Spanish business etiquette

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Before starting a business in Spain, pay attention to business culture of that country. The attitudes and values of a country have a significant effect on the way the business is conducted. This article will deal with areas of Spanish business culture that may influence the success of negotiations and your business start in Spain.

Generally, the Spanish people are a very open and communicative; they appreciate their families, personal relationships and cultural traditions. Usually, they do not deem their work the most significant thing in life, since they like to focus on communication, personal contacts and leisure. In general, family and social ties are more important for Spanish people than working life or business. The practice shows that it is crucial to realise this fact when starting a business in Spain, as this may help you to understand and predict the behaviour of your Spanish partners in various situations.

Personal contacts will be vital for you if you want to start a business in Spain. So, building a friendly relationship and meeting people face to face are the key to successful business cooperation. Spanish people will do business with you if there is the right personal contact. Thus, it is necessary to present yourself in the best positive light. Spanish people are very conscious of personal presentation and will perceive your appearance as a symbol of your professional achievement and social standing. The way you present yourself is of critical importance when dealing with Spanish business people.

It is worth to remember that planning does not seem to be that important for Spanish companies, since they are sure that no one can predict the future. It is not a secret, that Spanish people do not share the same concept of time as other European nations. In Spain, being late is usually not considered impolite and deadlines are often considered as objectives to be met where possible, but are not viewed as binding. The strategy of the company is the sole responsibility of the managing director or the owner of the company, who trusts more on intuition than on some analysis.

In Spain, business people do not usually give gifts to each other. However, gifts are sometimes offered at the end of a successful negotiation or in order to thank someone for a favour. Gifts should not be too expensive, so that they cannot be perceived as a bribe and usually are expected to be some kind of food, drinks or souvenirs from your home country. Corporate gifts or books about your country are also good gift idea, and a bottle of whisky or brandy would also make a useful alternative gift, in case you have nothing else to offer. Gifts are usually opened as they are received.

Spaniards usually spend much time and money on their outfit and appearance. It is advisable to dress with elegance and use only top-quality materials in subdued colours. Thus, it is important to dress in a manner that demonstrates professionalism, style and a serious approach to business. Designer clothes and elegant accessories are particularly recommended.

Greeting in Spain is an extensive ritual. Hands are shaken with everybody present. Kissing each other on both cheeks is only done between people who know each other. Business cards are typically exchanged at the beginning of a meeting. When presenting your card, be sure one side of your card is translated into Spanish; it will help you to make an amazingly positive impression on your business partners.

If you are doing business in Spain you have to know that most companies are still hierarchically structured, although the old mindset has been changing in recent years. For example, family-owned companies as well as most government organizations are run according to a traditional Spanish strong hierarchical system. It should be noted that a modest employee is more appreciated than an assertive employee. In Spanish company culture individualism is predominant in management, whereas teamwork is not too much appreciated. However, the strong hierarchical and bureaucratic culture is changing due to a growing number of young managers educated abroad, globalisation and changes in Spanish society itself. Nonetheless, despite the changes in society, decisions are still taken at senior management level, often by the senior executive alone.

Business negotiations have some characteristic features in each region of Spain. In general, Spanish people consider it rude if a request is answered negatively. That is why, in Spain, negotiations are often a process that requires time.

Taking into account that Spaniards appreciate relationship and communication, getting acquainted with your business partner is of great importance in order to be successful in negotiations. Note that it is not uncommon to be interrupted while speaking. Most of the time this simply means that the person is honestly interested in what you are saying and is getting into a dialogue.

So, many things are currently changing within Spain, but people still prefer some clarity on who makes the decisions and do respect hierarchy. Remember that in Spain arguments must first be reached orally and then in writing. The decision is made at the top of the company.