Doing business in Spain

business in spain

Tips For Doing Business In Spain

Fiat’s “Cinquecento” advertising campaign in Spain is one of the marketing mistakes worth taking a closer look at. The idea of their ads was that women received love letters enticing them into checking out the car at their local dealership. The intention was to attract the modern woman who works and who is independent, but the result was that women felt like being stalked. Furthermore, their partners also didn’t feel at ease with the message that “a little adventure” from the part of their spouses would be fine.

So we thought it would be nice to give some tips on how you do business in Spain and how to behave during a business meeting.

First of all, let’s get the facts straight…

  • The official name of the country is Kingdom of Spain.
  • The official language is Spanish, but there are other regional languages also recognized.
  • The capital if the country is Madrid. It is also the biggest city.
  • The country has a total population of about 47 million.

Business Mentality

  • Personal contacts play an important role in doing business in Spain, so you should invest time and effort into building friendly relationships and meeting lots of potential business partners face to face.
  • Spanish people will accept to do business with you, should they feel the chemistry between you works. In this respect, try to present yourself in  positive light, while also being modest and open minded. Furthermore, if you have a good sense of humor, share your jokes with others, even during business meetings. Spanish people appreciate high-quality humor, but make sure you aren’t offensive.
  • Prepare a thorough credentials presentation of your company, and support it with documentation, product samples or demonstrations of your services. It would be a good idea to have some printouts of your presentation in Spanish.
  • Spanish people treat the meeting agenda as a rough guideline only, so expect to find yourself discussing multiple points at the same time.
  • Working hours are 9:00 am to 1:30 or 2:00 pm, then there’s a break, and the work starts again at 4:30 pm until about 8:00 pm.
  • Banks and government agencies and offices are open between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm Monday to Friday. Some of them may not have an afternoon program.
  • Although the ‘siesta’ is still part of the Spanish lifestyle, the country doesn’t ‘fall asleep’ completely in the afternoon.
  • Spain has a Vat rate of 21% according to this table from VATIT


  • The classic handshake is the right greeting to use in your business relationships.
  • Be polite and use the basic titles of courtesy such as Mr, Mrs and Miss (in Spanish) followed by the surname of the person.

Basic Conversation Rules

  • Despite the fact that personal pride is one of the best values of Spanish culture, avoid bragging too much about your accomplishments.
  • Don’t be the first to enter into personal details – rather wait for your Spanish counterpart to start the conversation on such topics.
  • Choose conversation topics such as your own home country, flamenco or Spanish football – all of these can make great warmers.
  • Never insult the Spanish ego, as honor and pride play a special role in the culture of Spanish people.
  • Avoid talking politics – Gibraltar and Franco may not be the wisest choices of a topic to discuss about.

Business Meetings And Meals

  • Spaniards are very keen on observing the appropriate dress code and will link your appearance to your professional status. Be elegant, but try to maintain a conservative look.
  • Punctuality is not the strongest feature of Spanish people, so you may need to wait 15-30 minutes for your counterpart to arrive. Nonetheless, everybody expects you to show up on time, so make sure you do it.
  • Print your business cards on both sides – one in English and the other one in Spanish. When you hand a card to your counterpart, make sure you do it with the Spanish side facing up.
  • In the Spanish business culture, successful negotiations get celebrated by offering gifts. Make sure you offer high-quality items and pay special attention to the wrapping. If you receive a gift, you have to open it immediately in front of the person who offered it to you.
  • Spanish people use meals (whether it’s lunch, dinner, tapas or coffee) to establish personal relationships with their business partners.
  • While it isn’t uncommon to conduct business over meals, you need to take into consideration that the Spanish regard meals as social activities.
  • If you prefer draught beer, you need to ask for a ‘caña’ (small) or ‘tubo’ (the equivalent of 300ml). Asking for ‘cerveza’ will result in the waiter bringing you bottled beer. If you enjoy spirits, beware that Spanish measures are bigger than in many other countries.
  • The usual tip is 5% in restaurants and 10% in taxis.

Body Language

  • Spanish people are usually outgoing and cheerful and they use body language a lot to express their feelings.
  • Although they don’t tend to stay very close to you during conversations, they may still pat your shoulder from time to time.
  • Yawning or stretching is public don’t pass as acceptable behaviour.

Various Fun Facts

  • The bar culture is part of the worldwide fame of Spain.
  • There are over 8,000km of beach in Spain
  • Spain has one of the biggest gold deposits in Europe and it is one of the most important producers of marble and granite.
  • Same sex marriages are legal since 2005.

So now you know how to behave during a business meeting in Spain and you will avoid making the same mistake as Fiat by enticing your new clients instead of insulting them!

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