Spanish Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Arrive to the meeting on time and expect your Spanish counterpart to do the same. While there is a relaxed sense of time in many Spaniards’ social lives, punctuality is required in the world of business. This may not always be adhered to, but it is reasonable to maintain this expectation.
  • Meetings begin with initial introductions and a fair amount of small talk. Spaniards like to know their business partners before entering serious negotiations.
  • If there is an agenda for the meeting, do not expect that it will be strictly followed. Meetings do not necessarily proceed in a linear way. Often, points are addressed as they are raised, intersecting with other conversations. Avoid pushing for more order as this could make you look rigid.
  • Allow a Spaniard to speak at length. It is acceptable to interject at appropriate moments (interruptions occur quite frequently). However, a Spaniard should feel like they have voiced all their opinions by the meeting’s conclusion.
  • Traditionally, meetings within a company are usually for the purpose of a boss communicating instructions to subordinates. There is generally a detectable hierarchical arrangement. 
  • In more consultative meetings, there is less structure and people do not necessarily take turns speaking. In these contexts, the individualistic and confident personalities will generally talk over one another to air their opinions. 


Relationship Oriented

Personal relationships play a large role in Spanish business culture. Third-party introductions are helpful as Spaniards prefer to work with those whom they know and trust. It is also preferred that people meet face-to-face as often as possible as this deepens the personal relationship between partners. 

 

Spaniards will most likely be eager to know you and therefore may ask many questions about your family and personal life. Sometimes, these can come across as too direct and overly personal, but it is generally not intended that way. In fact, they usually expect you to ask the same of them. Consider that emotional appeals are often made on the basis of relationships and social connections. For example, one might say “my grandfather knew your grandfather” as a negotiation tactic. Humour can also be a great way to build quick relationships.

 

It is best to keep in regular contact with your Spanish business associate. This shows your interest and thoughtfulness in the business relationship. In order to deepen a relationship, try to be as talkative and transparent with them as possible. Your charisma can have a large influence on whether they trust you or not. Ultimately, the impression you leave on a Spaniard can have a huge impact on the decisions they make and may even override business objectives. For example, if you have a great offer for them, but they don’t like your attitude, they may pass on the offer. Technical excellence may be outweighed by personal attributes when it comes to promotions.


Considerations

  • Spanish office hours can be confusing to people from the English-speaking West. Some businesses stay open continuously from 9am until 3pm. Others open in the morning from 9am until 2pm, then break for a few hours and reopen around 4/5pm until 7/8pm. These siesta hours (2pm - 4/5pm) can interrupt business engagements.
  • Most Spaniards take vacation during the month of August. At this time, their offices may become uncontactable.
  • Spanish businesses may have more tolerance for imprecision and flexibility. However, this does not mean they are necessarily unorganised.
  • There is a growing culture of ‘presentismo’ (presenteeism) in Spanish workplaces. This is the idea that the more hours you spend at your desk, the more serious and committed you appear to be regarding your job. However, greater attendance does not always lead to greater productivity. Some businesses have observed less efficiency and an increasingly sleep-deprived workforce (see ‘Organisation of the Day’ under Core Concepts). Presentismo has arguably become more prevalent since the economic recession and high job loss that occurred. 
  • Spanish businesses are very hierarchical. Communication generally occurs at a senior level, peer to peer. There is not necessarily a regular and open communication line between departments.
  • The amount of respect that subordinates give their boss (jefe) is often dependent on their personality. If a manager is charismatic and likeable, they usually have a more dedicated team.
  • Follow up the written word with a phone call or a meeting to ensure clarity. Spanish business culture tends to be more verbal.
  • Be aware that Spaniards are generally not very direct communicators in the workplace. Therefore, it can be hard to ascertain when they have taken issue with something. Sometimes it can be helpful to maintain friendships with other colleagues across the workplace to gauge people’s reactions and feelings.
  • If a conflict of interest occurs among colleagues, it is best to confront any issues or conflicts of interests privately and directly. 
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), Spain ranks 42nd out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 57 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector has a moderate level of corruption.
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