Business Statistics and Culture in Spain

Learn about the business statistics and culture of Spain, the fifth-largest economy in the Eurozone. Discover why it’s a great place to start or grow your business.

The Spanish economy is the fifth largest in the Eurozone, and the country is a significant player in the global tourism, manufacturing, and technology industries and presents a promising yet culturally nuanced environment for businesses. However, with a foreign landscape comes new challenges and stereotypes. 

If you plan to do business in Spain, being aware of these cultural factors and differences is crucial. Learn how people in Spain prefer meeting, their working style, and social etiquette to be ahead in your professional game.

Understanding the Spanish business culture can increase your chances of success.

Quick Spain Statistics:

Population47.4 million
CapitalMadrid
Official LanguageSpanish
CurrencyEuro
Time ZoneCET (UTC+1)
Area505,990 sq km
Official LanguagesSpanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque, Aranese
Life Expectancy83.1 years (2023 est.)
Literacy Rate98.7%
GDP$1.2 trillion (2022 est.)
GDP per Capita$26,100 (2022 est.)
Major IndustriesTourism, automotive, manufacturing, agriculture, construction
Number of Businesses3.3 million
% of Businesses that are SMEs99.8%
% of Employment in SMEs67.2%
% of Turnover in SMEs53.3%
Number of Large Businesses1,300

Business Culture

Spain is a popular destination for businesses of all sizes, thanks to its strong economy, skilled workforce, and strategic location. In 2022, the Spanish economy was the 14th largest in the world, with a GDP of over $1.4 trillion. The unemployment rate is currently at 13.3%, lower than the EU average of 7.4%.

You should be aware of the cultural differences when doing business in Spain. Spaniards are generally more relaxed and informal than their Northern European counterparts. They also place a high value on personal relationships, so it is essential to take the time to build rapport before starting business discussions.

Typical Working Hours

Spain has a rich history and culture; its business culture is no exception. The workday in Spain is typically split into two parts, with a siesta in the middle. The morning shift typically runs from 9 am to 2 pm, and the afternoon shift runs from 4 pm to 8 pm with a long lunch break in between. This is known as the “siesta,” a time for people to relax, socialize, and enjoy a traditional Spanish meal.

The Spanish work culture is generally more relaxed than in other countries. Punctuality is less critical, and meetings are often more informal. However, Spaniards are still hard workers. They are more focused on enjoying life and making the most of their time.

Hierarchy

Spanish businesses traditionally have a strong hierarchical structure, with decision-making power concentrated at the top. However, this is starting to change, as younger managers who have been educated abroad are bringing more egalitarian values to the workplace.

In traditional Spanish businesses, there is a clear separation between management and employees. Managers are expected to be directive and authoritative, while employees are expected to be respectful and obedient. This can make it difficult for employees to take the initiative or offer new ideas, as they may be seen as overstepping their bounds.

There is a growing appreciation for teamwork and collaboration in today’s Spain, and lower-level employees are increasingly encouraged to take the initiative and propose new ideas. However, it is still better to respect the hierarchy and to be aware of the cultural norms that govern business interactions in Spain.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when doing business in Spain:

  • Be respectful of hierarchy. This means addressing people by their title and last name and avoiding informality in your interactions.
  • Build relationships. Spaniards place a high value on personal relationships, so take the time to get to know your business partners before you start discussing business.
  • Be proactive. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it. In traditional Spanish businesses, employees were often discouraged from speaking up, but this is starting to change. If you have a good idea, feel free to share it with your manager or another colleague.
  • Be patient. Spanish business culture is more relaxed than in other countries, so don’t expect things to happen quickly.

Time Management

Spanish culture is known for being relaxed and laid-back, reflected in their time management approach. Punctuality is not as big a thing in Spain as in other countries, and it is not uncommon for people to be late for appointments or meetings. This can be frustrating for visitors who are used to a more punctual culture, but it is good to be understanding and patient.

There are a few reasons why punctuality is less significant in Spain. First, the Spanish concept of time is more fluid than in other cultures. They see time as a flexible concept and are more concerned with following a flexible schedule. Second, the Spanish lifestyle is more relaxed than in other countries. They enjoy taking their time and savoring the moment, and they are sometimes in a rush to get things done.

Greetings

In Spain, greetings are an integral part of the work culture. The most common greeting is a handshake, followed by the words “Buenos días” (good morning), “Buenas tardes” (good afternoon), or “Buenas noches” (good evening). You may also use the person’s title in more formal settings, such as “Señor” or “Señora.” For example, you might say, “Buenos días, Señor García.”

In some parts of Spain, kissing people on the cheek when greeting them is also customary. This is usually done between women, but men may also kiss each other on the cheek if they are close friends or colleagues.

Formal Communication

Spanish communication style in the workplace is typically direct, expressive, and personal. Spaniards often use animated hand gestures and facial expressions to emphasize their points. They also stand closer than people from other cultures when they are talking, and they may touch each other on the arm or shoulder to show affection or agreement.

For example, a Spanish manager might say, “¡Eso es!” (That’s it!) while clapping her hands to express her enthusiasm for a new idea. Or, Spanish colleagues might greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Here are some tips on how to formally communicate in the work culture of Spain:

  • Use formal titles. When addressing someone professionally, always use their surname and the appropriate title, such as “señor” or “señora.” It is considered rude to use first names unless you are specifically invited to do so.
  • Be direct but respectful. Spaniards value direct communication, but it is imperative to be respectful of your colleagues’ feelings. Avoid making personal attacks or being overly critical.
  • Use formal language. Avoid using slang or informal language in business settings. Stick to formal language that is clear and concise.
  • Be aware of your body language. Spaniards tend to stand closer to each other than people in some other cultures. They also use more hand gestures and facial expressions when they communicate.

Here are some examples of how to formally communicate in Spanish:

“Buenos días, Señor García. ¿Cómo está usted?” (Good morning, Mr. García. How are you?)

“Muchas gracias por su ayuda.” (Thank you very much for your help.)

“No estoy de acuerdo con su punto de vista.” (I disagree with your point of view.)

Dress Code

People from Spain think it’s essential to look nice, especially when doing business. In Spain, the usual way to dress for work is to wear formal clothes. Men usually wear fancy suits in dark colors, while women choose suits or skirts. Whether you’re a man or a woman, people like adding nice accessories to make their outfits even better.

Business Meetings 

Meetings in Spain are casual and laid-back compared to meetings in other countries. They’re not just about solving issues or making decisions but also about forming connections and getting to know your colleagues.

Usually, these meetings begin with friendly chats about personal and family matters. This sets a warm and inviting tone, which is significant in Spanish culture. It’s also common for discussions to be interrupted during Spanish meetings. This doesn’t mean people aren’t paying attention, but they’re actively engaged and want to share their thoughts.

The primary goal of a Spanish meeting often revolves around conveying decisions that have already been finalized. Spanish people’s focus on brainstorming or problem-solving needs to be more pronounced. Because time is perceived differently in Spain, meetings often start and finish later than planned. Being on time is a minor priority, so staying adaptable is important when attending meetings in Spain.

For foreigners, it’s vital to understand the diverse cultural expectations regarding meetings in Spain. You can make a positive impression and cultivate stronger relationships with your Spanish coworkers by grasping these expectations.

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