Mexico is a country that is famous for its historical sites and rich traditions. If you are a tourist or planning on a business trip to Mexico, it is only wise to make a quick study on its people and culture, particularly on the area of gift-giving in order to avoid any misunderstanding.
It is fortunate that in Mexico, offending someone while bringing a present is highly unlikely, for Mexicans generally don’t follow a particular rule or ritual on their gift-giving.
So while in Mexico, why not try to take part in their festivities and experience their famous piñatas? While enjoying yourself with their week long celebrations, you will also learn about their customs and be able to share your country’s similarities and differences.
Meanwhile, understanding proper social etiquette will make a difference in making your stay in the country fruitful and memorable, so here are some helpful tips:
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General Gift-Giving Etiquette in Mexico
Here are some general guidelines when gift giving in Mexico or to a Mexican:
- Keep in mind that the Mexican population is 90% Catholic so be very careful in handing out religious items to avoid offending anyone.
- If you are invited to a Mexican home, you are not obliged to bring gifts but if you want to have something for your hosts, flowers, chocolates, and wine are considered appropriate.
- Giving toys to your host’s children demonstrates respect for the entire family.
- Never ask a host or associate what sort of gift she or her children might like to receive, as this will be considered impolite.
- It is also important to open the gift immediately in front of the giver and show enthusiasm.
Mexican Gift Giving Etiquette in Business
If you are in Mexico for business, bringing small gifts is seen as a gesture of goodwill. It will also mean you are sincere in keeping a strong working relationship with your business partners.
- For your initial visit, gifts bearing your company’s logo, or souvenirs from your home country, are always considered good gift choices.
- On your following visits, a bottle of wine or scotch will be nice.
- When invited to your business associate’s home, remember to bring small presents for the children.
- Giving small items to secretaries, and other office personnel who played an important role in the business transaction is also appreciated.
- Expensive and personal gifts are considered inappropriate unless you have established a close friendship
- While female secretaries or assistants would welcome small thoughtful gifts, it is important to make your intentions clear. Male businessmen should say that the gifts were sent by their wife or girlfriend to avoid the impression of impropriety.
Ideal Gifts to Mexicans
Here are some gift ideas Mexicans love to receive.
- White Flowers – They are considered uplifting.
- Food and Wine.
- A souvenir from your country.
- Items that cannot be purchased within Mexico.
- Clothes or items that belong to an international brand.
Gifts to Avoid Giving to a Mexican
Like any other culture, some gifts can come off as a with for bad luck or ill omen, sometimes just plain rude or useless.
- Yellow flowers, as they symbolize death.
- Red flowers, as they are believed to cast spells.
- Purple flowers, as they are associated with funerals.
- Tourist items from attractions in Mexico. Obviously, then can get this any time they want to.
- Silver – Mexicans take pride in their silver products as they are one of the world’s top producers and exporters of silver.
Gift Giving Occasions and What to Give:
Gift giving in Mexico symbolizes affection and appreciation and not giving gifts on some occasions may be seen as a disrespectful act.
- Housewarming – A bottle of wine or a house décor will be appreciated.
- Birthday – Clothes, jewelry, leather goods, chocolates, flowers, electronic gadgets, or a nice big dinner.
- Anniversary – This occasion is always celebrated with a gift of jewelry.
- Dia De Los Muertos – A special holiday reserved for honoring the dead. Sugar skulls, food, a bottle of Tequila or Mezcal, marigolds or small trinkets placed on decorated altars to serve as gifts to the dead.
- Valentine’s Day – In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is not only for lovers but also for friends as well, so aside from flowers, candies and balloons are also presented.
- Baptism – Gifts from godparents are required. Mexicans are very religious and take baptism seriously so anything that has a religious connection will be appropriate.
- Quinceanera – This is similar to a girl’s debut, although Mexican girls celebrate their transition to womanhood on their 15th Jewelry, clothes, flowers, leather goods, and accessories are the typical gifts for this occasion.
- Christmas – Christmas in Mexico starts on December 16 and lasts until January 6. It is a season of festivities so gifts like clothes, accessories, toys, food, wine, and electronics, are given.
- Dia de Reyes (in English “King’s Day”) – January 6 – On the eve of Dia de Reyes, children will line up their shoes on the window sill while families and friends fill them up with gifts.
Piñatas in Mexican Celebrations
The piñata by itself is already a form of gift-giving and has been a part of Mexican celebration since the late 16th century. A piñata is a figure, often shaped like a star, traditionally made from a clay pot (cardboard is used nowadays) covered with paper mache and decorated with bright colors, and filled with candies, fruits, toys and other goodies inside.
It is hung from the ceiling or from a tree. Someone is blindfolded and will try to hit the piñata with a stick until it breaks open and all the treats will fall out to be enjoyed by the party guests.
If some guests failed to get some treats from the broken piñata, there is basket of treats, (called colaciones), set aside by the host, to keep things fair.