Personal pride and individualism are highly valued, as are
character and breeding. Modesty is valued over assertiveness.
Flaunting superiority, intelligence and ability is not appreciated.
People strive to project affluence and social position. Personal
appearance, image and human relationships are very important.
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with everyone present--men, women and children--at
a business or social meeting. Shake hands again when leaving.
- Men may embrace each other when meeting (friends and family
- Women may kiss each other on the cheek and embrace.
- Never touch, hug or back slap a Spaniard you do not know well,
unless a friendly Spaniard touches you first.
- Generally, Spaniards stand very close when talking.
- Spaniards speak a lot with their hands. Never mimic them.
- Spaniards do not take punctuality for business meetings
seriously, but expect that you will be on time; call with an
explanation if you are delayed.
- Spain is not a meeting culture. Meetings are to communicate
instructions or to save time.
- Spaniards will want to spend time getting to know you and
establishing chemistry before doing business. Personal qualities
are valued over technical ability, professionalism or competence.
- Typically, Spanish is the language of business, but most large
companies conduct business in English and Spanish. You cannot
expect English to be widely spoken. Check ahead to determine if an
interpreter is needed.
- Spaniards' lack of trust in institutions produces a constant
atmosphere of crisis and emergency.
- Spaniards like making decisions on their own. Do not impose a
decision in direct language. It could be humiliating to your
- The organizational chart is social, not functional. The third
or fourth level down may be more powerful than those at the top.
Dining and Entertainment
- It is acceptable and common to be late by 30 minutes in
southern Spain and 15 minutes in northern Spain for social
meetings. Never be late for a bullfight.
- Lunches/dinners are a vital part of business used to establish
a relationship, to see if the chemistry is correct and to develop
- Attempt to give a toast in Spanish. Be brief when toasting. It
is acceptable for women to give toasts.
- Tip everyone for everything.
- No bread and butter plate is used. Bread is set directly on
the table. Restaurants generally charge for bread by the piece.
- Spaniards don't waste food. It is better to decline food
rather than leave it on your plate.
- Appearance is extremely important to Spaniards. They dress
elegantly, even for casual occasions.
- Dress conservatively. Avoid bright or flashy colors.
- Shoes are the most important element of dress. Shabby looking
shoes can ruin a very nice outfit.
- For business, men should wear jackets and ties, even in warm
weather. If the senior person takes his/her jacket off during a
meeting, you may do so, too.
- Women should wear dresses, blouses and skirts.
- When invited to someone's home, always bring a small, wrapped
gift for the hostess.
- Open a gift immediately upon receiving it in the presence of
- Give: pastries, cakes, chocolates, flowers (red roses connote
passion, yellow roses infidelity; give an odd number of flowers).
- Do not give: chrysanthemums, dahlias or 13 flowers (unlucky
- Gifts are normally not exchanged at business meetings, but
small gifts may be appropriate at the successful conclusion of
negotiations. Do not give a gift at the first meeting.
- Do not give a gift until meetings are finished, and then give
only a token gift. Be careful not to imply a bribe.
- Give: desk items, books, art, music.
- Expect to be interrupted when speaking.
- Be patient. Nothing is done in a hurry. Spanish trademarks are
procrastination and delay.
Especially for Women
- Foreign women are accepted in the business community.
Establish credentials and ability immediately.
- Traditionally, a macho and chauvinistic behavior toward women
has persisted, known as machismo. This has changed
drastically over the last few years.
- Be aware of eye contact. Returning a man's gaze may be
interpreted as flirting or a show of interest.
- Do not dine alone in a restaurant or bar at night. However, it
is acceptable to do so at lunch.
- It is acceptable for a visiting businesswoman to invite a
businessman to dinner. However, realize it is very difficult for
women to pay for a man's meal. Spanish men expect to pay. Speak to
the maitre d' or waiter in advance if you wish to pay.