Spain is a beautiful country, and a great place to make important trading partners and business associates. It’s also very different to the UK, and the business culture can surprise some. If you want to do business in Spain, you have to understand some of those differences – from the working hours to social etiquette.
For starters, Spaniards tend to work from 9am until around 2pm, then take a break during the hottest part of the day before working from 5pm until 8pm. Most banks and government departments don’t reopen at all after the afternoon break, something worth considering when you visit the country.
The Spanish really value personal contacts, so they enjoy meeting face-to-face and being sociable. You need to find the right chemistry by presenting yourself in the best possible light, and a sense of humour is greatly appreciated even during more formal proceedings. Business tends to be done in a fairly laid-back fashion, so meetings often use an agenda as a rough guideline rather than a strict structure.
When you first introduce yourself, use a brisk handshake and address them as Señor, Señora or Señorita until they give you permission to use their Christian name. It’s best not to get into personal chit-chat unless they ask, but talking about your home country or discussing Spanish football are good ice breakers. Some topics of conversation are right off the cards, including Spanish politics.
Dress codes are important in Spain, so err on the side of stylish but conservative. Punctuality is not that big a deal to Spaniards, so if you meet up for a business lunch or dinner, expect to be kept waiting a while. Lunches and dinners are a big part of business in Spain and can last for a couple of hours. Most Spaniards see meals as a social activity rather than a business one, so let your host guide the conversation.
Negotiations are normally conducted orally and then in writing, with the top of the company making the final decision. Gifts are usually exchanged after a successful negotiation, and should be high-quality and well-wrapped. The etiquette is to open a gift then and there, in front of the giver.
Spain is a great place to build friendly, long-term partnerships. Be aware of the different business styles, and a trip to Spain will be well worthwhile.
The working day is split into two sections
The Spanish value personal contacts
Business is done in a laid-back style
You should dress stylishly but conservatively
Meals play a big part in working life