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Spanish Business Etiquette

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19 Dec Spanish Business Etiquette

Europe’s fourth largest country and among the top three most visited countries in the world, Spain is one of the prime cultural hotspots of Europe. By means of a unique cultural heritage, Spain is widely known for art, music, dance, festivities and its colorful persona.

With a population of 46.5 million, Spain’s economy is mainly comprised of tourism, textile and food processing industries. Furthermore, the service industry of the country comprises more than 50% of the GDP, adding immensely to the economy. Consequently, if you’re conducting or planning to conduct business in Spain, effective business communication is essential.

While Spanish business etiquette is quite similar to the rest of the Europe and the Western world, it retains certain nuances specific to its unique culture and lifestyle. Here are a few facts you must make a note of:

Appearance

  • Appearance is extremely important to the Spanish, especially in the world of business.
  • Men and women must always wear formals, unless specified otherwise.
  • Clothes must be conservative yet chic.
  • Avoid clothes that are flashy, gaudy or needlessly revealing.
  • Accessorize fashionably but don’t overdo it.
  • Go for dark colors in the winter and lighter ones in the summer.
  • Keep it subtle yet stylish.

 

Business Appearance

Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments for any business meeting are mandatory and should be made well in advance.
  • Reconfirm the meeting a few days prior to the set date and time.
  • Your Spanish associates or clients may not be on time for a meeting but will expect you to be punctual.
  • Don’t expect business to be discussed as a priority in the very first meeting; it’s important to get to know one another and build a relationship.
  • Meeting agendas or objectives are always set but not necessarily followed or needed.
  • Ensure that all meeting material is available in English as well as in Spanish.
  • While some Spanish professionals may be fluent in English, the language isn’t widely spoken in the country. Therefore, it is essential to either hire an interpreter or, better yet, learn Spanish! The locals will not only love the effort but will respect you as well.
  • You may be interrupted while speaking, but do not be offended! It’s common practice in Spain and isn’t thought of as rude.
  • You may not come to a decision in the first few meetings as they are meant to encourage discussion and exchange of ideas only.
  • Have your business cards printed in English as well as in Spanish: one language on each side.
  • Greet the person at the top of the hierarchy first.
  • When addressing someone, you may use the Spanish equivalent of the titles ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’: Señor and Señora, respectively.
  • One of Spanish culture’s famous features is the ‘Siesta’; a midday/lunch break from work where professionals, students, workers, etc. often go home to unwind and socialize with their family and friends before getting back to work.
  • Uncommon in major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, la siesta remains a part of lifestyles in smaller towns and cities throughout the country and begins between 1-2pm and lasts around 2 hours.

Body Language

  • Shaking hands, when meeting or saying goodbye, is the usual way to greet someone.
  • Men and women, should they feel comfortable and have a long-term relationship, may greet one another by a kiss on the cheek (not literally, they are actually air kisses, starting from the left cheek).
  • Also, once a relationship is established, men may greet each other with an embrace and a pat on the back.
  • Some Spanish people (not all!) have a unique, two-hand handshake where the left hand is placed on the other person’s right hand forearm. Make it firm but not overly strong.
  • Eye contact is important as it aids in building trust.
  • Spanish people are famous for being cheerful and extroverts and may use sprawling body language.

 

Handshake

Communications & Relationships

  • Building a strong rapport and affiliation is vital for successful business conduct in Spain.
  • It is important to create trust and have fruitful communication with your Spanish associate/client before any ‘shop-talk’ takes place.
  • Any sort of business negotiation takes time, be patient.
  • Present yourself in a positive manner (attitude and appearance) as having the ‘right’ chemistry for business is extremely for Spanish people.
  • Conversation can be lighthearted with jokes, banter, etc. However, keep in mind not to offend anybody.
  • Spanish culture highly values personal pride, frankness and honesty, as well as respects those who remain modest and humble of their accomplishments.
  • When conversing with your Spanish associate, don’t indulge in personal details or experiences unless they approach the topic first.
  • Honor and pride are very important in the Spanish culture therefore you must avoid personal attacks (even if you’re joking) at all times.
  • Spanish people prefer making their own decision and do not like being openly told what to do.

Dining Etiquette

  • Business meals are quite common in the Spanish culture, especially as it helps create an environment to build relationships and trust.
  • Business dinners are usually expected to begin around 9pm, and go on until much later. If you wish to leave early, you are very much free to do so! No offence will be taken, don’t worry.
  • The person sending the invite must pay the bill for the night, so you can always reciprocate the gesture by asking your Spanish counterpart(s) out for a meal next time!
  • Remain standing until you are shown your seat or wait for the host/hostess to sit down before you do.
  • Business talks rarely take place during a dinner therefore, if you do wish to discuss work over a meal, inform your Spanish associate beforehand.
  • Avoid eating with your hands. Even fruits are eaten with a knife and fork!
  • While tipping isn’t mandatory in Spain (nobody shall frown if you choose not to tip), it is always appreciated.
  • If the meal is at your host’s home, bring a gift along to show your gratitude.
  • Acceptable gifts: Flowers (not a bouquet of 13 or an even number of flowers), Souvenirs or mementos from your native country and Chocolates
  • A normal meal consists of the following: Drinks, Bread, First Course, Second Course and Desserts
  • Similar to the dining culture in most European countries, tea or coffee is usually served with the dessert. If not, it shall be served after followed by a digestif, Pacharan, made from a local liqueur.
  • Always make sure you have plenty of time post dinner to engage in ‘Sobrmesa’: conversation after the meal that would lead to a better understanding between you and your Spanish associate.
  • Last but not the least, the Spanish never waste food. Decline more servings rather than having leftovers on your plate.

 

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