Five Etiquette Tips for Doing Business in Spain
While Spain has a notoriously laid-back culture compared to some other European countries, there are still basic guidelines for etiquette that you’ll want to be aware of—especially if you’re travelling there for business. Boning up on these five tips before your journey abroad will help prepare you and prevent a major blunder that could lead to personal embarrassment or worse—a business mishap that could follow you the rest of your career.
This one isn’t exactly specific to Spain and it’s definitely not only for business. If you’re travelling abroad it is important to at least try and pick up a little of the local language. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but also it will open you up to a new culture in a way you would not experience otherwise. If you have a bit of a background in Spanish but not sure where you are in you skill level, try this Spanish level test to see where you are and you can decide from there what you may need to do to improve your Spanish communication skills.
Before any sort of professional meeting, it is customary to become acquainted with your colleagues before any business proceedings. When it comes to personal introductions, you’ll find that Spaniards practice the two-cheek kiss without actually touching faces. However, this is not customary in business settings. Always be aware of body language, though… sometimes a Spaniard will begin to initiate the kiss greeting in which it’s only polite to follow through. While they get to know you, be prepared to answer questions about your personal and family history—Spaniards like to talk about these things to get a feel for how honest and reliable you are. Also don’t be afraid to ask these questions back. Spaniards are great conversationalists and very open people.
Go with the flow
As stated before, the Spanish culture is generally more laid-back. Expect a bit of that to reflect in business meetings. Agendas are provided, but rarely does the conversation stick to it strictly. Don’t try and impose the business style you’re comfortable with on them; after all, you’re on their home turf. Be flexible but don’t let your business goals go unheard. Sometimes one party will take the lead of the meeting, which can be intimidating, but don’t let it keep you from accomplishing what you came there to do. On the other hand, don’t impose a decision in direct language, instead find a way to steer the conversation so it seems like they’re the ones making the decision that benefits both parties.
Call it a double standard, but while Spaniards do not take punctuality for business meetings seriously they will expect you to be on time. If you are delayed make sure you call someone around your level of business hierarchy and let them know you’re running late. This idea is mostly important in the business world; when it comes to socializing and dining it’s expected to be 15-30 minutes late, depending on the area of Spain you are in. And for some reason, no one is ever late for a bullfight.
Spain, like most of Europe, is concerned with fashion and style. Even in casual situations Spaniards dress more elegantly with high attention to detail and quality. It’s best to lean on the side of conservative and avoid loud colors or patterns, unless it’s a subtle accent like a pocket square for a man’s suit or an interesting piece of jewelry for women. Shoes are considered very important. Make sure yours are in good condition and freshly polished. For men, a jacket and tie is essential in the business world even in the scorching Spanish summers. If someone else in the room takes off their jacket in a meeting, that’s a go-ahead signal that it’s okay for you to follow suit.
So while you’re packing your best suit and shoes and making sure your watch is set correctly, you’ll also probably want to make sure you can communicate clearly in Spanish for those initial introductions. Not only will it be polite, but it will also impress your new business partners that you’ve taken the time and initiative to get to know their language. Not sure where to start? Contact Language Trainers with any questions you may have about finding the right class or organizing a small-group class for your team. If your interested in learning more about Spain or any other countries your business might take you to, check out the Language Trainers blog for fun and original content that will help prepare you for your international career.