Doing Business in Spain: Etiquette

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If you’re planning on doing business in Spain, you need to know a bit about Spanish business etiquette.

Not only will you feel more comfortable and therefore do better business, you’ll avoid awkward mistakes. And most importantly of all, your Spanish colleagues will accept you as one of their equals.

Read on to discover the best Spanish business etiquette tips.

Learn Spanish

At least to a level where you can have a reasonable conversation and hold your own.

Learning Spanish is particularly important if you’re hoping to sell something.

The business language in Spain is often English, but if you want a Spaniard to buy your services or product, making the sales pitch in their native language increases your chances of success.

Get an appointment

Don’t expect to see anyone in business in Spain without a booked appointment.

Arrange one at least a week in advance and confirm it the day before. Never turn up unexpectedly and assume you’ll be seen. You’ll be wasting everyone’s time including your own.

And you’ll make a bad impression.

Have a business card ready

Exchanging cards is an essential step in doing business in Spain. Buy the best you can afford (cards needn’t be expensive – printers typically charge from €20 for 100) and make sure it’s in Spanish.

People exchange cards at the beginning or end of a meeting and you’ll need to give a card to everyone present.

Introduce yourself

Make sure you can introduce yourself correctly and fluently in Spanish (even if you won’t need to speak it for the rest of the meeting).

This makes an excellent first impression and gets your business relationship off to the right start. The Spanish make business introductions by shaking hands.

You also shake hands at the end of meetings.

Build up the trust

Spanish business relies very much on personal contacts – Spain is a society where ‘who you know’ counts more than anything else. Use your communications and face-to- face meetings to build up trust and confidence.

Be patient because establishing a relationship may take more time than you’re used to. However, it will be time well-spent as the more trust you build, the higher your chances of a business deal.

Meet as often as it takes

Business decisions are rarely made at the first meeting. You may well spend the first encounter making small talk and not making any progress on your business objectives at all.

Making deals will come later and it might take several meetings to get there.

Be punctual

The Spanish are notoriously poor at keeping time – even major events often start later than their advertised time – and Spaniards rarely turn up at exactly the appointed time.

However, doing business in Spain follows a most punctual line and it’s worth arriving slightly early for an appointment to make a good impression. Just don’t be surprised if the other party doesn’t show up until 10 or 15 minutes after the agreed time.

Take your time

If you’ve been in Spain for a while, you’ll have noticed that Spaniards generally like life in the slow lane.

This applies to business practices too and you should be prepared to be patient at meetings and when waiting for decisions.

Your Spanish counterparts will probably take their time (and plenty of it) before they decide to go ahead or not. This is particularly true when it comes to spending money so if you’re doing the selling, don’t rush anyone into anything.

Be true to your word

Once you have reached an agreement, expect to shake hands on it. You’ll obviously seal it officially with a written document, but for many Spaniards, a handshake also makes the deal binding.

Then stick to your side of the agreement to show that the trust invested in you was worthwhile.