Are you planning a Mexican vacation? These etiquette tips, manners, and customs will assist you as you navigate the Mexican culture.
Terms of Address
Mexicans are generally polite and formal when interacting with people they do not know well. When speaking to an elder, it is customary to use the formal pronoun usted instead of the informal tú. If you are unsure which pronoun a situation requires, you can always use usted with anyone you’ve just met.
It is also common practice to speak to someone you’ve just met using a polite title, such as señor for a man, señora for a married or older woman, and señorita for a young woman.
When greeting someone in Mexico, it is customary to make physical contact, rather than simply saying “hello.” A handshake is the most common form of greeting between strangers. However, friends will usually greet each other with a single kiss on the cheek. The same physical gestures are repeated when you say goodbye. When greeting a group of people, it is necessary to greet and shake hands with each person individually, rather than address the group together.
If you need to move past someone on a bus or reach over their shoulder at the market, it is customary to say “con permiso” which means “with your permission”. If you accidentally bump into someone or do anything else that warrants a slight apology, say “perdón” which means “sorry”.
When you are sharing a meal, it is customary to wish other diners “buen provecho” before you start eating. Buen provecho is similar to the well-known French expression bon appetit. If you need to leave a meal early, you should excuse yourself and again wish everyone at the table “buen provecho.” Charmingly, many people will also wish other diners in a restaurant “buen provecho” on their way out. As in most countries, when sharing a meal, it is customary to wait for everyone to be served before starting to eat.
When dining out with friends or acquaintances, Mexicans rarely split the bill. Usually, one of the parties will treat the others. If you were the one to invite a friend to a meal, you should also plan to pick up the check. Customarily, whoever you have treated to a meal will treat the next time.
In a restaurant setting, waiters receive a tip of 10-15 percent on the bill. However, foreigners are usually expected to tip on the higher end of the scale. In bars, a 10 percent tip is standard.
According to Mexican custom, tipping chambermaids is optional. However, some guests tip, others do not. Generally, it is less common in budget hotels. The general rule is to tip porters at an airport or hotel several dollars per bag, which amounts to about US$5-10.
Though it is not necessary to tip a taxi driver, especially when traveling within city limits, tips are always welcomed. At gas stations, a small tip of about 5 percent of the sale is customary for gas station attendants. Keep in mind that all gas stations in Mexico are full service.
Negotiations and Agreements
When shopping, it is not common practice to bargain or ask for lower prices on goods in shops and stores in Mexico City. Some vendors may offer a small discount for bulk purchases or for cash payments, but these are offered at the shop owner’s discretion. Don’t expect employees at a brick-and-mortar store to bargain on prices.
In an artisan or craft market, such as the Mercado de la Ciudadela or the Bazaar Sábado in San Ángel, or at an antiques market like La Lagunilla or the Saturday market on Avenida Cuauhétmoc, prices for goods may be more flexible. It is customary to ask the vendor for the price of the item (they are rarely marked with price tags), and the vendor may then offer you a lower price as you think it over. This is particularly true for large purchases. In general, these discounts are not significant and aggressive haggling is not common, nor is it particularly fruitful. If you do wish to bargain on a price, do so politely.
Do not bargain at food markets, even if you are buying a substantial quantity. Usually, the prices at food markets are set low, and few vendors can afford to drop their prices any further.
Mexico has a well-earned reputation for running on a slower clock. Certainly, there is less urgency in Mexico, and it is not considered excessively rude to arrive late to a social engagement. In fact, guests are usually expected to be about a half hour or so late for a party at a friend’s home. However, when it comes to doctor’s appointments, business meetings, bus schedules, or any other official event, punctuality is just as important in Mexico as it is anywhere else.
When it comes to social engagements, Mexicans will typically accept an invitation rather than decline, even if they don’t plan to attend. Some Mexicans feel more self-conscious refusing an invitation than not showing up later.
Smoking tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, is prohibited in restaurants and bars throughout Mexico City. Though many people still smoke, they are required by law to smoke outside. These locations include patios, sidewalk seating, and open-air terraces located inside restaurants.
Mexicans are not particularly concerned with how visitors dress, but you will probably feel more comfortable if you conform to some basic standards. In Mexico City almost no one ever wears shorts, primarily because of the cool year-round climate. It also demonstrates that capitaleños tend to be more formal in dress than Mexicans in other cities, especially those on the coast.
Additionally, upon entering a church or chapel in Mexico, visitors are expected to remove their hats.