Doing Business in Spain
Even though General Assembly delegates will spend most of their time in an international environment, here are some tips to help you with Spanish business etiquette.
Meeting and greeting
Handshakes are standard as with the rest of Europe. While many Spaniards will meet each other with a kiss on both cheeks, this is not common in business relationships unless you know the other party well. It is wise to offer a handshake, and if a kiss is appropriate the Spanish party will initiate it.
It is always a good idea to try and use some of the local language. A simple means of doing so is in using the appropriate greeting for the time of day - buenos días (good day), buenas tardes (good evening) or buenas noches (good night).
Most people can be greeted using Señor (Mr),or Don (D), Señora (Mrs) or Doña (Dña) or Señorita (Miss) followed by their surname. You may also hear people being addressed by their professional titles. Profesor may be used with teachers; engineers are referred to as Ingeniero.
Communication and body language
The Spanish can be described as a cheerful and outgoing people. Relationships built in a face-to-face environment are the be all and end all.
People will want to spend time getting to know each other to ensure the right chemistry for a business relationship. It is therefore important to present yourself in the best possible light. The Spanish appreciate people who are dignified yet modest.
Generally, Spaniards stand very close when talking and speak a lot with their hands. But never imitate: do not touch, hug or slap a Spaniard on the back you do not know well, unless you are touched first.
Meetings and negotiating
Initial meetings may be more focused on the relationship rather than business.
There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they serve more as guidelines rather than a rigid timetable. Issues may be discussed simultaneously rather than separately.
Several people may also try to speak at once and interruptions are not uncommon. If this happens it should not be interpreted as rude but rather an indication that what you were saying was of great interest.
When doing business in Spain remember that agreements must first be reached orally and then in writing. Decision-making is carried out at the top of a company.
The Spanish have a very relaxed view of time, but as a foreigner you will be expected to be punctual.
Dress as you would in the rest of Europe. Business dress is stylish but modest and conservative. Do not wear shorts in churches or museums.
In Spain it is not uncommon to give a gift to a broker or professional (including a bank officer) who was especially competent: flowers or chocolates if female or a good bottle of wine if male.
If you receive a gift, you should open it immediately in front of the giver and say gracias! Any gift should be a high-quality item, and should be finely wrapped.
Companies often send those at Christmas to their best clients. Marketing merchandise will be more appreciated if it is a fine pen or a tasteful desk accessory.