Cultural tips: Spain

Business characteristics and traits of the Spanish

  • Human relations count far more than logic or efficiency. Put business on a person-to-person basis.
  • Be as familiar as you dare, but keep the dignity of man in the front of your mind.
  • Always impute the best motives. Remember that they are touchy about personal honour and nationalism.
  • Accept physical closeness, tactile behaviour, back-slapping, etc.
  • Hearty humour scores points. They are not subtle or delicate in such matters.
  • Let them speak at length. They like to get things off their chest. Do not oppose or interrupt during this phase. The sympathetic listener will be granted favours later.
  • Win their loyalty by listening well, trying to facilitate their task and fulfilling commitments diligently. This will impress them and put them in your debt.
  • When confronted with mañana behaviour, do not make the mistake of confusing it with laziness. Spaniards only move when they think the time is propitious. They may be slow to implement agreements due to lack of resources.
  • If late deliveries (or payment) are causing you problems, indicate that you are under pressure from above and ask them to help you personally.
  • Spaniards “feel” situations rather than analysing them logically. Therefore you may make emotional appeals.
  • Socialize as energetically (and as late) as possible. Relationship-building in Spain is nearly always associated with eating and drinking.
  • Show some knowledge of Spanish history and literature/arts and allude to Spain’s glorious past. They are one of Europe’s oldest countries, they dominated European politics and Catholicism for centuries and had a huge empire.
  • Remember there are several Spains (Castile, Andalucia, Galicia, Catalonia, the Basques). Make sure you know where people’s allegiances lie.
  • Always give Spaniards time. They don’t like being rushed and do not necessarily turn up on time.
  • Repay favour with favour.
  • Influence them through personal appeal, not rules, regulations, deadlines.
  • If you achieve closeness, gain their loyalty and adapt to their concept of time, you will find them more reliable than most. But the relationship is essential.
  • Spaniards are generally friendly, affable and extremely hospitable. Enthusiastic small talk and socializing precede and procrastinate getting down to business.
  • Influence them through personal appeal, not rules, regulations, deadlines.
  • If you achieve closeness, gain their loyalty and adapt to their concept of time, you will find them more reliable than most. But the relationship is essential.
  • Spaniards are generally friendly, affable and extremely hospitable. Enthusiastic small talk and socializing precede and procrastinate getting down to business.
  • When they do formulate strategies, their proposals are often only ‘outlines’ and vague to begin with but show enthusiasm for the business at hand. They are not very strong at ironing out details at first meeting. These are dealt with later.
  • They are generally smartly dressed — men in dark suits, women in something colourful.
  • When selling, they tend to start high, allowing room for later discounting. When buying, they are cautious about price and often mention lower Spanish purchasing power compared with some other countries.
  • Bargaining is accepted as part of the negotiating procedure. If one does not bargain at all, they would be surprised, even disappointed.
  • They rarely appear unreasonable or over-demanding.
  • The leader of their group usually makes the decisions. Other members contribute their technical expertise.
  • They are usually respectful and expect the same degree of respect for themselves. They react badly to a show of force.
  • If they are the weaker party, they expect their ‘face’ to be protected. They often show generosity to weaker opponents.
  • When signing a contract, they do not always believe it will be followed through.
  • Spain used to be well known for eating and drinking till the early hours of the morning and then taking a siesta . Entry into the EU has obliged business people to align their waking and working hours with the rest of Europe and the siesta tradition is dying fast. Spaniards still eat late however, very often in restaurants.
  • Keep in mind that Spaniards are touchy and sensitive and most importantly honourable. You may criticise certain Spanish customs such as siestas or the bull fight, but do not in any circumstances say anything that might be interpreted to impinge on his personal dignity or honour.

Source: CultureActive by Richard D. Lewis


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