A world of exciting adventure, colorful food, action-packed festivities, and stunning landscapes awaits in Mexico. While the country is geographically very close to the United States, the culture tends to be worlds apart in many ways. In order to blend in with the locals and avoid making an embarrassing blunder, it’s best to brush up on the local etiquette before visiting.
Centuries of tradition are still upheld in Mexico, which has been influenced by the customs of a handful of cultures. A land where time moves slowly and the locals are as warm as the shining sun, Mexico should definitely be on your bucket list. Check out these 10 etiquette tips you should know before you go!
GREETING PEOPLE IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT
In Mexico, it’s important to always properly greet the people that you interact with. This means that if you walk in late to dinner, you should greet everyone at the table rather than just doing a communal wave. If you greet everyone separately, you’ll leave a much better impression, according to Frommer’s.
Handshakes are normally common between men, while it is usual for women to kiss each other on the cheek. If you’re unsure, the safest thing to do is offer a handshake. It’s also considered the height of rudeness to reject a handshake.
DON’T BE ON TIME; BE LATE
It’s not so often that you are advised to be late when trying to show manners. But in Mexico, the opposite applies to the general principles of many western cultures in this regard. Lonely Planet explains that it’s actually polite to be at least 30 minutes late when visiting a Mexican home. In fact, arriving up to two hours late is acceptable when attending a party.
Business appointments, weddings, and funerals tend to be stricter, but generally, it’s ruder to be on time than it is to be late.
AVOID USING FIRST NAMES WITH PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW
When meeting someone for the first time in Mexico, it’s always polite to use their title followed by their surname. It’s better not to use their first name unless you know them well or you’re invited to do so. This can sometimes be confusing because Mexicans have two surnames.
Kwintessential explains that the first Mexican surname comes from the father, while the second comes from the mother. When addressing a local, it’s a good idea to use the first surname along with Señor/a, and drop the second surname.
ONLY BARTER WHERE IT’S APPROPRIATE
A lot of tourists are under the impression that all prices in Mexico are up for negotiation. In reality, that’s not true. Hachette Book Group advises that, although there are some locations in the country where it’s appropriate to barter, most vendors will not lower their prices. This is especially true in Mexico City.
You have more chance of successfully bartering in an artisan market, but not at food markets. Keep in mind that many vendors can’t afford to drop their prices significantly anyway. They may offer a slight discount, but it probably won’t be anything major.
REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING MOVES AT A SLOWER PACE
One of the most important things to know about Mexico before you go is that everything moves at a slower pace. If you accept this, you’ll be less likely to get frustrated and lash out when you experience the incredibly relaxed vibe.
In a restaurant at home, you might think a waiter is inattentive if they don’t bring you the bill when you’ve finished eating. In Mexico, this happens all the time because bombarding you with the check would be considered too forceful. Prepare for things like this and try not to be in too much of a hurry!
TRY TO BE FRIENDLY
Mexicans are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. If you really want to fit in and immerse yourself in the local culture, then you should try to be friendly too. Sometimes Mexicans will come into your personal space and affectionately touch you, but this isn’t meant to be an aggressive gesture. They’re just genuinely warm people.
You might find that the Mexicans you meet will open up to you about personal issues in their lives. Responding coldly might be considered rude, so it’s always a good idea to ask questions if the conversation flows that way and show interest in their stories.
LEARN A FEW WORDS IN SPANISH
No matter where you’re traveling, it’s always polite to learn at least a few words in the local language. Expecting locals to speak English in their own country is a little arrogant, even though there’s a good chance to do. Learning a few words and phrases in the local language is just a sign of respect and courtesy.
According to Fodors, if you’re going to speak any Spanish, be sure to use the formal form of you rather than the informal version (usted instead of tu) when talking to strangers or elders. It’s just polite!
TIP THE APPROPRIATE AMOUNT
Tipping is common throughout Mexico, and exactly how much you should tip depends upon where you are in the country. Rough Guides explains that in touristy areas, American-influenced tipping practices tend to prevail. Here, you’d leave at least a 15-20 percent tip. Elsewhere, it’s normal to leave a 10-15 percent tip.
It’s not expected that you tip taxi drivers in Mexico, but it is customary to tip housekeepers and porters at your hotel. You should also tip the bag boys at supermarkets and car parking attendants.
BE RESPECTFUL WHEN YOU ENTER A CHURCH
Mexico is a country with a strong Christian tradition. The churches throughout the country should be treated in the same way as any other religious site. It’s important to always be respectful when entering a place of worship.
This means that clothes should lean toward the modest side. It’s not expected that women cover their heads, but it’s not the best idea to wear overly short clothing. Pay attention to signs that indicate that photography is prohibited. It’s also a good idea to leave sightseeing until church services have concluded.
THERE MAY BE CONSERVATIVE ATTITUDES
While in Mexico, you may come across locals who have more conservative attitudes than what you’re used to. The best way to respond to this is with politeness, even though you might not necessarily agree with their stance.
For example, you might be asked why you don’t have children or when you’re getting married. These questions might seem too personal at home, but the values in Mexico tend to be a little different. Try not to take attitudes and questions like these personally as they’re just a reflection of the culture rather than of you.
Do you live in Mexico? What other Tips or Recommendations do you have.
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