Random Observations: Business Time in Spain

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.

  1. 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.

    Source: barcelonasights.blogspot.com

  2. 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.

    Okay, except the ham thing still weirds me out a little bit.

  3. 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.

    This is as professional as I’ve gotten – my Spanish e-mail signature! Looks pretty legit, though, right? 😉

  4. 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.
  5. “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.

    This is a combination of two trends I’ve seen on working women that I’m ok with: looser pants that narrow at the bottom (usually in solid colors, black, & khaki) and crazy-patterned pants in general

  6. 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. 😛

– Alexa


6 thoughts on “Random Observations: Business Time in Spain

  1. Very interesting….. I am not quite ready to see you rockin those pants, they remind me of a throwback to the 90’s…. that was a verrrry bad fashion decade!

    • Not those! I might get the classier ones that I’ve seen around the office if I can find a size that works. BIG sales are coming up soon!

  2. m@il is AWESOME. I’m adopting that. This post made for a god read! It’s cool to see how much of that Spanish culture carried over to the new world. I can’t handle the long lunch break, personally, I feel too guilty like I should be working! And the saludos for everyone in the office reminds me of when you’re last to arrive at a party and you have to go around and give everyone a beso … I get major social anxiety! Love those pants … I want a pair!

  3. Hi Alexa,

    This is Palwasha, Internships Abroad Director over at http://www.GoOverseas.com. I wanted to share a opportunity to collaborate with our team. As you may know, our website is categorized by Teach, Volunteer, Study, Intern, and Gap Year programs abroad. We feature alumni reviews on every program, and give our users the ability to make informed decisions about going abroad.

    We are currently looking for talented writers to write internship guides for virtually every country and city in the world. It sounds like you have the necessary experience and background to write the Spain guide, one of the most popular pages on our website.

    Writing these guides is a great way to further establish your authority on a particular country/city, get links to your website, blog, and social media pages, and help other interns on their journey abroad. I will of course send more detailed guidelines to make sure your writing process goes smoothly!

    Let me know if you have any questions at palwasha@gooverseas.com, I look forward to hearing from you.


    Palwasha Khatri
    Internships Abroad Director


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