Mexican Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Indirect Communication: Mexicans are generally indirect communicators. They rarely give direct refusals or deliver delicate information in a blunt way. This is considered impolite. Instead, they tend to take a long-winded, roundabout approach to conveying their messages sensitively and tactfully to avoid conflict or confrontation.This involves using gentler, more diplomatic expressions to provide a negative answer in a more sensitive way. For example, they may say they will “see what I can do” instead of giving a straight “no”.
  • Refusals: Mexicans can be quite hesitant to give direct refusals. This can mean that they agree to do something they do not want to (or cannot do) in order to avoid sounding rude. If you ask a question that requires a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, your Mexican counterpart may take some time talking inconclusively before reaching their answer. This is intended to soften the words. Furthermore, if you receive a final answer that is unsettled (e.g. “maybe”, “let’s wait and see” or “let me think about that”), it is a generally a good indicator that they mean “no”.
  • Language Style: When speaking in Spanish, Mexicans use a lot of diminutives to convey their meaning in a softer or more affectionate way. This is usually done by adding ‘ito’ or ‘ita’ to the end of a word. For example, they may refer to their “abuelo” (grandfather) as “abuelito” (meaning ‘grand pappy’), or they may say that a man is “thin on top” (calvito) instead of “bald” (calvo).
  • Slang: It is common to hear Mexicans say ‘Güey’ at the end of a sentence when talking to friends or those of the same status. This is a casual phrase that is the close equivalent of ‘dude’ in English. For example, one might say “Si güey” meaning “Yeah dude”.
  • Formality: There are different forms of expression in Spanish that communicate varying levels of courtesy and formality. The polite form of speech is to address people in the formal form of ‘you' (known as ‘usted’). This should be used when addressing anyone of a higher status out of respect. The informal ‘you' (known as ‘’) is generally used between people who know each other very well and among the youth.
  • Inverted Question Marks: In the Spanish language, questions are written with an inverted (or upside-down) question mark at the beginning of the sentence. For example: ¿Cuántos años tienes? (How old are you?).
  • Groups: In casual social situations, Mexicans may talk over one another and allow their laughter to grow very loud. In these settings, it is generally acceptable to interrupt to be heard and join in with similar enthusiasm.

 

Non-Verbal

  • Physical Contact: Many Mexicans are generally very tactile people. Open displays of affection between couples are common and acceptable. Among friends, people may nudge your arm, elbow or leg to reinforce their points in conversations, put an arm around your shoulder in camaraderie or hold both your shoulders to show deep appreciation. Some people may even casually finger the lapel of another person’s clothing, or neaten their attire for them. All these moments of physical interaction are meant to signify friendly affection and approachability.
  • Personal Space: Mexicans typically stand quite close to each other while talking. Maintaining too great a distance from another person can be seen as unfriendly or standoffish.
  • Eye Contact: Direct eye contact is expected and appreciated. Sometimes Mexicans may hold your gaze for a prolonged period. This is normal and is not meant to imply any particular connotation other than interest and sincerity.
  • Body Language: Mexicans tend to use many hand and arm gestures throughout conversation. People belonging to indigenous groups tend to have a particularly reserved and shy demeanour around foreigners or urban Mexicans.
  • Gestures: Mexicans communicate “yes” by holding their index finger up (as if to point) and then curling it up and down repeatedly and quickly. People may indicate “no” by shaking the hand from side to side with the index finger extended and palm facing outward. People may gesture to ask for you to share something or give a piece (mochate) by making a chopping motion on their forearm.
  • Nodding: Be aware that some people may nod out of respect for what you are saying. It does not always indicate agreement with one’s words.
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