Essay: Cultural Awareness for Mexico

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Cultural Awareness of Mexico

Mexico is the United States' neighbor to its south. However, cultural misunderstandings have existed between the two nations almost since their beginnings as independent nations. The United States' acquisition of Texas and other formerly Mexican territories in the 19th century, coupled with the profound economic disparities in wealth between the nations are two examples of historical conflicts that have existed between Mexico and the U.S. Greater cultural awareness is required of Mexico to fully appreciate the rich heritage of this nation, and to facilitate greater cross-cultural dialogue between the United States and Mexico. In the wake of contemporary conflicts regarding immigration, free trade, and democratic and social reforms within Mexico, Mexican culture must be judged upon its own terms. Although the world is becoming increasingly interconnected on a global level, this has not erased profoundly different understandings of the function of the family, time, and the meaning of life that exist between Mexico's high-context culture and the United States' low-context culture.

Mexico is often characterized as an extremely 'high-context' culture in almost all rankings of cultural orientations. In a high-context society, familial and other close relationships are exceedingly important. How something is said -- and to whom -- is just as important as what is said. "High-context cultures are characterized by extensive information networks among family, friends, associates, and even clients. Their relationships are close and personal…Nothing that happens to them can be described as an isolated event; everything is connected to meaningful context" (O'Hara-Devereaux & Johansen 1994). For example, when doing business in Mexico, it is generally expected that some amount of small talk is required, versus a low-context culture in which 'getting down to business' immediately would be demanded, as is often the case in the United States.

However, Mexican society is also extremely formal, in comparison to the U.S., and while social pleasantries are expected, these should not be overly intimate in nature. Mexican society tends to be extremely conscious of class and formal titles, in contrast to the less formal social networks that characterize the United States. Calling someone by their first name at a Mexican business meeting, for example, would be frowned upon and regarded as extremely rude. "Mexico has extremely polite and courteous mannerisms built-in to its social norms. Politeness, patience and tolerance in situations, however frustrating they may appear, is always appreciated and, indeed, ultimately rewarded in Mexico ("Mexican social etiquette," Mexperience, 2011). Formal dress in business settings is always demanded. Even when going out, casually, except in very specific instances (such as the beach), dressing relatively formally (not in jeans and sneakers) is demanded ("Mexican social etiquette," Mexperience, 2011).

Having tight social networks can be very valuable in a society. For example, caring for the elderly at home and showing them respect is an important part of Mexican life. Even amongst middle-class families, having extended family networks under the same roof is not uncommon. But there is also a negative side to having such a strong emphasis on the family. Nepotism is also more common in Mexican businesses than in the U.S. "Promotions are based on somewhat subjective criteria linked to one's network of relationships" (O'Hara-Devereaux & Johansen 1994). Because of the importance of familial and personal ties in Mexico, corruption is also often more rife in government and in business. In high-context societies, it is not what you know that is as important as who you know, which can foster social stasis. High-context societies, as is true of Mexico, often tend to be more change-resistant and disparities between 'haves' and 'have-nots' can be extremely large.

While the idea of Mexico as manana or 'tomorrow land' is a stereotype with a long and negative history, it is noteworthy that many high-context societies are noted for having an open-ended approach to time constraints. "Americans tend to worship time and manage it as though it were a tangible and scarce resource," while Latin American cultures tend to have a more flexible and imprecise view of time (O'Hara-Devereaux & Johansen 1994). In fact, the Anglo worship of time is so notorious in Mexico that when an exact meeting time is called for, people will say that the arrangement must take place hora Inglesa, or "literally translated" as English time ("Mexican social etiquette," Mexperience, 2011). Parties and social gatherings in Mexico nearly always begin extremely late. Even business meetings can begin twenty minutes later or more and end… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cultural Awareness for Mexico.  (2011, March 27).  Retrieved December 8, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cultural-awareness-mexico/7120553

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"Cultural Awareness for Mexico."  27 March 2011.  Web.  8 December 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cultural-awareness-mexico/7120553>.

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"Cultural Awareness for Mexico."  Essaytown.com.  March 27, 2011.  Accessed December 8, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cultural-awareness-mexico/7120553.