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8 DOs and DON’Ts when doing business in Spain

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Since we are convinced that international trade represents a bright future for British SMEs, and since language and culture are the biggest barriers to having a successful business overseas, we made some lists of useful DOs and DON’Ts about how to behave when doing business abroad. The first one addressed how to exchange Meishi (Japanese business cards). This time we have gathered some facts about business meetings in Spain.

8 DOs and DON’Ts when doing business in Spain

  • DO… be punctual. If you are to be late, it is best to notify those you are meeting of your delay and provide a serious reason for it.
  • DO… shake hands with everyone present, both before and after the meeting. If you know the other party well enough, kissing on the cheeks is acceptable. However, it is wise to wait for the other party to initiate this. And remember, you should not actually kiss the cheeks, but the air while touching cheeks.
  • DO… dress up. In Spain the look of the person one is doing business with is very important. Men should wear tailor-made woollen or linen suits in dark colours and white cotton shirts with silk ties. Women should wear well-cut suits of high-quality fabric, and feminine accessories are encouraged. Designer clothes and brand names will be noted with approval for both men and women.
  • DON’T… expect English to be widely spoken. More often than not, the language of business is Spanish. However, big companies may conduct business meetings in both Spanish and English. It is better to enquire ahead of time to find out if an interpreter will be needed so you can be prepared.
  • DO… treat EVERYBODY in a Spanish company with the utmost respect. Their organizational chart is social, not functional. The third or fourth level down may be more powerful than those at the top.
  • DON’T… get straight to business. Spaniards will want to spend time getting to know you as a person first and then as a business person. Charisma and personal qualities can be more important to them than any degree or diploma.
  • DON’T… impose a decision. The people with whom you are trying to do business could find this humiliating. Be polite by using subtle arguments.
  • DON’T… offer a gift at the first meeting. Small gifts (desk items, books, art) may be appropriate if negotiations conclude successfully, but they are not normally exchanged at business meetings. Be careful not to imply a bribe.

Watch this space for more DOs and DON’Ts of business behaviour for other countries and cultures.

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