Meeting people in Mexico – kiss, shake hands or hug?

22 08 2006

What is the correct method to greet a business acquaintance in Mexico?

For a first time meeting with a business contact in Mexico a handshake is the appropriate greeting, eye contact is important, say your name, followed by the presentation of your business card. This applies to men and women.

When leaving the meeting or event it is appropriate and expected to shake everyone’s hand and say goodbye individually. This is also true for social situations.

If the business relationship has developed over time, you may find that upon arrival your host will hug you (un abrazo), giving 2 or 3 firm slaps on your back, followed by a handshake. This is a sign of confidence and friendship. This is also used when saying goodbye, especially when leaving on a trip, or when you will be separated for a long time.

Greeting women is a bit more complex. In developed relationships or personal relationships, an “air kiss” is common and expected. This is a swift encounter, cheek to cheek, and only on one side of the face. It may also be accompanied by a handshake. This greeting is common between women.

A man should always rise from his chair whenever a woman arrives at the table or is introduced.

My advice is to avoid the “air kiss” until you are approached, and it is obvious that the woman (or man) is comfortable with the kiss greeting. A handshake is the appropriate and “safe” greeting for all business and personal situations with women.

The kiss has no sexual connotations, it is a greeting of familiarity, but until you feel comfortable with it, and understand it’s use, best to be conservative and put your hand out.

Watch how others Mexicans greet one another. Learn to distinguish the differences in how business people, workers, friends, and family have different greetings.

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