Grasping the local business culture that you’ll encounter in Spain is imperative for landing new business opportunities and local clients. If not, a business meeting could quickly go awry if you lack the familiarity with the intricacies involved in the business practices in Spain. Gaining this knowledge will demonstrate a sign of respect to your future business partners, granting a more significant opportunity for trust.
How can you make your business life more comfortable? Have a look at this Spanish business etiquette crash course with tips to do business that takes pointers from this article.
The business culture in Spain places great importance on your appearance. As such, Spaniards will make assumptions about you based on how you present yourself to others. Traditional business attire in Spain tends to be standard professional dress. Men typically wear stylish, and often expensive, suits in darker colours, good shoes, shirts (usually white) and silk ties. Women will also often opt for a suit with either trousers or a skirt. Regardless of your gender, professionals tend to incorporate refined accessories to top off a chic outfit.
Getting used to the exciting approach to time is something that may require some more adjustment. “Normal” working hours tend to begin at either 8:30/9:00 with a long lunch break and quite possibly a siesta (afternoon nap) starting around 13:30. They’ll resume work from about 16:30 until about 20:00. This timetable is undoubtedly different from the standard 9 to 6 in Britain!
Another quirk about business culture in Spain and timetables is that Spaniards laugh off serious meetings or appointments scheduled during lunch hours. Still, you must set up an appointment in advance. While the expectation is for others to be punctual, you may need to give them a little leeway.
While leaning in nervously for kissing each cheek is a standard greeting in Spain for both genders, that’s strictly for those that know each other well. According to business culture principles in Spain, it’s best to make first introductions with a firm handshake and good eye contact with everyone in a room. You typically exchange business cards at the beginning of the meeting. Your business card should state your name, surname and your job title. If you’re serious about doing business in Spain and are keen to make a great first impression, make sure that you have one side of the card translated into Spanish.
Some businesses, like family-run enterprises and governmental organisations, have strict hierarchical structures in place. However, an interesting thing worth noting is that this hierarchical, bureaucratic organisational culture is seeing a change due to young managers receiving education abroad and Spanish society undergoing changes. However, when it comes to decision-making, especially when it’s a serious matter at hand, those at the senior level will most likely call the shots.
Regional differences tend to come out for negotiations, with Catalans tending to prefer a professional negotiation style where bargains are not the primary objective. When you get to southern Spain, they tend to appreciate a more traditional, formal negotiating style with bargaining being a cherished concept. Be sure you know who you are dealing with to avoid offending anyone while sitting at the negotiation table. One of the essential pillars of the business culture in Spain is establishing a stable relationship. Therefore, we recommend by focusing your first few meetings on building the relationship while leaving your negotiations for further down the line.
Another critical part of the business culture in Spain is to meet not during, but for lunch and dinner. These often languid affairs serve as additional opportunities to get to know each other better with the business matters not starting until after the meal is over. The Spaniards love their food and the art of eating, making it the likely priority during these times. Spaniards don’t often invite someone they do business with to their home, so expect these meetings to happen at a restaurant or café.
What are some other things to keep in mind about the business culture in Spain? Here are some other critical pointers to grasp business practices in this culture:
Patience is a virtue in Spain. Don’t expect to close any massive deals during the first meeting. However, this will depend on the nature of the meeting and who you’re dealing with. The initial session is typically formal, and the goal is for the Spaniard(s) to deepen their understanding of who you are and what you do.
Being interrupted may seem rude to you, but the Spaniards don’t mean to be at all. Getting interrupted is almost a compliment in Spanish business culture. If they interrupt you — it means that they are interested in what you are saying and listening intently.
Spaniards find it rude when someone answers a request in the negative.
Spaniards love to talk, and meetings will often involve many personal questions that serve as another way for them to get to know you better.
Meetings tend to serve as an opportunity to exchange ideas with those that report to them and give them instructions rather than try to make decisions or reach a consensus.
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