The Central American country joins global competitors through major building programmes, but how do you get a job and survive in Mexico?

After years of backward construction methods and codes, and corruption in the building industry, the Mexican government that took power in 2006 is bringing the country into line with its global competitors through major building programmes.

Mexico City

The main catalyst is population growth: Mexico is increasing by 1 million people a year. The result is a need for 4 million more houses and a thorough upgrade of the country’s infrastructure.

Miguel Donovan, business development manager for Currie & Brown in Mexico, explains why the development push has become so vital: “The population in Mexico has doubled in less than 30 years but everything else has stayed the same,” he says. “The country now has to play catch up and develop an infrastructure system big enough to meet our needs.”

What’s in demand?

Skills particularly in demand are anything to do with the PFI, facilities management, cost management, auditing, civil engineering, urban, regional and transport planning, project management, sustainability, legal, financial and technical advisers and cement and steel subcontractors.

UK firms already operating here include Currie & Brown, McBains Cooper, Arup, Mott MacDonald, Bovis Lend Lease, HOK and Scott Wilson. Major clients include Reichmann International, Microsoft, Google, HSBC, Barclays and Bancoma.

The Mexico way

• In the office, titles are important. Always use “señor/señora/señorita” followed by the person’s surname. Business cards should be printed in English on one side and in Spanish on the other and are exchanged at the start of a meeting
• Mexicans have a relaxed attitude to timekeeping so don’t be surprised if meetings start late, finish late or are rescheduled at the last minute
• Personal relationships will lead to more business so be prepared for lunches and drinks to become part of your working day. Make sure you ask about your contacts’ families and lives and expect to divulge information about yours, too
• Tequila is often ordered at business lunches but should be sipped rather than knocked back in one
• Traditional fare is green and red chilli sauces, scrambled eggs with chilli and cactus leaf and meatballs stuffed with egg and smothered in more chilli sauce. Have a large glass of water on hand...