Madrid at a Glance
Working in Madrid
With Madrid’s metropolitan area being one of the largest in Europe, after major capital cities like Paris, London, and Moscow, it is no wonder that it is a common destination for expatriates looking for new job opportunities. However, Madrid, like many business hubs in Europe, has suffered from the economic and financial crisis and does not offer quite as many employment opportunities as it used to. Nevertheless, the inflow of foreign workers has not ceased since 2001 and has contributed greatly to the city’s economic activity, not to mention the increase in its pool of human resources.
Almost 78% of those working in Madrid are employed in the service sector and in 2011 this sector represented just over 74% of the region’s total GDP. The service boom is also due to the fact that the tourism industry has been thriving again since early 2010 and represents more than seven percent of Madrid’s GDP (2015). If you are an expat with excellent Spanish skills, and are thinking of working in Madrid’s publishing business, you will be interested in the fact that Madrid is the major publishing center for the Spanish-speaking world.
The Madrid Work Ethic: Laid-Back but Efficient
Madrid offers a fairly laid-back lifestyle, which, at first glance, seems to spill over into the work ethic of the city. An expat from a different country, e.g. from the Anglo-Saxon world, might mistake this mellow mindset of working in Madrid for inefficiency when, in fact, Spanish business people require this relaxed atmosphere to work productively. The long lunch hours are a concrete example of this: aside from lunch itself, they are an environment to discuss business, settle deals, and establish contacts.
Foreigners must also adapt to local office hours: almost no businesses are open before 09:00 and close before 20:00. Although working in Madrid has become increasingly comparable to working in other parts of Europe, it is important to be aware of potential differences between your own business culture and that of Madrid.
Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some useful tips for when you start working in Madrid:
- Do not plan on scheduling a meeting before 10:00.
- Do not expect anyone to show up on time to a scheduled meeting: a 15-minute wait is standard.
- Do care about how you present yourself. Conservative and carefully selected clothing is imperative for business people working in Madrid.
- Do not launch into a topic of business immediately. Small talk is an important ritual preceding business agreements in Spain.
- Expect your Spanish contacts to take their time when negotiating a business deal. Discussions are half of the fun involved in closing the deal!
- Pick out a relatively expensive and high-quality restaurant when organizing a lunch or dinner meeting with colleagues and/or business partners. Madrileños are very savvy when it comes to the quality of food and wine.
- Expect to pick up the bill and argue about who will pay when ending a business meal in a restaurant.
- Print your business cards two-sided in both English and Spanish. Remember to present them to bosses, employees, partners, and colleagues with the Spanish side facing up.
Work Permit or NIE?
The first and foremost thing any foreign national working in Madrid needs is a Número de Identificación de Extranjeros (NIE). It also serves as a Spanish tax number. To obtain an NIE, bring the completed application form and a copy of the form, your passport, a passport photograph, and proof of your current address in Madrid to the nearest Oficina de Extranjeros (Department of Foreigners).
The time between handing in your application and receiving your NIE should take between one and three weeks, so be sure to apply for it before you start your job in Madrid. If you plan on working in Madrid as an EU citizen (or a national of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein), you only need the NIE itself, as opposed to requiring an additional work permit for Spain. See our article on working in Spain for more details.
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