WORKING ABROAD / MAR. 09, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Master Spanish Business Etiquette

Spain is a beautiful country and one that anybody who has the chance, should visit at least once in their lifetime. The country is large and diverse, and every state has its own unique culture. However, the country has a general business culture which is maintained throughout the country, especially in the capital Madrid. If you do go there to do business, hopefully this guide will help make that experience a little bit easier.

Relationships

Relationships are very important to Spaniards when conducting business. It is important for them to forge a relationship with you and get to know you properly before any deal can be struck. Inviting potential business partners for a meal is a great way to improve this relationship. Also, if you are invited for a meal it is imperative that you accept the invitation. Otherwise, you may be seen as unfriendly or rude.

Greetings

You may have seen Spaniards always kissing on cheeks on television, but this is not how things work in the business world. It is customary to kiss women on both cheeks; however, this is not always true. Men usually greet each other with a firm handshake and a back slap, or even a hug if they know each other well. As such, some women may wish to be greeted with a handshake, but not a backslap. The key here really is to follow the lead of your Spanish counter parts. When in doubt do what the Spaniards are doing.

Dress Code

Spaniards take a lot of pride in how they dress and place a lot of importance in how other people are dressed. Because of this, it is important that you dress very smart for any meeting or social gathering with prospective business partners. Men should wear a very nice dark three-piece suit. Women should also dress formally and stylishly with immaculate clothes and hair. Perfume and cologne is fine to wear and should be of a high quality.

Business Cards

Although not as important as they are in Asia, business cards are still quite important in Spain. Spanish people consider the business card to be the first point of contact. As the point of first contact, you should have the card printed on good quality material with a conservative design that gives all the necessary information. Full name, title, contact information and hours you will be available. It is also best to have one side printed in Spanish to be polite. You cannot take it for granted that all the people present will be able to speak English. When receiving a business card placing the card into a business card holder, rather than shoving it into a pocket is also important.  

Punctuality

The Spanish concept of time can seem a bit alien to other people as they are generally quite relaxed about it. It is not uncommon for Spaniards to be fashionably late for meetings or meals. Also, negotiations can be quite lengthy drawn out processes and it is unlikely that any deal will be struck quickly.

Gift Giving   

If you are invited to someone’s house then it is customary to bring a gift such as chocolates or wine. If there are children then it is also customary to bring a small gift for them. Gifts are usually opened in the givers presence.

Communication

As not all Spaniards can speak English it is always best to bring an interpreter with you to all business meetings. It will speed up the pace of the whole meeting, as even those who can speak English, may not understand exactly what you are saying sometimes.

Dining

As previously mentioned, meals are an excellent way to enhance a business relationship. One reason for this is because of the immense importance that Spaniards place on meals. Spaniards usually eat around 9pm. It is not usually a time to talk about business, but rather a time to get to know one another better. Talking about common interests can help improve your business relationship.

Most of these rules are fairly easy to follow, but it may take some adjusting to get used to. As long as you dress well and can get used to their relaxed attitude to time then you should be fine. That is of course unless none of your prospective business partners speak English.

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