Comparing cultural differences: Mexico with Canada and the United States

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Eva Kraus

Although the three countries that make up North America are physically close, Mexico is simply a different country than her northern neighbors. Mexico has a different history and thus a different culture and ways of doing and looking at things. Many people have assumed that things are the same “south of the border”, with sometimes serious consequences. The Mexican, his beliefs, expectations and codes of personal and social conduct are so different as to be from a different world. (or as the Mexican would view it, You are from a different world).

To successfully live or do business in Mexico, it is necessary to enter the world of the Mexican, and be open to the fact that your assumptions about how things are done, often are not true here.

The major cultural Aspects are described in the following comparison table, which provides a summary of major differences.

The comparisons are reproduced from Management in Two Cultures – Bridging the gap between US and Mexico, by Eva Kras, 1996-2006 , with permission from Intercultural Press Inc, a company specializing in Cultural publications

See also Management Comparisons for additional information.

Comparative Cultural Summary Table

Cultural Comparisons





Family is the first priority.
Children are celebrated and sheltered.
Wife fulfills domestic role.
Mobility is limited.
Family is usually second to work.
Children often minimally parented; are independent.
Wife often fulfills dual roles.
Mobility quite common.

Long Roman Catholic tradition.
Fatalistic outlook. “As God wills.”
Mixed religions.
“Master of own life” outlook.

Emphasis on theoretical.
Rigid, broad curriculum.
Analytical approach.
Emphasis on the practical.
Narrow, in-depth specialization.

Very nationalistic.
Proud of long history and traditions.
Reluctant to settle outside Mexico.
(U.S.) Very patriotic.
Proud of “American way of life.”
Assumes everyone shares his/her materialistic values.
(Canadian) Less than U.S.. Often has more “World” view.
Personal Sensitivity

Difficulty separating work and personal relationships.
Sensitive to differences of opinion.
Fears loss of face, especially publicly.
Shuns confrontation.
Separates work from emotions/personal relationships.
Sensitivity seen as weakness.
Tough business front.
Has difficulty with subtlety.

“Old world” formality.
Etiquette and manners seen as measure of breeding.
Formality often sacrificed for efficiency.
“Let’s get to the point” approach.
Personal Appearance

Dress and grooming are status symbols.Appearance is secondary to performance.

Title and position more important than money in eyes of society.Money is main status measure and is reward for achievement.

Aesthetic side of life is important even at work.No time for “useless frills”.

Truth is tempered by need for diplomacy.
Truth is a relative concept.
Direct Yes/No answers given and expected.
Truth seen as absolute value.

See also Management Comparisons for expanded information.

Published or Updated on: July 1, 1997 by Eva Kraus © 1997
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5 thoughts on “Comparing cultural differences: Mexico with Canada and the United States

  1. Canadians are Canadians Our worldview is different from the way our neighbour to the south looks at their place in the world. U.S. citizens tend to TAKE their place in the world, Canadians and Mexicans tend to HAVE their place in the world. The myth of exceptionalism does not run through the fabric of Canadian culture. That whole U.S., “we are the greatest” vibe is a tired old trope.

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