Why is EVERYTHING in Spanish?

By nick fong, broker, los cabos agent

When traveling or living in Mexico, it is not surprising to see everything in Spanish (when in Cabo, most everywhere you go there will be someone who speaks English and in many restaurants the menu is available in English).  If a Mexican were to travel to the U.S. they would find everything in English except in the Border States where Spanish is also spoken.

But why Spanish?
Spanish control of Mexico led to the dominance of Spanish, the official language.  As many as 100 Native American languages are spoken in Mexico, but no single alternative language prevails. Eighty present of those Mexicans who speak an indigenous language also speak Spanish.

The most important of the Native American languages is Nahuatl.  It is the primary language of more than a million Mexicans and is spoken by nearly one [fourth of all Native Americans in the country.  This is followed by Maya, used by 14 percent of Native Americans, and Mixteco and Zapoteco, each spoken by about 7 percent of Native Americans.  No other Indigenous language is spoken by more than 5 percent of Mexico’s Native Americans.

Why not learn some useful Spanish phrases?
Speaking and understanding Spanish simplifies your stay in Mexico.  But it is also important to understand the culture of Mexico which differs from the culture north of the border in many respects.

Mexican Family Values
a) The family is at the center of the social structure.
b) Outside of the major cosmopolitan cities, families are still generally large.
c) The extended family is as important as the nuclear family, since it provides a sense of stability.
d) Mexicans consider it their duty and responsibility to help family members.  For example, they will help find employment of finance a house or other large purchase.
e)Most Mexican families are extremely traditional, with the father as the head, the authority figure and the decision-maker.
f) Mothers are greatly revered, but their role may be seen as secondary to that of their husband.

Hierarchical Society
a) Mexican society and business are highly stratified and vertically structured.
b) Mexicans emphasize hierarchical relationships
c) People respect authority and look to those above them for guidance and decision-making.
d) Rank is important, and those above you in rank must always be treated with respect.
e) This makes in important to know which person is in charge, and leads to an authoritarian approach to decision ‘making and problem ‘solving
f) Mexicans are very aware of how each individual fits into each hierarchy—be in family, friends or business.
g) It would be disrespectful to break the chain of hierarchy.

Meeting Etiquette
a) When greeting in social situations, women pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, rather than shake hands.
b) Men shake hands until they know someone well, at which time they progress to the more traditional hug and back slapping.
c) Wait until invited before using a Mexican’s first name.

Gift Giving Etiquette
a) If invited to a Mexican’s house, bring a gift such as flowers or sweets.
b) Gift wrapping does not follow any particular protocol
c) Do not give marigolds as they symbolize death.
d) Do not give red flowers as they have a negative connotation
e) White flowers are a good gift as they are considered uplifting
f) Gifts are not opened immediately.

Dining Etiquette
 If you are invited to a Mexican’s home:
a) Arrive 30 minutes late in most places
b) Arriving on time or early is considered inappropriate
c) At a large party you my introduce yourself

At a smaller gathering the host usually handles the introductions
a) Watch your table manners!
b) Always keep your hands visible when eating.  Keep your writs resting on the edge of the table.
c) When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the prongs facing down the handle facing to the right.
d) Do not sit down until you are invited to and told where to sit.
e) Do not begin eating until the hostess starts

f) Do not give toasts
g) It is polite to leave some food on your plate after a meal.
h) In a restaurant, the bill is not automatically presented.  You must request the bill. It is considered impolite to place the bill on the table if not requested.  A real no-no.

Speaking a few words of Spanish and understanding some of the cultural differences is bound to make your stay or life in Mexico easy.

In regards to real estate transactions the offer to purchase is many times only in English especially when both Seller and Buyer are English speaking but if one or both parties are Spanish speaking only the offer to purchase is in Spanish and/or Spanish and English.  The actual title (escritura) or real estate trust paperwork (fideicomiso) is always in Spanish.  This is the legal document conveying ownership from Seller to Buyer.  If you are a non-Spanish speaking foreigner the fideicomiso is translated at closing to you, by law, generally, verbally by a translator or your closing agent.  After all, it is important to know what you are signing, right?  It is a good idea to have your documents translated, a well. There are obligations and rights described for both parties in these documents and its best you have full knowledge of them..

“While in Rome!”

By Nick Fong, Broker of Los Cabos Agent. Contact Nick at  312-725-3664 US Line, 624-157-3170 Cabo Line, 773-346-6444 US Fax, info@loscabosagent.com