In the first Spain edition of random observations, I said I might talk about Madrid’s environmental movement and the conservation practices that I’ve noticed, and I promise it’s coming. I just want to get some good pictures first! That’s why I figured, since the majority of my time is now spent in an office, I could make a few educated statements about doing business in Spain for the time being. Here you go.
- Lunchtime shall be cherished. When I first heard that I got over an hour for lunch, and then that most people eat lunch either in the break room or at a place about two buildings down, I was wondering how all of that time got filled up. In my head, I was thinking, “I could take 20 minutes to eat something quick and get to leave at 5pm instead of 6pm!” Well, that’s not the point. Spain likes to take its lunches at a leisurely pace and forget about work for a while. Given that it’s the biggest meal of the day, it does take some time to get through the several courses that are common to a menú del día, as well. It’s a time to chat about things that aren’t business and enjoy the company of your coworkers (the ones you like, anyway). I routinely see full tables of business people drinking wine, with jackets off, and ties loosened. The only thing that took some getting used to was waiting until 2:30pm to take part in this grand event every day.
- Everything is for everyone. While I’m on the topic of food and weird eating schedules, I should mention that my transition from having lunch at noon to eating at 2:30pm was helped a great deal by what I like to call “the rampant sharing of food” throughout my office. Before the lunch hour comes around, sometimes I’ll have had 3 different people come up to my desk holding out a sleeve of cookies, a bag of crackers, fruit… I’ve even been force-fed ham para picar (to snack on). It seems like people just buy large quantities of snacks assuming that the whole office is going to want some. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of this practice.
- Business cards are given out like candy. This is kind of similar in the United States, from what I’ve observed. The thing I noticed here was that they are always exchanged at the beginning of a meeting, whether you really need them or not. During my first week, I went to several appointments with the salespeople, and I probably got 5 or 6 business cards even though I didn’t say a word during the whole meeting! If I’m ever searching for jobs in Spain, I guess I’ll know who to bother first.
- Politely ignoring people doesn’t exist. Every time someone arrives at the office in the morning, there’s a chorus of, “Hola, buenos días” and various other greetings. When people leave for lunch, it’s, “Hasta luego. Aprovechen.” Then they come back, and there’s more: “¡Hola, buenas tardes!” Even if I’m just walking through an area, and there’s a couple of people having a conversation, they stop to at least say “hola“. I’m pretty positive that they thought my initial practice of silently smiling in the hallway was weird.
- “Business casual” has a different definition.The dress code of any given company is dictated by the kind of work it does, just like anywhere. The original guide I was given for what was acceptable to wear at my office was, “you don’t need to wear a suit, but don’t look like you’re going to the beach, either.” Oh… Right. Got it. Then I talked to my boss and he said, “informal”. Hmm. I figured I’d shoot for the ever-popular business casual when packing only to discover that I could pretty much wear whatever I want since the most attention I get is from my computer screen. Even so, Spaniards generally dress better than we do in the U.S., so don’t worry, I haven’t been taking my sweatpants to the office.
- Fun Fact: I was told that if you’re young and hip, you type “e-mail” as “m@il“. Try that one out.
Now you’re all set to be a boss in Spain! Ha, just kidding. Don’t listen to the silly foreign intern. She just quietly smiles while taking mental notes of everything that happens to write on her blog later. You’re welcome. 😛