Business Culture in Spain
¿Planning to do business with Spain?
Get the tips for your encounters to be a success:
- Cultural differences
- and the importance of social life in Spanish business.
We help you connect and close business with Spanish people
The Spanish business culture has some similarities and many differences to the business culture in other countries.
Like in many other places, the history, background and culture influence how people do business and meet in the Board Meeting Room.
Here we give you some tips about how the Spanish business culture works, so that your business with Spain can be a success.
The 5 things you should know before working or doing business with Spain
1) Business schedules
It is widely known that Spanish people eat at a different schedule, lunch starts at 2-3pm and afternoon work begins at 4-5 pm.
This extends the Spanish working hours as the usual time to go home for Spanish people after a long day of work is around 7-8 pm.Setting up a meeting at 8:00 in the morning is a bit out of schedule for Spain's timetable, as meetings and meeting board rooms in Spain are usually arranged from 9:00 am on.
If you want to have all the people's attention in your meetings we recommend you to plan meetings in the morning (starting times 9 to 12) or later in the afternoon, something like 5 pm.
The general Spanish culture is to stay in the office longer than 6pm but fitting a meeting late in the afternoon (6-7) is not so well received. The star option is to arrange a meeting with lunch or even with a breakfast. Spanish people (as many other cultures) enjoy having a conversation over food and feel like they are making good use of their lunch time doing business. Lunch in Spain is the main dish of the day, and they might easily spend 2 hours doing lunch.
2) Punctuality and time perception
This is one of the most important things you should know when doing business with Spain.
People's concept of time and punctuality is not the same as in other western cultures.
Meetings don't usually start on time (there's always a 5-10 minutes delay), the reason is unknown but generally accepted.
Arriving to a meeting five minutes late feels like being on time for Spanish people.
Sometimes it could get to 15 minutes, be ready to be patient and rules accepting.As a foreigner, do show up on time and don't assume the general rule applies to everyone, there are some people that arrive always on time and will expect your punctuality too.
It is just important that you have the patience to welcome people late without thinking they just don't want to meet up with you.
With all that said, have into account that meetings will often start and finish late, deadlines are frequently stretched and people could be arriving late to the following meeting.
Take it easy and be patient if people show up a little bit late to your meeting.
3) Business greetings in Spain
Greeting is a popular and extended ritual. Hands are shaken no matter if men or women are in the room and it is the first time they meet.
Further on, when people know each other, it is usual to kiss each other on both cheeks.Spanish people are usually formal in business meetings, and address each other as'senor' or 'senora'.
When trust is developed, Spanish people use the first name. Some Spanish names have two first names, like Maria Jose or Juan Antonio.
You should always use both names.Have into account that Spanish culture is generally warm and people stand very close to each other and very often touch each other on the arm, back or shoulder.
It is a question of trust, the more they trust you, the closer they get to make you feel at home in Spain.
Also be aware that sometimes you will be interrupted while speaking, which is not actually a bad sign.
It means that the listener is truly interested in the topic and wants to bring their thoughts on the conversation.
4) Negotiations in Spain
Negotiations in Spain are long.
There's a strong culture of building relationships before doing business.
Do not expect to arrive and have a deal close in the first meeting. It usually takes 3 meetings (or contacts) to have a deal going forward, as a building relationship is expected before negotiations can begin.
Business relationships are build personally over breakfast or lunch, rather than over the phone, emails or formal meetings.
Even if your negotiation seems successful at first and your counterpart seems all in the deal, have in mind that decisions are usually made by the most senior managers, who will might not be part of the negotiation.
Try to find out who takes the main decision and encourage your counterpart to bring them for lunch or a short meeting.
If this doesn't work, just wait for your counterpart to present the good reasons for doing business with you.
5) Socializing in business
Breakfast or coffee and Lunch play the most important role in the Spanish business culture.
Spanish people tend to take a break around 10:30 am to have a coffee or snack with colleagues.
In some cases meetings are arranged with the title 'Coffee update' so people meet to get up to date on issues running while having a coffee.
It is a non formal way to communicate that works in Spain.Long breaks for lunch are very common in Spain, people share a lot of details about their lives in these long hours and it is very common that your business colleagues know about each others family and lifestyle.
For business meetings, use this time to get the trust you need for your negotiations, Spanish people love to have a space over lunch to get into business.
Don't be surprised to hear people speaking loudly at some points, excitement and culture are part of their gesture and tone of voice.
Speaking loudly means they are honestly interested in the topic and want to build a business relationship with you.
If you are still reading this post it means you are truly interested in making your business deals work with Spain.
We really hope everything works well and you enjoy the social side of Spanish culture
If you have any comments or ways to improve this post, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks!
Further Reading: Why should you do business with Spain? The ultimate guide to work spaces in Madrid - The Golden Sha Club Guide to experiences in Spain