Mexican Culture and Traditions - Mexico
In Mexico, culture and tradition are seen as central to life and society. Mexican people are by and large warm and vivacious individuals with an incredible zest for life. Provided that you are respectful of local custom they will welcome you with open arms and show you all the best that Mexico has to offer.
Exchanging proper greetings is considered very important in Mexican cultural circles. Handshakes are viewed as being the standard greeting and before even attempting to ask a question or make a request it is important to shake hands and exchange greetings. You are also expected to address all members of a group individually - greeting a group of people in the collective sense is viewed as being both lazy and rude. Even if your Spanish is incredibly poor, Mexicans will greatly appreciate any effort that you make to speak the language. A quick Buenes dias will go a long way to earn you respect in the eyes of local residents.
In major towns as cities most locals will be able to speak English proficiently and it is only in the more rural areas that you may encounter a few language barriers. When engaging in conversation with locals, keep your English grammatically correct and avoid using colloquial terms and idioms which are viewed as being unnecessary and impolite. Refrain from speaking slowly or in short disjointed sentences. Locals are likely to see this as insulting rather than helpful. It is also considered bad mannered to end a conversation by stating that you soon need to be somewhere else, so avoid this at all costs.
A couple of other communication points to keep in mind: Mexicans are not big on personal space, so don't be surprised if locals stand somewhat closer than usual when engaging in conversation with you. Remember that siesta time falls between 2 and 5 pm every day, so don't schedule meetings or gatherings during this time as you are not likely to get much of a response. Refusing an invitation in Mexico is considered rude, so local residents may agree to meet you and then simply not arrive
Mexican men are naturally flirtatious so if you are a woman traveling alone, expect the odd whistle and teasing comment. Accept compliments for what they are and avoid getting confrontational, as it is likely to get you nowhere. Certain bars are reserved for men only and it is best to avoid going near them at all costs, while in other venues it is viewed as dishonorable for women to be seen without an escort. This may seem antiquated and chauvinistic on the surface but it is important to remember that you are a guest in the country and therefore need to be tolerant of other customs and beliefs. If you are traveling alone or in female company, rather stick to well-known city bars and hotel lounges.
Finally, remember at all times that family and religion are central to Mexico culture, so avoid making derogatory or critical comments about either. Standing with your hands in your pockets is viewed as ill mannered and putting your hands on your hips is confrontational. Using the a-ok signal formed by joining the thumb and index finger is also likely to get you into a lot of trouble - in Mexico this is an incredibly rude sign.
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