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The Key That Guarantees First-Rate Relationships With Mexican Associates

Aug 17, 2007
Formalities are an important part of doing business in Mexico. Unlike the U.S. where people often start addressing each other by the first name, Mexicans adhere to a more formal manner of addressing each other. For initial greetings, you should use the person's last name preceded by Seņor for men or Seņorita for women. Do not address a woman as Seņora. Using Seņora assumes the woman is married, and assumptions can be dangerous. If the woman is married or elderly, she will be flattered you addressed her as Seņorita.

Professional titles are very important in Mexico. Two of the most common titles are Ingeniero for engineers and computer programmers and Licenciado for attorneys. Licenciado is also accorded to any professional who has a college degree. Licenciado is for men while Licenciada is for women. Lic. is the abbreviation for Licenciado/a and Ing. for Ingeniero/a.

Learn the person's title as soon as possible and start using it. If the person you are talking with is a Licenciado, instead of having to say Lic. Perez each time you want to address the person, you can simply say Licenciado. The use of the title by itself is perfectly acceptable. We often use titles when speaking to certain people such as "Officer", "Counselor" and "Doctor".

Your Mexican host will probably refer to you as Licenciado. In its own way, a title lets you know how the other person views you. If you are doing business, whether by phone or in person, most Mexican professionals will assume you are a Licenciado meaning you have a college degree. If you are introduced or addressed as such, just accept it and realize they will be calling you Licenciado during your conversation.

Understanding titles is critical because you will use them in all of your communications. A few years ago, I was at one of the largest industry trade shows in the U.S., the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). I met the National Sales Director for a large U.S. manufacturer, Dunlee. This company sends products to Canada and Mexico so I would expect a director to know the fundamentals of Mexico's cultural etiquette.

The Director had arranged for a follow up letter to be sent to me. Since I was representing companies from Mexico, the Director may have made a note that the letter should be addressed to a Mexican professional. Imagine my surprise when I received the letter from this international company addressed to Mr. Lic. Villasana. What does this tell me about the company? Someone in that organization has no clue as to how titles work in Mexico. If I were a Mexican business person receiving this message, I would know the company had taken no interest in knowing the absolute fundamentals of how to address me. It means whoever addressed the letter, the Director or a subordinate, did not understand that "Lic." is not an abbreviation for a name.

I told this story to a couple of Mexican professionals. One simply could not believe U.S. businesses could make such a mistake. After the other professional stopped laughing, his comment was similar to, "That's terrible!" The professionals both agreed this disregard or ignorance with titles showed, at the very least, a careless attitude toward doing business with Mexican companies. I tell you this story to better represent the significant need to understand how fundamental titles are in your communications.
About the Author
The author, Richard Villasana, has provided international market consulting to companies such as Cisco Systems, AT&T Wireless & Micron Technologies. A leading expert, he is available to work with your company. Contact him at Mexico Phone Books.
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