The territory of Gibraltar, located at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), is a popular destination for tourists wanting to visit the massive Rock of Gibraltar, but it’s also a business destination. As a British Overseas Territory, much of its economy was centered around the British military occupation. However, in recent years, it has become a haven for internet gaming, financial services, and shipping.
Doing business in Gibraltar is somewhat different from doing business in Spain. While you are dealing with many Spanish people, the residents of Gibraltar have distinctly British influences that contrast their style of business with their Spanish neighbors. Mastering the business etiquette of Gibraltar will help you be successful in your negotiations and dealings with the people of this territory.
While Gibraltar is immediately adjacent to Spain, the relations between the people of Spain and Gibraltar are a bit strained. There is an actual border between the territories, which can make it difficult for residents crossing into Spain and Spaniards working in Gibraltar crossing back into Spain.
Business hours during most of the year are between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, though during summer the hours change from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM due to the intense heat of the day.
Government office hours are between 8:45 AM and 1:15 PM, a short break for lunch, and then from 2:15 PM to 5:30 PM. However, the office hours vary according to the department, as well as the season. During summer, office hours are once again shortened and begin earlier in the day.
When greeting a local, a firm handshake is recommended. Locals tend to be very friendly and accommodating, and greeting them politely and professionally will return the courtesy.
English is the language most commonly used in Gibraltar, so much of your business will be done in English. If, however, your business is related to Spain, Spanish may be used. A lot of your business documentation will need to be presented in both Spanish and English.
The dress in Gibraltar is conservative, so you wear your regular suit and tie for business. During the summer months, however, the heat can be intense, so it is common for short-sleeved shirts and slacks to be worn during work hours.
As with most European countries, punctuality is very important. You will want to arrive on time to your appointments, as it is seen as a sign of disrespect if you show up late.
The Spanish influence in Gibraltar is very strong, so don’t be surprised if your contact arrives at the meeting late. The British tend to be fairly punctual, but those holding to Spanish traditions and customs may arrive late. Don’t be surprised if you spend 15 to 30 minutes extra waiting for your meeting to begin.
With the locals, communicate as directly as possible. If you need something, ask politely, and express your concerns clearly if you have any problems.
Follow the rules laid out above, and you’ll have no problem doing business in Gibraltar!