Spain at a Glance
Working in SpainiStockphoto
Give yourself time to get acquainted with the Spanish business world.
Working in Spain will show you that the business environment reflects the attitude of many Spanish people themselves: polite, easygoing and, sometimes, a bit chaotic. This is not to say that working in Spain should be considered a negative experience. While Spain used to offer an attractive combination of a laidback attitude and economic success, the recession has hit the country hard in recent years. It’s unemployment rate soared from 8% in 2007 to 26% in 2012.
However, since Spain is one of the favorite vacation spots in Europe, expats might still be able to find employment in the country’s tourism industry. You may want to consider which sector you would like to work in. It will give you a significant advantage if you specify in some skill that’s up and coming, for example, in the high-tech industry.
Working Conditions in Spain
When working in Spain, be sure to take cultural differences into account. Spanish people are open and friendly. However, in a business setting, you must pay attention to certain rules. The most important aspect to consider when working in Spain is that Spanish business hours may be rather different from your home country.
An ordinary day of working in Spain usually begins around 9 – 9:30 in the morning and lasts until 8 in the evening, with an average two-hour lunch break between the hours of two and five. Depending on where you are from, this may seem a bit excessive. However, this lunch break is not only an excuse to eat and take the traditional Spanish siesta, but also an opportunity to discuss business.
Once you start working in Spain, you will see that a 40-hour week with up to 30 days of paid vacation is the norm. The months of July and especially August are rather slow for business, with shortened working hours. Therefore, do not schedule any important meetings during this time.
Consider the following list of tips for general behavior while working in Spain:
- Be punctual, but do expect to wait 15-20 minutes for the arrival of others.
- Dress conservatively as neat clothing is important.
- Begin with a bit of small talk before more serious topics come up.
- Do not expect to close a deal and settle upon negotiations quickly.
- Avoid confrontations and attempt to solve problems and disagreements without accusations.
- Do not boast about your success. Humility is considered a virtue.
- Although it may be customary in your own country to invite business colleagues or partners to your home for dinner, this is not usual in Spain. An invite to a Spanish home is normally reserved for close personal relationships.
- Although most Spanish business people speak English, it is greatly appreciated (and a distinct advantage on a professional level) if you speak Spanish.
Expat Businesswomen in Spain
While Spain’s patriarchal society has gone through a number of changes in the past decades, working in Spain as a woman may require some getting used to, depending on your prior experience. Women in very high positions were a rare sight in the past. However, it is now becoming increasingly common to see them working on the board of directors in companies. An especially high percentage of successful Spanish businesswomen can be found in Madrid and Barcelona.
When attending business lunches, women who wish to pick up the tab for their male guests should arrange this with the restaurant staff prior to eating out. It is still customary for men to treat women in Spain.
Another fact that may be of some interest for women working in Spain is maternity leave. After giving birth to a child, female employees will receive a full salary for four months. It is expected, however, that employed women make childcare arrangements and return to work as quickly as possible.