Are you visiting Spain on business or pleasure?
If you are one of those who likes to say “OK” by forming a circle with your thumb and index finger, you are advised not to do so in Spain as it is considered obscene. You should also be careful with the apparent similarity between ‘services’ and ‘servicios’. If you thank someone for their good ‘servicios’, you are basically praising their bathroom.
Here are some useful tips to help you when in Spain:
Lifestyle in Spain differs with that of Northern Europe: it is unhurried, loud and sometimes smoke-filled, although much less nowadays. Most establishments are generally open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 1:30 /2:00 pm (morning) and from 4:30 /5:30 pm until about 8:00 pm (afternoon). Banks and government offices open at about 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday to Friday and may not reopen at all in the afternoon. In August cities like Madrid seem to become deserted, a welcome break from the usual chaos. A general “buenos dias” (good-morning) or “buenas tardes” (good-afternoon) on entering a shop or cafe/bar and “adios” (good bye) when leaving is habitual. When conversing, the Spanish do not usually stand uncomfortably close, but they may pat your arm or shoulder. The expansive body language of a Spaniard should not be misinterpreted or mistaken for anger. When meeting for business and more formal occasions it is polite to use the basic titles of courtesy: “Señor” (Mr), “Señora” (Mrs), Señorita (Miss) followed by the surname. Yawning or stretching in public is considered vulgar.
Personal contacts are vital for all business success in Spain. You should select your Spanish representatives with care because, once you have made your choices, it can be extremely hard to change allegiance to other people. This is because honour and personal pride mean everything in Spanish culture, so you should avoid insulting the Spanish ego at all costs. However, once you have established a healthy business relationship you will find Spaniards value fidelity.
Spaniards are very conscious about dressing and will perceive your appearance as an indication of your professional status, so dress well. Designer clothes and brand names will be noticed with approval. Business cards should be printed in English on one side and in Spanish overleaf. You should handout your card with the Spanish side facing the recipient. It is also recommended to bring plenty of literature about your company, samples of your products or demonstrations of your services in addition to a printout of your presentation.
Meals in Spain (coffee, lunch, tapas, dinner) are the perfect occasion for establishing personal relationships and rapport with business partners. When attending a business dinner, be prepared to stay up late. Most restaurants do not open until after nine o’clock, and often do not get active until around eleven. While in the UK it is generally considered polite to arrive up to 5 minutes late, in Spain it is about 15-30 minutes. Be prepared to wait. If you fancy a draught beer, you should ask for a “caña” (small) or “jarra de cerveza” (300-500ml). Simply asking for a beer (“cerveza”) will bring you a much more expensive bottle. You should only accept a refill if you are confident that you can finish it. If you are up to drinking spirits, you should know that Spanish measures are usually extremely generous. When asking for a gin tonic you may get gin with a little tonic, so you should say “ya” (enough) and/or wave your hand when you want them to stop filling your glass. Your home country, sports and travel are good topics of conversation. Gibraltar, Franco, politics and religion are likely to put your counterpart off. The question, “So, what do you like to do when you are not working?” can be asked once you have established an initial rapport. This breaks for a more natural conversation.
In the Spanish business culture, gifts are usually offered at the conclusion of successful negotiations. You should ensure that it is a high-quality item and that it is finely wrapped. If you are offered a gift, you should open it immediately, in front of the giver and show appreciation.
Although most countries in Europe are undergoing a gradual change in social behaviour becoming more accepting and tolerant of other customs and cultures, one should always try to respect the customs of the host country.
Acerca de Todd
Profesores particulares y *nativos de Inglés que imparten clases en PYMES, empresas, academias, escuelas y a particulares en Madrid, Barcelona y España. Si necesita profesores de inglés, aquí encontrará la mejor selección. Todos ellos cuentan con experiencia como docentes y han sido previamente seleccionados por nosotros por su profesionalidad además de tener, como minimo, titulación específica para impartir clases de inglés como TESOL.*En profesoringles.net el término nativo/a significa que el profesor tiene un nivel nativo del idioma y lo domina completamente, al igual que una persona nativa de un país anglófono.