated against.
The discriminated ethnic person would have to struggle twice as hard to be accepted as the one whose ethnicity is accepted. Then attitudes in the workplace have an important impact.
Traditional roles of women as home-keepers and men as breadwinners are still prevalent, but for the most part both parties have to work in some form to support the household. Certainly machismo remains the prevalent form of displaying manhood, and a sort of respondent culture among women has evolved that tends to be submissive—but the dynamic is more complex than that as many women are now in powerful positions but still struggling to be heard at home, or vice versa.
As a woman boss, you certainly might feel very subtle resentment from your male colleagues and employees, especially when you flex your muscles on something they are not in agreement with. This resentment is, however, subtle and you can choose to ignore it. Lack of respect from men might come in such restrained forms as not being looked at when addressing a group, which includes men. Sexual harassment of course is always an issue, but I find that in the workplace people are highly respectful and again, you might instead be subtlety pursued, which you can also ignore.
The majority of the country is Christian, most often Catholic, and religion remains central to many things in Mexican society, whether directly connected with the church or not. People will often ask you what religion you pertain to and show curiosity about your background and upbringing. While some might draw conclusions based on your answer, I think this is less true for foreigners. Generally it is not something I think about too often and rarely feel judged by. If you are not overbearing in terms of your religious beliefs, no matter what they may be, you should have no trouble at the workplace in terms of being judged.
Class-ism in Mexico is still strong—the cycle between wealthy upbringing and wealth has been facilitated for hundreds of years, and the wage gap continues to grow. Sometimes things are considered "lower class activities", like shopping in the market, while the number of personal chauffeurs and live-in maids are thought of as a barometer for the upper class. At the same time, there is growing awareness and anger surrounding class-ism and this is an interesting time to be in Mexico for this reason. Still, attitudes are slow to change.
The subtleties of race in Mexico are tightly woven into class-ism. The rich and powerful in this country have historically been whiter-skinned, while indigenous people have long been oppressed. The idea of the rich, white Mexican is almost as strong as the stereotype of the rich, white foreigner. Stereotypes regarding non-Caucasian foreigners are not as prevalent, however, regardless of where you come from.
In terms of ethnicity, social standing or race can affect the respect one commands in the workplace.
How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?
It is crucial to establish a personal relationship "atmosphere" with a colleague or client before getting to business. That is, you don’t necessarily have to be long time friends before doing business, but you have to behave as if you were. Mexicans need to create an atmosphere of trust and care before making any business deals. A nice meal or a get together with the client and perhaps even the client’s family could do. Bringing a gift, flowers, etc. are great as well. Asking about the client’s personal life, such as: How is you family? How is your son’s schooling going? You can also try to find any topics that you share in common with them about their personal life. For example, if the client has kids talk about parent-kids relationships and issues. If she is single, talk about singles’ life. Just as if they were your friends, you need to be very friendly; and to treat them if you go out. Never let them pay.
Establishing a relationship on a personal level is ideal in developing any kind of healthy working relationship, even if it is only a brief encounter to inquire about the person’s family, as described above, and to provide a better understanding of you motivation for working in the country. As explained below, much decision-making is based not only on what is most logical, economically or logistically, but on a sense of loyalty and personal connections.
Invite colleagues out for coffee or lunch, or reciprocate their offers for the same. During this time, show your interest in the other things that are important to them, as described above. When the conversation does move to work-related topics, start by describing your connections with people that trusted and respected by your colleague or client. This is a universal strategy, but especially effective in Mexico and works in much the same way as a personal reference would facilitate your trust in a new colleague. Small tokens, such as baking a dish from home, are appreciated in a big way.
Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship
Preferred treatment, pay increase, hiring of his/her friends or family, etc may be expected. Work and friendship are intimately related. Friendship is valued very highly, you do almost anything for a friend, including helping him/her at work.
There is an expectation of personal favours extended in professional matters, like putting in a good word for a family member, considering the hire of a friend’s company over another, etc. Most of these favours can be avoided easily by explaining that it is out of your hands, or your boss would find out, or not approve. However, it is also very common for people to ask to borrow money if they know you have it. This something that is much harder to talk your way out of as people often ask the cost of things you have bought, how much money your make. It is acceptable to lie, but you are expected to answer these questions and most often information regarding salaries is public knowledge anyhow. There are some times when you will want to lend the money, when, if you refuse, it would be truly thought of as a personal blow. In other words, along with friendship at times comes the expectation of lending both emotional and financial support, and if you are working together and they are aware of your financial situation, it makes it harder to turn people down.
I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?
A work-related problem should be confronted directly and privately, as if the person were a friend. When a colleague is having problems with you, it is very unlikely he/she will confront you directly. Most likely you would notice.
The norm is often to go to a supervisor to deal with work-related problems, and this is also how you might find out if a colleague has a problem with you. Dealing with it on a tactful, private level would certainly be appreciated; however, if that does not work, take it to a public level. I find it perhaps easier as a foreigner to deal with these issues one on one, where I am allowed more leeway in naivety in terms of the order of things. I can explain my problem, stating that perhaps I still have my Canadian expectations in tow but regardless, this is bothering me and we should discuss it. I thus have a non-confrontational opportunity to address my issues.
What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?
Money, job satisfaction (based on how flexible their job is; the more flexible the better), how much they like the people they work with and for, and public job recognition. This last one very important.
Your colleagues are most often motivated by a sense of loyalty to the organization and its people, and a sense of obligation. There is not the same kind of financial incentives that are common in Canada: bonuses are often unrelated to performance and there may be little room for promotion if there are others with stronger educational backgrounds in the running. People often discuss the amount of time they have worked somewhere in terms of their loyalty to their boss, their relationships with co-workers, and how lucky they are to have some sense of job security. They also value flexibility in hours to be able to have lunch with their family or leave early to pick up their children, which makes working efficiently more important and more worthwhile.
To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.
Books: Laberinto de la Soledad, Octavio Paz—one of the best social and psychological analysis of Mexicans.
Music: Luis Miguel Pop-singer, great music, traditional mariachi and pop.
Traditional dishes: Chicken with Mole (chocolate and chile sauce); Chiles en Nogada (Green Chile Peppers stuffed with meat with a nougat and cream sauce on top).
Useful internet links: www.canadamexico.com; www.mexico.com; www.fiestaamericana.com; www.xelha.com.mx; www.yahoo.com.mx; and www.sare.com.mx.
Films: El Norte: while a Guatemalan story, it remains one of the best portrayals of the hardships and drama encountered in the search for a better life crossing the border to the US. This is one of the most relevant issues that will come up time and again, especially as a foreigner as people want to share their stories with you. De la Calle: Brilliant portrayal of street life in Mexico City. Amor te Duele: (recent) While it is a film for teenagers, it is entertaining and deals with the class-ism and racism issues mentioned above with great honesty. Y tu Mama También: very fun, and while it has little to do with Mexican culture per say, it can help attune your ear to the local colloquialisms.
Music: The Norteña and Cumbia genres: learn to love them, they are everywhere! Also, Elefante is one of Mexico’s most popular bands, with young and old. I was easily converted and now it is my favourite group as well.
Books to read: Historia mínima de México: learn your history! Anything by Carlos Fuentes or Octavio Paz and Edward Weston’s Day Books: wonderful insight into daily life in Mexico from the Gringo perspective.
When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?
This will all depend on where in Mexico you would be visiting. Mexico is very rich culturally . The best way to learn more about the culture is to socialize with the locals. Locals are the best to advice on restaurants, books, films, and places to visit. Do look for newspapers targeted to locals and not to visitors.
Food to eat: Everything and everything. Let go of your bread or potato staple and enjoy working with maza and tortillas. Go to the market and try new fruits. Eat mole and guacamole to excess. Try street food and better restaurants alike if you can, and then replicate at home.
Start by doing as much as you can outside of work right away. Your local cultural centre will have a list of dance and music events, and you have a great way to invite your new workmates out for an evening. In truth, other ex-pats are often the best sources of information on cultural events as they too are trying to pack in the most out of their experience. Wednesday is 2 for 1 movie night—there are a cascade of new Mexican films to see, some giving insight into the culture and most acting as a very refreshing change from Hollywood. Attend a local or national league football match, or hit the bars during the world cup for a great group hug experience when Mexico is winning! Hit a salsa bar—foreigners often receive more offers for lessons, so take advantage. Read the newspapers to get informed on current events, like La Reforma or La Universal, often more objective then local televised news or CNNs US bias. Also put down your Lonely Planet and travel to the pueblos outside of your city on the weekend, and perhaps consider joining a volunteer organization for the opportunity to work in your spare time in more rural or isolated areas, or the urban slums you would be hesitant to visit otherwise. These shantytowns, indigenous villages, or rural gems are just part of the diversity of Mexico that might be just a half hour from where you are working.
Your cultural interpreters are potentially everyone you meet—Mexicans are warm, generous people and when an offer is extended to visit someone’s pueblo, be a guest at a wedding, or to take you to a cultural event, they are most often very genuine! Take them up on their offers as often as possible and as you feel comfortable doing.
You may notice a trend in those who become your greatest cultural interpreters, your friends, are often outsiders themselves to some extent, and you thus share that common bond of foreignness. These people will of enrich your life and reveal new and wonderful aspects of the culture, but be aware that their opinions and goals may be very different then the status quo. I notice, for example, that a majority of my close friends were artists of some kind, activists on a lonely fight for a cause, or from other parts of Latin America. One good illustration of this tendency is the common frustration of anthropologists who come to study a community from the outside, and later find they were approached by "interpreters" that simply did not provide information representative of the cultural norms and practises.
Who are this country's national heroes?
There is a huge list. Most of them are those who have fought for the country’s independence. Benito Juarez was a president of Mexico between 1858-1865 and again between 1867-1872. He is a true example of how a poor country boy can reach high and become the country’s leader fighting for indigenous and the poor, not without controversy. Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa fought for indigenous people’s rights during the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
Historical events that led to the independence of Mexico and the uprising of it’s people against oppression since then are the source of various national heroes. Some examples:
Miguel Higaldo: he fought for independence from Spain in 1810, when he declared independence with the famous "grito" (celebrated on September 15th, a national holiday), and actually won independence in 1820 with the writing of the constitution.
Amilliano Zapata: In 1910 fought to bring power to the people, working alongside Pancho Villa, another national hero who also attempted to invade the US in 1916. This was one of three simultaneous revolutions across the country, all fighting for different but parallel causes.
Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas: the university professor-turned-revolutionary in impoverished Chiapas, fighting for the right of campesinos to earn a decent living through more equitable land distribution. He first gained much recognition for the takeover of San Cristobal de las Casas. A national hero as well but, much like Che, who is especially trendy among bourgeois kids.
Diego Rievera and Frieda Kahlo: the infamous artist couple who put Mexican modern art on the global map. They are celebrated for this, for their communist ideology, which is transmitted in Diego’s murals portraying the oppression and power struggles throughout the country’s history. People identify with the personal pain vividly documented in Frieda’s brilliant work, but more than anything, people seem to identify with what they represented politically and are fascinated with their soap opera lives.
Tamayo: a Oaxacan artist whose indigenous modern art also helped put Mexican art on the map and transmit the beauty and struggles of Oaxaca’s campo.
Vincente Fox: celebrated as the first non-PRI (Partido Revolucionario Insitucional) President in history; it remains to be seen how well he will succeed.
Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?
The NAFTA treaty is supposed to enhance economic and business relations between the two countries. The fact that both Canada and Mexico share US as a neighbour makes Mexican feel close to Canada. Canadians are seen as a friendly country and an ally.
Generally no, other then free trade agreements and migration issues, which are more immediately relevant and negotiated through the United States.
What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?
Some stereotypes that Mexicans have about Canadians is that they could be cold, too bold and direct, and too serious. They may also be considered too structured and naive.
There is this tendency to distrust Mexicans, for they have been stereotyped as dishonest or consistently trying to rip you off. Learning to trust and show confidence will serve you much better in the long run then being overly cautious. This distrust can be easily sensed, can be enormously hurtful, and cause a huge disconnect in relations. You must learn to disguise your "doubtfulness" in a way that plays to the ego but shields you from compromising positions.
Another reason you may learn to distrust once actually in Mexico is the classic Mexican aversion to saying no. There are truly 10 different types of yeses, and so when one of the less firm yeses later translates to nothing, you feel personally injured. Don’t. You will soon learn what a firm yes is and what is not so firm and how to work around this, by exploring what people really mean when they answer you propositions.
The Hollywood portrayal of the "simple" Mexican often influences the foreigner, even on a subconscious level, and you might have to fight to humanize your image of Mexicans and wipe your slate clean of preconceptions. The most common manifestation of these misconceptions is a superiority complex, however subtle. The working environment may not appear to be as efficient, "logical", or effective as you think it should be and coming to terms with the set-up as is and where you fit in is a challenge. Again, you will find an appropriate way of implementing your suggestions, but give it time. Try to listen.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Mexico the oldest of two children. She was raised in Mexico City until the age of 11 and then moved to Guadalajara, the second largest city north of Mexico City. Afterwards, she moved to Toronto, Canada to continue her studies and then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in teaching English as a second language from the University of Guadalajara. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada to do her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Adult Education with specialization in Comparative International Education at the University of Toronto. She is currently living in Grand Bend, Ontario and working at the Canada-Mexico Cultural Exchange Centre that she directs. She has a child and through her work she travels to Mexico and now to France to organize Exchange Programs between the Canada and these two countries.
Your cultural interpreter was born and raised in Montreal with her mother and sister. She studied biochemistry at Queen's University, which first took her abroad at 19 with an exchange program to Scotland. She travelled within Europe and to Morocco in between studying and working in Aberdeen, UK and Grenada, Spain. After graduation she embarked on an internship in international health, working on evidence-based health resources for physicians, nurses, and patients in Ottawa and Mexico. She is continues to work at the National Public Health Institute in Mexico as the "Secretaria Particular" while engaging in community work and other health projects on the side.
Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.
You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.
The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.