Essential Expats Skills 4: Contacts & Networking
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 & business contacts.
In social terms, Mexico is an easy place to meet and make new friends locally. Mexicans are exceedingly 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 stores for advertisements and classified ads to find out what social events are happening locally. In addition to making new local friends, you’ll also find that there are many expatriate networks and expat social events happening in Mexico. If you’re completely stuck about where to start to find those—contact your country’s consulate in Mexico, they will be able to tell you about the existing networks established near you.
If you’re planning to work in Mexico, or run your own business here, building trust networks is vital to your commercial prosperity. Furthermore, 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 to someone you don’t know. 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-kindling 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 approach him and start talking about what you need, and agree a date and time for him to call at your house, where he’ll consider the situation and give you a verbal quote for the work.
This personalized ‘in-person’ 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, if you’re really smart, 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. Furthermore, 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, tread some shoe leather, and get talking with people. You may know some expatriates who live locally; 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.
Building contacts and networks in Mexico is enjoyable, rewarding and it’s all quite real. There is nothing virtual about developing contacts at a local level here. The personal aspect of network building is one of the many nuances which make Mexico an attractive place to be for hundreds of thousands of foreigners who, full-time or part-time, call Mexico ‘home’.