What I Learned In Mexico: Business Negotiation

by Joseph · 6 comments

in Business

This is the first of several “What I Learned in Mexico” posts, all of which will have some relation to my study abroad down in Monterrey.  Today I’ll be focusing on doing business in Mexico and more specifically, business negotiation practices.  These business negotiation practices are custom-tailored for doing business in Mexico, but it’s important to note that there are several lessons in the post which can be applied to doing business anywhere in the World!

The Meat & Potatoes

I’ll get right into the good stuff… what I specifically was taught by my instructor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey.  Business negotiation practices are very different wherever you go, even between countries like the U.S. and Mexico.  There are several large differences between negotiation practices in the U.S. and negotiation practices in Mexico.  To make reading easier I’ll go ahead and list the most common negotiation characteristics and practices in a bulleted list (keep in mind these are very generic lists).

U.S. Business Negotiation Characteristics

  • Superiority complexes are common, and as such they feel that everyone should speak their language (English, duh!)
  • Direct and to the point – we do not like to waste time on informalities
  • Quick to make decisions
  • Aggressive and competitive
  • Like to use social events to further business negotiations

Mexican Business Negotiation Characteristics

  • Don’t always speak English and feel that if we want to do business with them we might try learning their language
  • Feel strongly about developing trust and getting to know the other party before starting (and during) business negotiations
  • Do not like to feel pushed or rushed when it comes to making business decisions
  • Very cooperative with business associates when trust has been developed
  • Do not wish to discuss business over social events and will probably be offended if you try

The Point Is?

I’m not going to get into any more details about the differences between U.S. and Mexican business negotiations as that’s not exactly the point of this post.  Rather I’m interested in the idea behind all of these differences and what I think is important to learn and accept if you plan on doing business anywhere outside of your home country (or even state or city).  I think it’s best if we remember the rule, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  Even more appropriate would be to adopt as a general rule, “When you’re Roman doing business in Rome with an Italian, learn Italian negotiation practices.”  Here’s the punch line: Go the extra step to make your business counterparts and associates more comfortable and you will go far in your business negotiations.

It’s not a difficult idea but it is one that a lot of people have difficulties with.  Especially U.S. businessmen.  It may be stereotypical but I do believe that a superiority complex is far too common among our types.  If we are to succeed in the Global market we need to change and adapt.  We need to learn to do business in more ways than just our way.

Do you have any experience with doing business outside of your national market?  I’d love to hear any positive or negative experiences on the matter of global business negotiations.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Grant June 24, 2008 at 11:07 pm

In Italy, I accidentally told an Italian shopkeeper, in Italian, that I didn’t speak English. He got a good laugh out of that.

I definitely think we should place more emphasis on learning foreign languages here in the US. When I was in Mexico, the daughter of the woman I was staying with spoke English so well I didn’t at first think she even spoke Spanish. She was fluent from elementary school. We just don’t take it serious here.

We have a superiority complex because we’ve done so well, but now we aren’t doing so well, so it’s kind of laughable that we’re keeping it up…


Cindy King June 29, 2008 at 8:45 am

Wonderful article, I was very happy to link to it at GIC Sunday Blog Carnival. Remember to vote for yourself!


John W. Furst June 29, 2008 at 9:07 am

Nice article, I guess it’s not only a courtesy to speak Spanish in Mexico, but a necessity. I am living on Spanish territory, which might be similar. Only as little as 18% speak English as 2nd language (lowest % in the European Union [EU]).

For Europe it would make sense to introduce English as mandatory official language in all member countries. I mean this is a long term wish, but someday an initiative should be started. We have 23 official and 150 unofficial language in the EU.

It certainly would help to get more US-Americans to learn foreign languages, but on the otherhand you have already 1 major language that unites you. Something what’s missing in Europe.



Andy September 15, 2009 at 7:11 am

nice article. I studied with the Mexican and US guys in the business school in Germany. All you say about Mexicans is true. But US guys sometimes are also very comfortable to deal with. So do not be mislead that they always behave in the same way.


Lavenia Ritchhart March 16, 2010 at 8:43 am

Hi… For some reason strange things are hapenning with your site layout. The margins look all screwed up. It wasn’t like this Monday. I don’t know if it’s something on my computer or if you’ve made a change… Just thought you might want to look at it.


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