FAQ: Priorities

What is “Mexican time”?

This is one of the most misunderstood cultural differences among foreigners. There are people who think Mexicans are lazy, that they lay around sleeping all day, that they don’t care about time at all. Well nothing could be further from the truth. The concept of “Mexican time” is truly a NOB vision that doesn’t exist, at least in the form that most think it does. Many Mexicans just place a higher importance on other things. And that cartoon image you may have in your head of the Mexican in his sombrero, sleeping under a shade tree, well it only really exists in your head.

Why do I see construction workers sleeping on the job?

Mexicans are hard working people. Don’t let anyone ever suggest otherwise to you. A normal work week consists of six days from Monday to Saturday with each day being 8-12 hours long. You try working in searing heat for that long and see if you don’t need a little rest in the middle of the day. And for this hard labor, many construction workers get paid as little as 200 pesos a day. If they are your workers, remember you are paying per day, not per hour. And they need that rest to stay productive.

Why are stores closed in the middle of the day?

Going back to the previous topic, family is important. And so, many businesses still close for a few hours mid-day to allow everyone to go home and have a meal with their family, and maybe a short siesta before coming back to resume work. To some foreigners this can seem like a real inconvenience, but when you’re used to it, it’s really just another part of being in real Mexico and something that you plan your day around.

I had an appointment to hire a contractor and no one showed. Why?

Priorities my friend. And the fact that it’s not considered rude to be late, even if ‘late’ means tomorrow. Yes we are used to people calling if they are even a few minutes late but that’s not normal here. You’re in a different culture now and you can’t expect everyone to bow to your wishes. That…. would be rude.

I showed up on time to a fiesta and there was no one there. Why?

The classic ‘Mexican time’ is always a little bit late. In fact it’s not only normal, it’s considered rude to show up at exactly the stated start time for an event. So if you’re planning a dinner for your Mexican friends, be sure it’s something that can be kept on the warming plate for some time without being ruined and if you are going to a fiesta, don’t sweat it if you get there a half hour to an hour past the start time.

How should I greet Mexicans?

There are many variations on this but basically some form of greeting is always going to take place and it can be formal, informal, short or long. For men meeting for the first or any time, a handshake is offered. A man meeting a woman for the first time should wait for her to extend her hand first. Once you are more established you may give a hug and/or a kiss on the cheek(s) and some of the younger close friends may introduce you to the ‘Mexican handshake’. You’ll know it when you see it. Watch what others do, but be cautious about the level of relationship because not all greetings are appropriate for all meetings and respect is an integral part of the culture. Also know that you should still shake hands with each meeting even if you’ve known this person for some time.

Order of business?

Further to the greetings, you should know that it is appropriate to always take time to ask about family or at least how the individual has been, before moving on to the business at hand. Many NOBs are conditioned to ‘get down to business’ immediately but this is considered quite rude. Take a few moments to ask about a person’s health and well being before jumping into the main purpose of your meeting and you will be much more respected.

Should I show up for my appointments on time?

Generally speaking, if you have a professional appointment such as with a doctor, show up on time. But don’t be surprised if you are waiting a while. Be aware that often appointments for medical tests are given to everyone at the same time. So 10 patients may show up at 8:00 am for their blood tests and all will take a number and sit down and wait their turn. This is normal and expected. But if you think you’re going to outsmart them and show up at 10:00 am, don’t be surprised if there are no more numbers to be had.