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Doing business in Spain


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An interesting marketing mistake is Fiat's "Cinquecento" campaign in Spain, which was addressed to Spanish women. Part of the advertisement included sending love letters to women alluring them to go out and check the car at a dealership. Their attempts to attract the "independent, modern, working woman" ended up in creating feelings of being stalked. Neither the respective partners enjoyed the message of their spouses indulging in "a little adventure".

* The official name is Kingdom of Spain.
* The official language is Spanish, with other recognised regional languages.
* The capital and largest city is Madrid.
* The population is approximately 47 million.

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Business Mentality

Personal contacts are vital for all business success in Spain, so building a friendly relationship and meeting people face to face are the key to success.

– Spanish people will do business with you if there is the right chemistry, so try to present yourself in the best positive light - try to be dignified and modest. Moreover, if you are a funny person, feel free to share jokes. Humour will be appreciated even during business meetings, but be careful not to be offensive.

– Bring sufficient literature about your company, samples of your products or demonstrations of your services. It is also helpful to provide a printout of the summary of your presentation in Spanish.

– The agenda serves more as guidelines than a rigid timetable. You might find yourself discussing several issues at the same time.

– Remember that in Spain arguments must first be reached orally and then in writing. The decision is made at the top of the company.

Business hours are Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 1:30 /2:00 pm (morning) and from 4:30 /5:00 pm until about 8:00 pm (afternoon).

– Banks and government offices open 9:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday to Friday and may not reopen at all in the afternoon.

– Whilst the ‘siesta‘ is still a distinctive feature of the Spanish way of life, Spain no longer ‘shuts down’ completely for the afternoon.


– The appropriate greeting in business is the usual handshake.

– It is always polite to use the basic titles of courtesy: ‘Señor/Don’ (Mr), ‘Señora/Doña’ (Mrs), ‘Señorita’ (Miss) followed by the surname.

The Art of Conversation

– Although Spanish culture values personal pride, try not to brag too much about your business accomplishments.

– Do not get into personal details until you know your Spanish counterpart does so - it is best to let them begin that type of conversation.

Good topics of conversation are aspects of your own home country, Spanish football, flamenco.

Honour and pride are important in Spanish culture, so avoid insulting the Spanish ego at all costs.

– Avoid politically charged topics (Gibraltar or Basque separatist, Franco) or issues demonstrating differences between American and Spanish culture or values.

Business meetings and meals

– Spaniards are very conscious about dress code and will perceive your appearance as an indication of your professional status. Be stylish yet conservative.

– Spanish people are not known for being punctual, so you might have to wait 15-30 minutes for your counterpart. However, it is expected of you to be on time.

Business cards should be printed in English on one side and in Spanish overleaf. You should hand your card with the Spanish side facing the recipient.

– In the Spanish business culture, gifts are usually offered only at the conclusion of successful negotiations. You should ensure that it is a high-quality item and that it is finely wrapped. If you are offered a gift, you should open it immediately in front of the giver.

Meals in Spain (for coffee, lunch, tapas, dinner) are the perfect occasion for establishing personal relationships and rapport with your business partners.

Business can be conducted over meals, but be aware that the Spanish regard eating mainly as a sociable activity.

– If you fancy a draught beer, you should ask for a ‘caña’ (small) or ‘tubo’ (300ml). Simply asking for beer (‘cerveza’) will bring you a much more expensive bottle. If you are up to drinking spirits, you should know that Spanish measures are usually extremely generous.

– A tipof 5% in restaurants and 10% in taxis will be appreciated.

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Body language

– Spanish people can be described as cheerful and outgoing people and they will use expansive body language to express that.

– In conversation, the Spanish aren’t likely to stand uncomfortably close, but they may still pat your arm or shoulder.

– Yawning or stretching in public is considered vulgar.

Other fun facts

– Spain is famous for its bar culture.

– Spain has over 8,000 km of beaches.

– Spain has some of the largest gold deposits in Europe. It is also one of the world biggest producers of granite and marble.

– Spain legalized same sex marriage in 2005.

Did you find this article useful? If so, you might also enjoy our guide to business etiquette in the UK.

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