The business culture in Spain provides favorable soil for citizens of other countries who wish to establish their own businesses on Spanish territory. Historically, the tradition of Spanish openness notably facilitates the successful realization of partnership programs and the creation of joint businesses with foreign partners. Notwithstanding the extreme favorability of this cultural mindset, in order to avoid failures, it is still of utmost importance to be aware of the distinctive features of the Spanish culture.
Spain, in general-and Barcelona, in particular-ranks fourth as a destination among European countries included in the ranking of cities and countries with the most business-favorable ratio of ‘expenditure size for doing business to the income index obtained from the same business activity.’
Calmness as an important element of the Spanish business culture
Spanish tradition, shaped by many decades, pushes business far from the list of priorities in the life of most Spaniards. Spaniards tend to appreciate their work, yet they love their family and friends much more and prefer to try to maintain a sense of calm and harmony in themselves and their surroundings. In contrast with the Spanish, the majority of businessmen from other countries perceive the preference for a deep inner peace as something unusual. It goes without saying that this specific feature of the Spanish mentality is transferred to dealings with international contacts as well, and the reactions of foreign business people are not always in their favor.
Most business meetings in Spain end without any obvious result, but this does not necessarily mean that no beneficial perspectives for the development of a joint business venture in the future have been developed. On the contrary, the incredible attractiveness of business possibilities may totally exclude one from the reality. As a consequence, insufficient understanding of the cultural differences of both parties can result in the interruption of the negotiations and exacerbation of the cultural gap. It should be noted that this is most commonly the case for events related to large business administrations with long-term perspectives.
In Barcelona, Catalonians hate to see excessive tension and seriousness in the faces of their partners; they do not like a dry tone of communication; and they generally do not understand how one can be suspicious, arrogant, or too official. Basically, if in other countries many of the above-mentioned features are considered to be evidence of one’s sense of command, a certain social status, and high authority, in Catalonia these characteristics can be perceived as provinciality in one’s attitude and a lack of interest and respect for a potential business partner.
As an example, let’s analyze the following scenario. Years ago, the manager of one of the largest German tourist companies sent an invitation to an owner of a prestigious Spanish hotel to visit Berlin. The purpose of this invitation was simply to show this German city to the potential Spanish partner and discuss the partnership. The Spanish businessman accepted the invitation, but, due to an emergency call during the presentation of the project, the German entrepreneur had to leave the event. Culturally, this was a huge mistake: here, the German businessman failed to explain clearly the reason he had to leave. Abandoned, the Spanish partner interpreted such behavior as a lack of respect and refused to collaborate with the German. The action was perceived as an insult to the Spanish businessman, and he refused to discuss the project in spite of his genuine interest in it. Even then, if the German businessman would have tried to compensate for the awkwardness with a proper explanation and a friendly dinner, the problem most likely would have been resolved. For similar reasons, when doing business with Spaniards, one should also remember the important role that shared lunches and dinners play in the business environment.
Business meetings in Spain
Good food is an indispensable part of the Spanish business etiquette and culture and the daily life of the citizens of this country. Spanish people are hard-working and go to work in a great mood, partially because they are anticipating two super-tasty breakfasts, the second of which they have during a lunch break, and a ‘siesta’ that lasts for 2.5 hours, followed by a hearty family dinner. If you have lived in Spain for a significant amount of time, then you probably already know this fact. In the corporate culture of Spain, food also plays an important role. If you appear in Spain with the purpose of doing business, and not as a hired worker, you should memorize one important factor: your guarantee of success depends upon your eating habits. While this may seem like a joke to some foreigners, it is truly an important element for foreign entrepreneurs trying to comprehend the nuances of Spanish daily life. The Spanish maintain that good food is a sign of being content with life.
When choosing between a business meeting in the office and the same negotiations accompanied by a delicious lunch, the Spaniard will surely prefer the second option. If before that you were fortunate to make a good impression of yourself, be ready for success.
During a business meeting with a Spanish business person, it is not recommended to express your concerns or to be nervous. Remember, the communication should unfold in a very smooth and relaxed way. Also, it is not a good idea to start the conversation with talks about problems and tasks – wait until your interlocutor starts showing interest in your project by asking about prices for the products and touching upon other business issues. Such behavior means following the centuries-long etiquette that, together with the Arab culture, has adapted to and developed in Spain. The main idea is not to overload your interlocutor unless necessary.
As can be seen frequently in the business circles in Spain, the Spanish people are much more preoccupied with whom they will have to work rather than what exactly they will have to do in this partnership. The best way to study a potential partner is to dine with him or her. One should bear in mind that for a Spanish entrepreneur even a private, incredibly important business can never replace other important factors. So, if you have managed to gain access to such an important stage as a meal together, your next major task is to maintain easy-going, pleasant conversation and enjoy positive vibes in the company of your partner. At this moment, it would be ideal to tell your business partner about the great places in your native country, mention the health benefits of Mediterranean food, or share some funny stories.
The tendencies in the Spanish business world demonstrate that one cannot gain a partner’s confidence and readiness to do business together over night – it will take some time and will require effort and meetings.
Collaboration with big investors in Spain
The entrepreneurs who are ready to invest millions of euros in the Spanish economy surely can count on fruitful and long-term collaborations with the local partners. This can be explained by the following firmly established tradition: the larger the sum invested, the more likely the result will be a successful partnership, a deep respect, and positive attitude toward the cooperation. The typical feature of the well-off Spanish people who own the shares of the largest companies is their impressive modesty that can be felt not only in the way they dress and talk, but also in the type of car they tend to choose. In order to find a common language with this category of Spanish business people, as well as to establish mutual understanding, it is crucial not only to know many details of Spanish life, but also to correspond to these partners in the way you look and think.
As a rule, a business meeting in Spain unfolds in an easily predictable way: first come the preliminary negotiations in the office, followed by a liesurely dinner. Only after the meal, the Spanish partner begins to talk about the terms of the contract, prices, and sums. Why does it happen exactly this way? Everything is very simple – during the preliminary meetings a partner studies you, analyzes your behavior patterns, and points out mistakes and flaws. If a meeting moves to another stage, the stage of having dinner together and discussing the contract details, it means that you have managed to make a good impression and have attracted the confidence of your partners. It is important to talk about the contact details clearly and concisely. If the conversation has already reached the point of signing a contact, it is very likely that the procedure of signing will be scheduled in a couple of weeks and will be simply a formality. The most important and binding point has already occurred – the deal was made, and it was made not on paper, but in a partner’s head.
The secret of successful business in Spain also can be explained by the fact that the majority of the Spanish are not obsessed with global plans. Instead, they are quite happy with the way things are right now and having a comfortable life due to their own business. It is important to remember this when creating your business strategy and establishing contracts with your Spanish partners. The Spanish care about everything that takes place here and now. Other things are of secondary importance.
One should establish mutually beneficial relations with Spanish entrepreneurs after living in Spanish territory for two years and establishing contacts with helpful people and finding other useful business connections. However, if you have come to Spain with an innovative idea and have everything necessary already to open a personal business, it might not be necessary to spend this extended period of time to ‘take root’ in Spain. It is quite possible to build your business by yourself. You can find all the necessary information on this topic and valuable tips on our website.