View of the 4 Towers, Madrid's Business Center the heart of the Spanish Business Culture

When a foreign entrepreneur makes the decision to explore the possibility of investing in Spain, he must first know the characteristics of a country with a quasi federal structure, divided into 17 autonomous communities, each with its own rules, customs and uses; the sector or sectors that in his opinion are the most attractive for the investment he intends to carry out; and the legal framework that regulates them, be it european, national or regional. But he must also know, especially when negotiating, Spanish Business Culture, sometimes decisive, as in other countries, to achieve the desired objective.

Like other countries, Spain has its own clichés and stereotypes, clichés and stereotypes that, whether they correspond or not to reality, have been part of its image for years. Thus, the consideration of Spaniards as informal, lazy or unpunctual people, perhaps true in the past, can no longer be sustained today, given the change experienced by the Spanish society. A proof of this change is that Spanish Business Culture is nowadays one of the ten most open countries in the international flow of goods, people, services and communications, ranking seventh in the world top ten, below Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Germany and Sweden, but above Israel, Finland and Austria.

Generally speaking, Spaniards tend to be individualistic people, more inclined to work to live than to live to work, and perhaps for this reason they have a very clear idea of the separation that in their opinion should exist between work and private life. Having said that, there is one thing that needs to be highlighted in the Spanish Business Culture and this is their progressive participation in groups, meetings and work trips, as a result of an increasingly demanding and competitive professional and business environment. Faced with this challenge, Spaniards have been able to respond with the best of the performances, due to a professional preparation and qualification that improves day by day thanks to the universities and business schools existing today, some of them of recognized world fame.

Currently in Spain maximum legal working hours do not exceed 8 hours per day, from Monday through Friday, national, regional or local public holidays excepted. The most common employment contracts are full-time or part-time: in full-time contracts the work consists of 40 hours per week, and can be splitted into daily shifts of 4 hours, with a lunch break of an hour an a half, or carried out in a full day’s work, with a short break of half an hour; in part-time contracts, the work consists of 20 hours per week, with a maximum of 4 hours per day. As for holidays, labour legislation establishes a maximum of 30 calendar days, including sundays and public holidays, between 1 January and 31 December of each year.

When negotiating, Spaniards usually give priority to the personal knowledge of the potential partners over the negotiation itself. For this purpose, they resort to any social event, be it lunch or dinner, in which they tend to talk about any current topic, without the reservations and limitations that exist in other cultures. As Spanish Business Culture is a culture that rests mainly in relationships or personal contacts, this personal knowledge, decisive for a good business cooperation, can sometimes condition the entire negotiation. Whatever the event, Spaniards usually dress quite formally, although this rule is getting a lot looser lately and is not what it used to be.

As for office hours, from eight or nine in the morning onwards, they are scrupulously observed, thus denying the cliché that Spaniards are unpunctual. It is true, however, that lunch or dinner hours are still late, especially if we compare them with those of other western countries. And it is also true that their duration does not resist any comparison with that of these countries either, as it is not uncommon for them to last for at least a couple of hours. In this context, one cannot fail to refer to Spanish hospitality, which is open, generous and friendly, and conveys a sense of life and living that constitute one of the most characteristic features of the Spanish Business Culture way of being. But, of course, this does not interfere with the way they approach a negotiation, since in this case Spaniards are usually direct, firm and even aggresive should the case require it.

Antonio Viñal
AVCO Legal