First of all, Spaniards are very relaxed in general, especially when it comes to time. In other countries, you may feel rushed to leave a restaurant as soon as you are done eating. Not here. It is totally normal to sit down and relax after a meal, chatting with friends for hours. What’ more, it is very common for Spanish people to be a few minutes late, and this be totally acceptable. As for business meetings, be punctual but do expect to wait 15–20 minutes for the arrival of others (they are not so strict about time as in other parts of the world). Closing a deal or concluding negotiations may also take some time too!
Breaking the ice with a small chat before starting serious business talk is very common. In general, Spaniards are more open to chat than most other European cultures. You can find yourself in the middle of a conversation at the local shop lasting for 10 minutes or more, or having a god conversation with people on public transport.
When you see a friend or even meet someone for the first time, rather than shaking their hand, it is proper to give a quick kiss on either cheek. This is especially if you are a woman, as men would still usually shake hands. These rules can also apply when you’re saying goodbye to someone too. For some, this can be confusing, as it seems too personal, too fast. However, to the Spanish it is perfectly normal!
In Spain, you’ll find that the locals eat meals at times you’re not accustomed to. Breakfast is very small (or non-existent) and «almuerzo» is when they will usually take a break for a coffee and a sandwich. Lunch is a huge meal, often consisting of several courses and a dessert. The Spanish also enjoy a mid-day snack (around the time you might be used to eating dinner) anywhere between 5 pm to 6:30 called «merienda». This snack is usually enjoyed with a coffee. Finally, the Spanish eat dinner anytime between 9 pm to 10:30 pm. Dinner can also last for awhile. In Spain, meal times are not about simply eating your food and moving on. Rather, its about hanging out with friends and family, talking about your day, and enjoying each other’s company. This should be considered if you are going for a business lunch, which won’t just be a quick 30mins to 1 hour.
Of course, if you don’t speak Spanish, then the language may come as a surprise to you. In many European countries, most of the citizens speak both their home language and English, however, this is not always the case in Spain. Although many Spanish business people speak English, it is greatly appreciated (and a distinct advantage on a professional level) if you speak Spanish.
When working in Spain, be sure to take cultural differences into account. Spanish people are open and friendly. However, in a business setting, you can expect to come across different practices. An ordinary day of work usually begins around 09:00-09:30h and lasts until 19.00-20:00h, with an average two-hour lunch break between 15:00 and 17:00h. However, this lunch break is not only an excuse to eat and take the traditional Spanish siesta, but also an opportunity to discuss business.
The best way to immerse in Spanish business culture is to build some connections with local businesses, and what better way than sharing a co-working space and attending some networking and business events. If you are fond of the idea of working fully or partly from a co-working space in Valencia, click here to find out more.