Puerto Vallarta Feature


Local Do's and Taboos

Customs of the Country

In the United States and elsewhere in the world, being direct, efficient, and succinct is highly valued. But Mexican communication tends to be more subtle, and the direct style of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans is often perceived as curt and aggressive. Mexicans are extremely polite, so losing your temper over delays or complaining loudly will get you branded as rude and make people less inclined to help you. Remember that things move slowly here and that there's little stigma attached to being late. You'll probably notice that local friends, relatives, and significant others show a fair amount of physical affection with each other, but you should be more retiring with people you don't know well.


Learning basic phrases in Spanish such as "por favor" (please) and "gracias" (thank you) will make a big difference in how people respond to you. Also, being deferential to those who are older than you will earn you lots of points, as does addressing people as señor, señora, or señorita.

Also, saying "Desculpe" before asking a question of someone is a polite way of saying "Excuse me" before launching into a request for information or directions. Similarly, asking "¿Habla inglés?" is more polite than assuming every Mexican you meet speaks English.


In Puerto Vallarta, it is acceptable to wear shorts in houses of worship, but do avoid being blatantly immodest. Bathing suits and immodest clothing are also inappropriate for shopping and sightseeing in general. Mexican men don't generally wear shorts, even in extremely hot weather, although this rule is generally ignored by both Mexican and foreign men on vacation here and at other beach resorts.

Out on the Town

Mexicans call waiters "joven" (literally, "young man") no matter how old they are (it's the equivalent of the word "maid" being used for the old woman who cleans rooms). Call a female waitress señorita ("miss") or señora ("ma'am"). Ask for "la cuenta, por favor" ("the check, please") when you want the bill; it's considered rude to bring it before the customer asks for it. Mexicans tend to dress nicely for a night out, but in tourist areas, dress codes are mainly upheld only at the more sophisticated discotheques. Smoking in bars and restaurants is now theoretically illegal, but in some smaller establishments and those with outdoor patios, people still smoke with abandon.

Doing Business

Personal relationships always come first here, so developing rapport and trust is essential. A handshake and personal greeting are appropriate along with a friendly inquiry about family, especially if you have met the family. In established business relationships, don't be surprised if you're greeted with a kiss on the cheek or a hug. Always be respectful toward colleagues in public and keep confrontations private.

Meetings may or may not start on time, but you should be patient. When you are invited to dinner at the home of a client or associate, it's not necessary to bring a gift; however, sending a thank-you note afterward scores points.

Your offers to pick up the tab at business lunches or dinners will be greatly appreciated but will probably be declined; because you are a guest in their country, most Mexicans will want to treat you to the meal. Be prepared to exchange business cards, and feel free to offer yours first. Professional attire tends to be on the conservative side. Mexicans are extremely well groomed, so you'll do well if you follow suit.

Updated: 2014-06-02

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