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Despite economic inequities, Mexican society remains tremendously resilient and cohesive. Mexicans place paramount value on family and friends, social gatherings, and living in the present; worrying about the future takes a back seat. Mexicans always have time to meet with friends for a drink or a cup of coffee or attend a family get-together. The many spirited public celebrations Mexico is known for are simply another manifestation of this attitude.

You won't find more amiable people anywhere on Earth, and you can invite the full force of their natural gregariousness by being mindful of some social norms. Here's a start:

Slow Down -- The stereotype of "mañana time" is mostly true. Life obeys slower rhythms, and "on time" is a flexible concept. Arriving 30 minutes to 2 hours late to a party in someone's home is acceptable -- in fact, coming at the specified hour would be rude, for your hosts almost certainly will not be ready. Here's the "mostly" part: Dinner invitations are less flexible; arrive within 30 minutes of the appointed hour. And be on time for business appointments, public performances, weddings, and funerals.

Meet & Greet -- Don't curtail the hellos and goodbyes; social values take precedence over time efficiency. A Mexican must at least say "¡Buenos días!" even to strangers. An individual will greet each member of a group separately, no matter how long it takes. Handshakes, abrazos (embraces), and, among women, kisses abound. Stick to handshakes until your host initiates a more intimate greeting. But don't back away from an embrace -- that would amount to a rejection of friendship.

Have a Little Respect -- Mexicans are lavish with titles of respect, so dispense señor, señora, and señorita (Mr., Mrs., Miss) freely. Teachers, lawyers, architects, and other professionals have earned the right to a title: licenciado for lawyers (and some other professions requiring a college degree), maestro or maestra for elementary school teachers, profesor or profesora for secondary or college teachers, and so forth. Mexicans have two surnames, father's first and mother's second. Both appear on business cards (the mother's name might be abbreviated to an initial), but when addressing people, use just the first (paternal) surname.

Don't Get Huffy -- Mexicans are genuinely interested in foreigners. If they stare, it's friendly curiosity. They like to practice their English, and might ask about family, friends, money, and other intimate matters. If you are over 30 and have no children, they may express deep concern. Don't take it personally.

Show Some Culture -- Mexicans tend to divide the world into the well-raised and cultured (bien educado) and the poorly raised (mal educado). Don't be shy about trying out your rudimentary Spanish; even the most elementary attempt is appreciated because it shows your interest in the culture. To be categorized as a foreigner is no big deal. What's important in Mexico is to be categorized as a cultured foreigner and not one of the barbarians.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.