Use of business titles in Mexico – Doing Business in Mexico

3 11 2006

The use of business titles in Mexican business life is important.

Most people with professional degrees are addressed using their professional title. This is especially true in written communication. Failure to do so can be seen as lack of education and offensive.

Until you get to know a person, always use the professional title or full name, never address them by their first name until it is clear that they are comfortable with this.

You can ask how they wish to be addressed if unsure. It’s better to make a mistake on the side of formality.

Some titles are general, and when in doubt regarding the professional title, you should use these:

  • Joven – refers to any young man from birth to adolescent.
  • Señor (Sr.) – refers to any male older than an adolescent.
  • Don – a term of great respect used to recognize older males.
  • Señorita (Srta.) – refers to any unmarried female. Once a woman is above a certain age, she is referred to as Señora, even if unmarried.
  • Señora (Sra.) – refers to any married or widowed woman.
  • Doña – a term of great respect used to recognize older females.

Professional titles

  • Doctor (Dr.) masculine, or Doctora (Dra.) feminine – Refers to anyone with a PhD. or Medical Doctors degree.
  • Licenciado (Lic.) masculine, or Licenciada (Lic.) feminine – refers to anyone with a law degree (most common usage) or Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Contador Publico (C.P.) – refers to anyone with a public accounting degree.
  • Ingeniero (Ing.) – refers to someone with an engineering degree.
  • Arquitecto (Arq.) – Refers to anyone with an arquitectural degree.
  • Diputado (Dip.) masculine, or Diputada (Dip.) feminine – refers to a publicly elected official equivalent to Federal, State or Local representative in the USA.

Related Links

Doing Business in Mexico – Cultural Tips

Patience, Chaos and Doing Business in Mexico

How to do business in Mexico

Criticism – how to do business in Mexico

Meeting people in Mexico

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

How to call Mexico from the USA



3 responses

3 11 2006

Pretty much on-target, but with a couple of footnotes:
(1) “Don” is also used to denote rank/class, almost regardless of age, as in dealing with a “patron” — your landlord, for example, might be called “Don Jaime” even if he is only 25;
(2) “Doctor” increasingly is being used as well for lawyers, even though technically many of them have the equivalent of a masters in law rather than a juris doctorate (JD) — it is usually safer to err on the side of confering too much respect with title than not enough, since the other person will be flattered, and at worse will politely demur and tell you that they do not deserve the rank of “Doctor”;
(3) many people call themselve “licenciado(a)” even though they did not finish university;
(4) you omitted “Quim.” (someone with a chemistry degree, which in some chemical/ pharmaceutical/petrochemical industry contexts might be important), “Director” (in many companies and foundations is a title of respect the boss insists upon), “Embajador” (any Ambassador from any nation, even after retiring from that role, is given the title of respect).
(5) you mention written correspondence — the form of address is even more ciritical. at the very least use “Estimado(a)”, although when dealing with a politico or judge, use “Honrado(a)” or “Distinguido(a).
(6) you say that you can ask how to address them if unsure — well, I have found that some will not be happy that you felt the need to ask. Almost better to err on the side of being overly polite and let them correct you to the lower title, or if they have started to feel comfortable with you (or have picked up North American habits from going to university there or some such), give you leave to drop the title or even use their first name.
(7) always always always use the Usted verb form until such time told you can use “tu.” I have Mexican colleagues I been friends with for 7-8 years that still use “Ud.” with me so I do likewise with them, others who long ago switched to “tu.” It’s all their call based on their own comfort level.

3 11 2006
Keith R

Oops! Left my comment as IOman01 instead of Keith R! Didn’t realize that your blog recognized me as a WordPress person and counted me logged in with my WP I.D. Sorry about that!
Keith R “IOman01”

3 11 2006
Lee Iwan

Excellent, I agree with all your “footnotes”. Like everything else in Mexico, it defies simplification and generalization.

We also forgot “Maestro” (masculine) or “Maestra” (feminine)- which can be used for a teacher, or for a tradesman and
“Profesor” o “Profesora” – for a teacher or professor

The most important idea to walk away with here is that Mexico enjoys a sense of formality in the social and business environment. Titles (and we now understand that there are many different titles) are part of this formality, and in order to do business and socialize in Mexico it will pay off to learn the nuances of the language and how titles are important.

Thanks for your input and observations!.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: