Regardless of your industry—whether you want to start up business in Mexico, start up manufacturing services in Mexico, or participate in the aerospace industry in Mexico—effective communication with business partners and services providers is a key factor in ensuring the success of your operations. When establishing new business relationships, it’s important to consider not only language, but also cultural differences, which can impede smooth negotiations and cause misunderstandings when not handled properly.

One framework that is helpful when approaching the intercultural communication required when establishing operations in Mexico is that of high and low context cultures. This concept refers to a continuum that measures how explicitly or directly messages are exchanged and the importance placed on context, which includes many non-verbal aspects of communication such as gestures, body language and relationships.

As you can see from the chart below, European and North American cultures are generally more low context cultures, whereas Latin American, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures tend to be high context. In general, Mexico is considered to be a high context culture. Though not as high context as Japanese or Chinese cultures, understanding the unspoken rules of communication in Mexico can help people from more low context cultures, such as the United States or Europe, to ensure that their messages are interpreted in the manner they intended.

Tips for more effective communication in high context cultures:

  • Be patient. Understand that things can take longer than you might expect. This applies to everything from a business lunch (which can sometimes even turn into a dinner) to the pace people walk down the street. In general, high context cultures have a polychronic perception of time, where time is viewed more fluidly than with the monochronic view of low context cultures, where time is divided into precise units and viewed in a more linear manner.
  • Be conscious of your body language. Many times we might not even notice when we cross our arms while sitting in a meeting (which conveys that you are resistant or closed-off) or standing with our hands on our hips during a conversation (which suggests hostility or aggression), but these non-verbal cues are much more important than we might think in intercultural communication, especially when there is also a language barrier and people need to rely more on non-verbal cues in order to interpret your message.
  • Engage in small talk. Before addressing any business issues, always make sure to properly and formally greet (usually with a handshake) everyone in the room and open the conversation by asking people something about themselves, the weather, or how their family is doing. By taking the time to get to know people, over time you build rapport and trust, allowing people to be more receptive to you and your message when the time comes to give it.
  • Don’t make implicit messages explicit. In high context cultures, it is rarely necessary to make implicit messages, that can be understood by context or common sense, explicit. One example of this in the many ways people tend to avoid saying a direct “no” to an invitation or when something is offered. In general, the word “no” is very harsh, even offensive, and there are many ways that this is conveyed without the need to actually say “no.”

As you can see, with high context cultures, such as in Mexico, there is more emphasis placed on unspoken communication, context and relationships. Information is very rarely conveyed in a direct manner, and in fact, being too direct can even be considered rude. This means that everything, including business negotiations, can take longer, as the parties want to take the time to establish rapport, learn about your family and interests, and in general, establish personal ties before doing business.

Traits of low context cultures to keep in mind.

  • In general, people from low context cultures are less skilled at interpreting unspoken messages, as they are used to a more direct style of communication, and can become confused or frustrated when they don’t receive a concrete response to what they view was a clear question.
  • Importance on punctuality and schedules. Though this is of course not always true, people from low context cultures place a higher value on punctuality, and though this is something that varies greatly from organization to organization and place to place, people from a low context culture are more focused on time and keeping to a set schedule than letting things flow naturally, allowing as much time as is needed for a meeting or event.
  • They are “to the point.” People from low context cultures view both time and communication as being more linear and will always tend to want to directly express wants, needs and expectations, and presume others will do the same. They value efficiency and want to always do things in the most organized and practical manner, and can get lost or struggle to understand the roundabout way people from high context cultures tend to communicate.

Despite all the challenges we face in intercultural communication and international business, it is relevant to remember a quote from the film focusing on international business that won the 2020 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, American Factory: “…we are one big planet. A world somewhat divided, but we’re one… we are one!”

By actively working to gain to understand your counterparts, you can successfully bridge the gaps that cause misunderstandings and bring the world together through business, industry and forming and strengthening cultural and economic ties, including establishing your operations or offshore manufacturing in Mexico or somewhere else.

 Information taken from the book The Silent Language by Edward Hall. Source:

Information taken from the book The Silent Language by Edward Hall. Source:

By Isaías Rivera Albarrán, American Industries Mkt & Business Development Manager
Did you find this content interesting? Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive more articles and infographics.


If you would like to find out more about this topic or are interested in receiving a complimentary business case analysis for your operation in Mexico, please fill out this form or contact us at:

US toll-free: +1 (877) 698 3905

CAN toll-free: +1 (844) 422 4922
Please note that we do not accept job applications here. If you are interested in applying for a position, please visit the following link:

Related posts

January 31, 2023
Reshoring to Mexico: Manufacturing Trend for 2023
Reshoring to Mexico: Manufacturing Trend for 2023
A combination of geopolitical factors in recent years, including trade wars, tariffs and supply chain disruptions, have caused companies to analyze their supply chains and sourcing […]
January 25, 2023
Mexico’s Medical Device Industry
4 Reasons Mexico’s Medical Device Industry is Attracting Interest, Investment
The global medical devices industry is projected to reach up to USD 612.7 billion by 2025, which will be a solid 30% increase between 2020 and […]
January 19, 2023
The Easy Way to Become More Competitive in 2023
The Easy Way to Become More Competitive in 2023
On the heels of global supply chain restructuring and changes in international trade in recent years, nearshoring in Mexico has become one of the best options […]
December 8, 2022
Competitive Advantages of Manufacturing in Mexico
Competitive Advantages of Manufacturing in Mexico
With steady growth over the last half-century, manufacturing has long been a pillar of Mexico’s economy. The sector accounts for 18.5% of the country’s GDP, nearly […]
November 29, 2022
Mexico: One of the US’s Top Three Trading Partners
Mexico: One of the US’s Top Three Trading Partners
Mexico and the United States have a long history of social and economic interdependence, ties which are more important today than ever. Recent years have highlighted […]
November 28, 2022
Mexico: An Ally in Redesigning Global Microchip Supply Chains
Mexico: An Ally in Redesigning Global Microchip Supply Chains
Some of the most important lessons learned from the global microchip shortage that affected 169 industries and caused multi-million-dollar losses are that today’s global supply chains […]