When doing business in Spain, keep in mind that many businesses are closed from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, since people often return home to have their main meal with their family and take an afternoon siesta
Although you should be punctual yourself, don’t be alarmed if you are kept waiting for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In addition, parties and other social events rarely begin at their scheduled time.
A wide range of gestures regularly accompany conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have difficulty understanding these gestures, especially since the meanings often vary from region to region.
Be sensitive to regional differences because making misinformed comments about a Spaniard’s region of origin is considered an insult (for example, mistaking a Catalonian for a Basque).
First-time introductions with Spaniards should be made in a formal manner. Extend a brief but firm handshake while maintaining eye contact.
In the company of friends, it’s common for men to hug or pat each other on the back in addition to the handshake.
Women sometimes lightly embrace, then touch cheeks while lightly kissing the air. They may also greet a Spanish man who is a particularly close friend in this way.
Although there may be less Spanish women in management positions, businesswomen in Spain are treated with respect, as long as you dress and behave in a professional manner.
While women are fully accepted in their business roles, machismo is important to some Spanish men, so they often feel the need to be in control of the situation.
Spaniards stand close together when talking and may also pat your arm or shoulder to make a point. Don’t move away, or it may cause offense.
Another common Spanish gesture is snapping the hands downward to emphasize a point.
Spain is a very religious country, so many people will be offended if they hear you take the Lord’s name in vain, and it’s best to refrain from swearing in the presence of others.
The Spanish business culture is extremely hierarchical, and only bosses, known as “el jefe” or “el padron,” have the authority to make decisions. Generally, subordinates follow orders, obey authority, and solve any problems before they surface.
Be aware that it would be frowned upon if you spent a great deal of time and attention on someone who is of lesser rank than you. It’s better to spend time with those who would be considered your “business equal”.
Make the effort to adapt to the Spanish business ways, because it demonstrates your respect for their culture and shows that you are flexible.
Don’t expect to discuss business at the start of any meeting. Spaniards want to become acquainted with you before proceeding to business, so be accommodating and answer any questions they may have about your background. On the flip side, it’s best not to ask them too many personal questions during first introductions.
Feelings are strongly relied on in the Spanish business culture. Consequently, it’s important that you work at building a good rapport with your Spanish counterparts.
Although Spaniards are receptive to new information and ideas, you may find that they don’t change their minds easily. Be prepared to negotiate and compromise.
Don’t be concerned if you are interrupted while talking, and don’t take it as an insult. Spanish interruptions most often indicate a genuine and enthusiastic interest in the discussion.
As in many Asian countries, you must do everything you can to prevent yourself and others from “losing face”, so be very careful to avoid any kind of criticism or embarrassment.
Spaniards will often insist that everything is in perfect order, even when this is not the case. This is a “face-saving” measure to appear competent and in control. Pay close attention during conversations to discern what is really going on.
Decision-making and negotiations in Spain can be slow, and various levels of hierarchy are consulted as aspects of a proposal are analyzed. After a successful negotiation, gifts are sometimes exchanged to mark the happy occasion.
Do’s and Taboos for Spain
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips
Eye contact is very important to indicate your sincerity and attentiveness.
All types of sports, and especially soccer!
Architecture, music, art, culture, and anything related to the country or region’s beauty.
Travel, places you’ve visited, and your home country.
Good, wine, and especially the food or wine of the regions in Spain you are visiting.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos
The North American “O.K.” sign (making a circle of the first finger and thumb) is considered vulgar and should never be used.
Summoning a person by curling your index finger is considered rude. Instead, turn your palm down and wave your fingers or entire hand.
Bullfighting is a revered art form here. Consequently, it will be in your best interests to refrain from airing any criticisms about it.
Avoid placing too much of an emphasis on your professional experience and business success during a conversation.
In the Spanish culture, the quality of your character is the best measure of respect, so take care about how you want to be perceived.
Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for SWEDEN!
To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
Create Rapport and Organize Strategies for Success
The CROSS of Cross-Cultural
Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z
Cultural Tips for Spain – including some valuable business travel tips for Spain
This article on cultural differences in Spain and cultural travel tips for Spain is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Spain, tips for communicating in Spain, and business strategies for Spain to help with understanding the culture in Spain. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture,’ cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Spain and tips for intercultural communication!
It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a significant impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.
Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!
Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our customized training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.
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