Friday, July 9, 2010

Mexico Business Etiquette: The Long Lunch

Since it is Friday, I thought I'd touch on something that confuses many foreigners when doing business in Mexico - the long lunch.  If you've ever done business in Mexico then you probably know what I'm talking about.

Mexicans usually eat around 2pm, sometimes an hour earlier, sometimes an hour later, but NEVER will you have lunch before 12pm. (Make sure to have a big breakfast if you are used to eating lunch at noon or earlier!)

Lunch is a heavy meal in Mexico, if not the biggest meal of the day.  Most Mexicans subscribe to the thought "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."  It is not uncommon to see people ordering an appetizer, a cut of meat with beans or some other side, and then finishing it off with a dessert. 

At business meeting lunches it is common to order a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverages (tequila!).  Mexico used to have a reputation for it's liquor-fueled lunches, but getting drunk at lunch has lost its appeal and more people are taking it easy so that they can go back to work and get things done.

If you have something important to discuss, make sure you leave it to the middle of the meal.  Start off getting to know eachother and eachother's cultures.  Jumping right into business can be a culturally insensitive move that may cost you the deal.

This is where things get tricky...depending on who you are with, what you are discussing, and how much tequila you have had a business lunch in Mexico can last anywhere from an hour and a half to 6+ hours.  It is not uncommon, especially on Fridays, to see the lunch crowd at a restaurant when the dinner crowd starts to role in.  My point is this: don't budget an hour of time for the lunch because you never know how long it is going to go. 

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