Doing Business in Spain

Business Etiquette SpainFor the international business person doing business in a foreign country offers certain intercultural challenges. Differences in culture mean differences in etiquette and protocol. Understanding a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in achieving success abroad.

This guide to doing business in Spain offers some introductory points to some of the above mentioned areas such as business culture and etiquette. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Spanish people. Rather, it highlights some important key areas for consideration when doing business in Spain. We have focused on three areas:  how to meet and greet, communicate and conduct business meetings.

Meeting & Greeting:

When doing business in Spain handshakes are standard as with the rest of Europe. First-time introductions will be formal; as the relationship develops it will naturally become less so. It is always a good idea to try and use some of the local language. A simple means of doing so is in using the appropriate greeting for the time of day - "Buenos dias" (good day), "Buenas tardes" (good evening) or "Buenas noches" (good night).

Most people can be greeted using Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) or Señorita (Miss) followed by their surname. You may also hear people being addressed with their professional titles; Profesor may be used with teachers and engineers are referred to as Ingeniero.


The Spanish can be described as a cheerful and outgoing people.  Their warmth and initial friendliness may appear perfunctory or superficial to a reserved foreigner but in fact allows a way of observing social niceties whilst at the same time affording the time and a proper opportunity to get to know someone.

When doing business in Spain, note that relationships built in a face-to-face environment are the be all and end all. People will want to spend time getting to know others in order to ensure the right chemistry exists for a business relationship. It is therefore important to present yourself in the best possible light; the Spanish appreciate people who are dignified yet modest. The ability to be amusing and entertaining is also much prized and humour plays an important part even in business meetings and discussions. Banter is acceptable but be sure not to employ sarcasm as it may get lost in translation and cause offense.

Meetings & Negotiating:

Initial meetings may be more focused on the relationship rather than business. Let your Spanish counterpart take the lead.  

There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they serve more as guidelines rather than a rigid timetable. Issues may be discussed simultaneously rather than separately. Several people may also try to speak at once and interruptions are not uncommon. If this happens it should not be interpreted as rude but rather an indication that what you were saying was of great interest.

When doing business in Spain remember that agreements must first be reached orally and then in writing. Decision-making is carried out at the top of a company.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

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