Doing business in Spain

When doing business in another country it is important to know about its habits and cultural norms. Learning about culture in advance may be the key to gaining partners abroad and further to developing good business relationships with these. Please note that this is a general guide to Spanish business culture. Culture is diverse, and we recommend observing and adapting to your surroundings.

Many Spaniards (mainly men to women/women to women) greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks (they kiss in the air while touching cheeks). Although the greeting is most frequently used in personal relationships, it is not uncommon in business relationships.

Gran via, Madrid. Photo: Alev Takil, Unsplash

Addressing a person
Señor (Sr.) or Señora (Sra.) are the formal ways to address a person in Spain. The titles are used similarly to Mr. and Ms. in English.

Business meetings
In Spain, close relationships between business partners can be important, and Spaniards may want to get to know you before doing business. It is polite to show interest in your business partner’s life and be open for conversations about family and background.

Business meals
Spanish meals are often a time for relaxation and enjoyment, and it can therefore be recommended to notify your partners in advance if you would like to discuss business over lunch.

Although political correctness may not be as important in Spain as in other countries, it is always recommended to be humble. English skills are varied in Spain, speaking Spanish can therefore be recommended if you want to impress.

Working hours and holidays
Traditionally, most stores have had opening hours from 9 am to 1:30/2 pm, and then from 4:30/5 pm to 8 pm. In recent years it has become more common for stores to be open all day. The same applies for businesses. In August, when most people take their vacations, office hours can change to jornada intensiva: 8 am – 3 pm.

Lunch is normally between 2 pm and 4 pm. Dinner is generally a lighter meal, and 10 pm is the normal time at restaurants.

There are national, state and local holidays. When a holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, it is not uncommon to take the adjacent Monday or Friday off.

At restaurants, bars and taxis, you can tip if you want to, but it is not mandatory. It also depends on your social/financial situation and your age.

Time and punctuality
We recommend being on time for meetings, and you can expect Spaniards to be the same.

Dressing well is often important when doing business in Spain. Business casual implies shirt and pants for men, but normally no tie. If your party invitation says formal, it is likely very formal (black tuxedo for men and a cocktail dress for women).


Photo: Headway, Unsplash 

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