Doing business in Mexico (I): social titles

Introducing oneself or addressing to someone with the appropriate manners is an important issue everywhere, but in Mexico, being a profoundly class-conscious society, where social stratification is held with pride by each group, it is way more important.

He-Man Mexico

Social titles are important here and must be used and included on your Mexican business cards (the abbreviation at least). They are so important that you can directly speak to someone by using his or her title only, without even its name. But, in general, people address each other depending on their social status, age and personal relationship. Let’s see the details:

Business & formal occasions

In Mexico, your social title is determined by your last academic degree. Take into account that the titles always go after the name (remember that the title only works too). Its use with the surname is too formal, and it will depend on the area of Mexico where you are, the seniority of your counterpart, and the formality of the occasion.

In order: masculine, feminine, and shortening:

  • Licenciado/licenciada/Lic.: means the person has a university degree (4 years of study) called licenciatura, which in Mexico is one of the major high-education degrees previous to post-grade studies like master or doctorate.
  • Maestro/maestra/MC: somebody who holds a master degree, as well as teachers. MC stands for Maestro en Ciencias.
  • Ingeniero/ingeniera/Ing.: an engineering degree in Mexico is the denomination for a licenciatura degree specialized in a technical field.
  • Doctor/doctora/Dr.: the person holds a doctorate in a particular area.
  • Others: oficial (officer), etc.

If you don’t know somebody’s ‘grade’, the person should be named with the generic form señor (as the English Mr.)señora when married (Mrs.) and señorita if single/young (Miss).

Don (male) is another generic form, but a very respectful one, and I’ve heard it only with seniors or family patriarchs. Doña is the equivalent for women. Can also be used as a joker, but always with people +60 years old at least. With his/her name, always.

Never use any of these generic forms on your business cards. If you have no studies/degree, Lic. is common.

Don’t repeat somebody’s title every time you refer to him/her (that’s freaky and can be taken as a mockery), just use the polite form usted instead of tutear. Check your nearest Mexican for further information on the different uses of “you” in Spanish. Also, at the bottom of the page here, there are many resources for practical uses.

In general, use usted unless the person is a friend, a teenager, or he asked explicitly to call him by his name (tutear); also use usted to a law officer, even if they use tu to talk to you. Mexican cops do not see themselves as a public servants, but as somebody with authority, to do as they please. They feast on your fear, remember that.

Informal

As said, when meeting people in informal occasions, it’s enough with the names, except introduced otherwise as explained above with the usted/tu. Take into account possible traces of irony, quite used in few states of the Mexican North-West (someone introduces himself as Ingeniero Juan on a Saturday at 5am, for example).

Learn more about Mexico and its business etiquette and society on the series Doing business in Mexico.

Check an excellent compendium on Mexican social titles here and here.

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