Spain at a Glance
Working in Spain
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 work environment and economic success, the recession hit the country hard. Its unemployment rate soared from 8% in 2007 to its peak of almost 27% in 2013. Things have been looking up, though, with hundreds of thousands of people leaving unemployment between 2014 and 2015 resulting in an unemployment rate of just over 22% in the second quarter of 2015.
Spain remains one of the favorite vacation spots in Europe meaning expats will likely be able to find employment in the country’s tourism industry. Other sectors such as the high-tech industry will be looking for workers with specific skillsets, something which will prove to be a significant advantage in the recovering Spanish job market. The service sector accounts for a lot of the new job opportunities mentioned above.
Lunchtime — To Eat, Sleep, or Talk Business?
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. The most important thing to remember when working in Spain is that Spanish business hours may be rather different from those in your home country.
An ordinary day of working in Spain usually begins around 09:00–09:30 and lasts until 20:00, with an average two-hour lunch break between 14:00 and 17:00. 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 workweek 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. Keep this in mind when scheduling important meetings during this period.
Business Etiquette 101
Consider the following list of tips for working in Spain:
- Be punctual, but do expect to wait 15–20 minutes for the arrival of others.
- Dress conservatively in neat clothing.
- Begin with a bit of small talk before you introduce serious topics.
- Do not expect to close a deal or settle upon negotiations quickly.
- Avoid confrontation and attempt to solve problems and disagreements without making 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 common practice in Spain. An invite to a Spanish home is normally reserved for close, personal relations.
- 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. The OECD Better Life Index indicates that 51% of women have jobs compared to 60% of Spanish men. Having said this, even though women in Spain are 9% less likely to have jobs than men, this gender gap is still significantly better than the OECD average of 15%. In the political sphere women are also doing increasingly well with 40% of parliamentary seats in Spain being held by women.
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, female employees will receive their full salary for four months, a minimum of six weeks of which has to be taken after the birth. It is expected, however, that employed women make childcare arrangements and return to work as quickly as possible. These benefits apply to foreign residents with a residency permit as well. Check the Ministry of Employment and Social Security for more information.
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