Living, Working

Essential Skills for Expats 4: Contacts & Networking

Suitacases - Baggage Stacked for Travel

When you are living in Mexico, one of the most important day-to-day skills you’ll need to develop is that of making contacts and networking in your local community.  Contacts fall into two broad categories: social contacts and trade and/or business contacts.

In social terms, Mexico is an easy place to meet and make new friends locally.  Mexicans are exceptionally social people.  They are open, some will speak English (possibly quite well), and getting involved socially is never difficult in a Mexican town or city.  Check notice boards at coffee shops, internet cafés, and book shops for advertisements and classified ads to find out what social events are happening locally. Many local groups also have Facebook group pages. In addition to making new local friends, you’ll also find that there are many networks for foreign residents and related social events happening in Mexico.

If you’re planning to work in Mexico, or run your own business here, building trust networks is vital to your commercial prosperity.  You’ll find that Mexicans will be weary of dealing with you if they don’t know you.  You must allow space for a social and non-commercial relationships to kindle before you can move on to business matters.  This process may be hastened if you have been referred by someone who knows you already.  This is a common way of connecting with new people in Mexico: there’s no guarantee that the connection will be right for your needs, but on balance it’s probably better than picking someone at random.

This process of relationship-cultivation and network development is important whether you’re looking for a maid, an electrician or plumber, a builder, a lawyer, a service supplier, or a business partner.  You can go out and seek people to work with at random, but many people who know Mexico don’t do that initially—they always prefer a referral.

Finding someone by chance can sometimes produce surprisingly good results.  By way of example, tradesmen do, on occasion, advertise in the town center.  The advertisement is the person: standing in one of the town’s plazas with a tool box and sign that reads, for example, “Plomero”.  You simply make a personal approach, start talking about what you need, and agree a date and time to call at your house, where the situation is considered, and a price agreed.

This ‘personal’ approach is all part-and-parcel of building your networks in Mexico.  You need to have the confidence to talk with people and ask questions, and be open about your needs and intentions with others. When you find a good plumber, a good gardener, a good carpenter, et al, you’ll keep in touch and, ideally, you’ll give them a bit of work—however small—on occasion, so that when the big job you need doing comes up, the person knows who you are.  Referring a known ‘good contact’ to someone else, helps the person in need, helps your contact to secure more work, and he/she will remember you for referring them.

To start developing your contacts and building your networks in Mexico, you need to get out into the community where you live and get talking with people.  You may already know some expatriates who live locally, and they can offer referrals.  But sooner or later you’ll need to start making your own contacts.  Good places to start include local coffee houses, internet cafés, restaurants, the Zocalo (town center), local shops and boutiques, and local workshops where you may see furniture makers, carpenters, stone masons and others plying their trade. Using online resources like Google and Facebook is also a good way to find contacts and communities of interest locally.

Building contacts and networks in Mexico is a real and tactile activity that is enjoyable, and rewarding.  Although initial contact might be through Facebook or email, there is nothing virtual about developing contacts at a local level here.  The personal aspect of relationship cultivation — meeting real people in real places instead of posting updates on a computer screen — is one of the many nuances which make Mexico an attractive place to be for foreigners who call Mexico ‘home’.

Next: Part 5 – Cultural Awareness

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1 Comment

  1. John Schick says

    There is a lot of solid advice here. When I first went to Mexico, 40 years ago, I was lucky to make a life-long friendship. During one lunch, Emilio looked at me and said, “John, you gringos are crazy. You don’t do business with friends. We insist on it.”

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