Spanish Business Etiquette
By all means this is not a guide which stereotypes the Spanish people or is written in stone, these tips on Spanish business etiquette are more so an opportunity to provide you with greater cultural awareness and understanding of what the ‘norms’ are in Spain when it comes to doing business. Remember to always respect the culture, values and traditions of your prospective clients.
As with most other parts of Europe, when greeting in Spain it is common to offer a handshake. On the first occasion that you meet for a business meeting, the situation will be formal though as you get to know your business partner(s) this will gradually become slightly less formal.
Greet your business partner with Señor, Señora or Señorita followed by their surname. You will be told by your business partner(s) to use their first name from then on accordingly. It is worth also using a basic Spanish greeting such as “Buenos días” (until 2pm) or “buenas tardes” (2.00-6.00) to help break down barriers and show respect. Any small conversation you can make in Spanish is an asset and demonstrates interest in the culture you are seeking to do business with.
Once a stronger, more personal relationship has been established you can expect in most businesses or industries for this to be the moment to begin negotiating with your prospective client. Therefore, it goes without saying, make sure you take the time to establish a personal good working relationship with your client, as this will result in a more successful outcome for you.
During your meetings, it can be often the case where opinions will not be given by your Spanish clients. Be aware of body language as a main form of communication to start off with.
To ensure success, bring any documents which can explain or present your product or company in Spanish and English. This will demonstrate a respect towards their culture and language and reinforce your position within the business meeting.
Foreign businesswomen are accepted into the community. On introduction establish yourself by stating your credentials, qualifications and ability straightaway.
Always follow up your meeting with a letter. By doing this you are thanking your prospective business partner and also reinforcing the relationship that has been established.
On the whole, business lunches are seen as a social occasion and opportunity to get to know one another better. However, if you are keen to discuss business over lunch, then make it clear in your invitation. Lunchtime is generally seen as the best time to have business meals rather than later on in the day.
If there is an opportunity to give a toast, then do so in Spanish.
Always keep your hands visible and on the table and it is seen as rude to leave food on your plate so if you are full, decline anymore.
If you are a businesswoman inviting a businessman be prepared that the businessman will insist on paying.
In a business environment, Spaniards tend to be well dressed and formal. Even in an informal setting Spaniards will still look fresh and smart.
Men should wear a tailored suit and women a smart skirt, dress or trouser suits.
Don’t let it happen to you!
On one occasion a business deal fell through. Why? The client failed to spend the time getting to know their prospective client and jumped straight into business negotiations, they turned up late and did not respect their clients with the correct greetings or dress. This was not seen in good light and as a lack of respect towards the prospective client and the deal fell through.
Always be respectful of your prospective business partner’s culture and traditions. Here at Planet Veritas, we offer cross-cultural training to ensure that your business dealings are not ruined by an inadequate knowledge of your target culture. Contact us now to find out more!
If you have been invited to your client’s home it is good manners to present a small wrapped gift. Items such as pastries, cakes, chocolates or flowers will be received. However remember to give an odd number of flowers, never 13 flowers as this is seen as unlucky and choose your flower carefully. Red roses denote passion, yellow roses denote infidelity and never give chrysanthemums or dahlias.
In a business setting gifts are not generally given but are appropriate at the end of negotiations not at the start as they will be seen as some form of bribery. Desk items, books, art and music are good choices.
Planning your business meeting:
When organising the date and time of your business be aware of working hours in Spain. Generally, the working day starts early with a late morning coffee break and then a longer lunch break at 2pm. Generally the working day ends at 7pm or 8pm. However, in recognition of the need to adapt working hours to be more in line with Europe, attempts are being made to reform the Spanish working day to a standard 9am to 5pm day. Hours will vary according to the business and industry so be sure that when you are setting up your meeting you confirm this.
Remember as well that Spain’s clock is in line with that of Germany as a result of Franco’s historic support of its German ally and explains why everything takes place much later in Spain than it does in other parts of Europe. Again, suggestions are being made to reform this policy in recognition to keep in lines with the rest of the working world.
August is the time when most people take their annual leave so be prepared for things to be quiet during this period. It can be much harder to organise business meetings at this time of year. You can also expect there to be a change in working hours to a jornada intensiva which starts at 8am and finishes at 3pm in some businesses and industries.
Friday afternoons can also be quieter and be aware of public holidays as office hours will differ during this period. Also Spaniards will sometimes create ‘un puente’ (a bridge) and have an extended holiday during a public holiday weekend to take advantage of the time off.
When you arrange your meeting it’s a good idea to ensure that you meet with the person who is of the same level as you professionally. Generally, any decisions made at the end of the meeting will be taken by the most senior member present at the meeting.
The timing of meetings can be slightly different to what is the norm in the UK. For example, they may be less hurried, start later or not finish on time. Always remember that although this can be the case in some businesses or industries, you, as the prospective client will always be expected to be on time.
Getting to know you:
Before getting down to business, Spaniards like to have a chat and find out more about you. Respond to their questions and do not be surprised if you are asked about your family, hobbies, life in the UK as a way of getting to know you better. This is vital to establish trust between both parties and is seen by Spanish people as crucial to a good business relationship.
Always present your business card upon meeting ensuring that it is written in Spanish and English with the Spanish side up upon presentation.