Taking your business to a new country is not easy. There are always a lot of customs and little details to be taken into consideration. If you fail to fulfill all the cultural requirements, you can offend your business partners or, at least, make somebody uncomfortable. Also, not knowing the country commercial habits and schedules can lead to losing money and clients. If you are going to work in Spain you should know, as well as other things, these Spanish customs:
Spain has very late schedules
Everything is late. We have a very late main meal around 14:00 or 15:00. We have a very late supper, between 21:00 and 00:00 and we go to bed around 22 and 01:00… The working days! Also, we tend to have supper just before going to bed.
That late schedules have an impact on work schedules, of course: retail shops close at 20:00 or even later. Pubs and bars close at 23:00 or 00. Some malls close at 22:30.
Also, there is an old custom in some companies that is, thankfully, gradually disappearing: employees never leave their workplace before the boss. Even if they have finished their tasks. That implies that Spain is one of the countries where workers spend more hours at work but are less productive. As we have said, that custom is, thankfully, disappearing.
Greetings with a lot of touching
Greeting customs in Spain are somehow complicated:
If you are greeting a woman and you are a woman, is usual to give two kisses, one in every cheek. But you can also shake hands.
If the salutation is between a man and a woman, usually she chooses. If you are the man and you have the initiative, the most cautious way to proceed is offering a hand, to shake it.
It is much easier if you are both men: If you are a man and you are greeting a man, there is no choice: you shake hands.
And that is the basic theory. But there is more:
If you have enough confidence and you are in an informal setting, then you can hug the other person. That is absolutely unthinkable in an oriental country. If you have confidence, but not a lot, while you shake hands you can pat his or her shoulders to show affection. Usually, to be cautious, just offer your hand to shake his or hers.
The kisses are not real kisses. You don’t really kiss the other person cheeks, you just put your cheeks next to the other person cheeks.
Also, it is hard to say goodbye. If you are in a formal setting, just say goodbye to everybody and go. But if you’re in an informal setting you use more or less the same way of saying goodbye that you used to say hello… and you have to say goodbye to every and each one. If you are with 23 friends, you have to shake or hug or give two kisses 23 times.
Greet is not easy. If you want to know more about how to say hello in Spain, you could need some useful Spanish greetings for Spanish learners.
One of the most strange Spanish customs: In Spain there is a formal way to say you: ‘usted’. Of course, is not as easy as substituting ‘Tú’ by ‘Usted’. When you use ‘usted’ you change the second person by the third person:
“You are” can be translated as “Tú eres” and “Usted es” (bad translated: “you is”). If you are going to speak Spanish, you should start addressing your interlocutor using ‘usted’. If he or she corrects you and ask you to address him or her using you is a sign of closeness. The opposite means that has been bothered by you using ‘Tú’.
To make it even harder, ‘Usted’ is used in different ways in every Spanish speaking country.
Sobremesa and siesta
Probably you already know Siesta. Siesta is a long nap that you take after the meal. It last usually 20 minutes and is very good and healthy. Sobremesa is the time that families or friends stay sitting in the table talking about anything after the meal. Siesta and sobremesa are Spanish customs also. You are not obligated to comply with them, but don’t be surprised if the people around you do.
These are some of the customs that you have to take into account when you are trying to work with Spanish people. If you want to know more, check our blog.