If you’re starting your new job as an expat in Barcelona, there are a few things you should know about the Spanish work culture.
First thing’s first, getting accustomed to the work culture in Spain isn’t just about taking long lunches and going for a beer at the end of the day. In Barcelona in particular, there are a lot of international companies, that each bring to the table their own working cultures and expectations.
Of course, there are some very distinct characteristics of the traditional business culture in Spain. However, keep in mind that these things may differ depending on the company you work for.
Below are 45 useful things to know when starting a new job in Spain, which will offer some guidance on how to fit in and succeed in the Spanish business environment.
Business culture in spain
In Spain, most companies are hierarchically structured, particularly family-owned businesses and government organisations. This mindset is slowly changing due to the growing number of young managers being educated abroad and changes in Spanish society in general. Approval from the top manager (el jefe) is often needed to get most things done in the office.
2. Dress code
The way you present yourself is of high importance in Spain. Business dress is classic, professional and conventional. Although, depending on the sector you work in and particularly if you work for a younger company, the dress code is generally informal (no suits required!) Nevertheless, even in the hot summer months, shorts and sandals are definitely considered no-nos.
3. Kissing and personal space
Spaniards are typically quite formal in a business environment and they tend to just shake hands when they're greeting someone for the first time. Kissing each other on both cheeks is only done between people who know each other well. It is also common for people in Spain to make more physical contact during conversations and maintain good eye contact.
In Spain, it’s much more common to hear men complimenting or commenting on the appearance of their female coworkers. If you're from Northern or Western Europe in particular, this may take some getting used to.
5. Social relationships
Connecting on a personal level is very important in Spanish work culture and it can be said that the way business is conducted in Spain is much more relaxed compared to other European countries. You can expect extra time to be put aside in meetings for general chit chat, as most meetings will normally begin with catching up with each other on a personal level in order to establish a solid working relationship.
You should definitely be prepared for time-consuming and lengthy negotiations. The first step being, getting to know your business partners properly, as negotiations can begin only after you have developed a personal relationship and a certain level of trust with your Spanish counterparts. In some cases, these social bonds serve to guarantee agreements and may even replace written contracts.
7. Business meetings
Business meetings in Spain can be quite informal and it is not uncommon to discuss personal matters before the formalities begin. They are usually held to give instructions and communicate decisions already made rather than coming to an agreement on something. As you start to get deeper into the meeting, things can get loud and sometimes even a bit heated.
Trust is very important in business and the Spanish prefer to get to know people before engaging in a business relationship or any sort of negotiation. Spaniards place great emphasis on trust and honesty, so bear this in mind when being asked personal questions about your business or private life.
9. Personal pride
The Spanish are known to be very proud people and they tend to use their extrovert nature and personalities to express themselves and get to know others.
Whether you're in a business meeting or at a football match you'll soon notice the passionate side of the Spanish people. Conversations with a Spaniard can get loud and sometimes quite intense if you're discussing something that they really care about.
Politics can be a very sensitive topic, especially in Catalonia, so our advice would be to just avoid the subject altogether. Even after work if the topic of politics is brought to the table, it’s still wise to tread lightly.
12. Right to strike
In Spain you have the right to strike for the defence of your interests and many people take advantage of this. Strikes in Barcelona are more frequent than in other parts of Spain, so don't be surprised if you turn up to work one day and your Spanish colleagues are participating in a strike.
13. Social responsibility
Social responsibility is a very important topic for businesses in Spain. Most companies will allow days off to enable it's employees to give back to the community and the environment, for example by volunteering.
Arranging paperwork to legally work in Barcelona can be a lengthy and challenging process. It's best to start the procedures as quickly as possible and don't try and skip any steps, otherwise you will not be able to start your new job.
15. Training & induction
Always remember to check if your training period is paid or unpaid before you begin your job, so that you don't get any unpleasant surprises when pay day comes around.
16. Probation period
When you start a new job, a probation period must be agreed and put in writing. During this time the employer or the worker can freely terminate the contract without having to prove any cause, without prior notice and with no right to any compensation. The maximum probation period is 6 months, but the time frame is dependent on several factors.
17. Notice period
The minimum notice period in Spain is typically 15 days, however this could be different depending on the contract. So, be prepared for things at work to change quickly and at the last minute.
18. Annual or holiday leave
Employees are entitled to 22 business days per year for their annual/holiday leave. The leave can be divided up into more than one period, as long as one of the periods is at least two weeks long.
19. Paga extra
In Spain your annual salary is usually divided into 14 pays. These include: 12 monthly salaries (sueldo mensual), and two additional pays in July and December (paga extra). Please note, not all the companies offer these two extra salaries.
20. Taxable income
The taxable income is determined by the difference between the income earned and the expenses that are deductible according with Spanish Law. The following people must submit their income tax return in Spain: – Individuals earning more than €22,000 a year. – If you have changed jobs within the same year and the salary you received from your later employers exceeds €1,500 during the year.
Every company will have a different policy when it comes to extra benefits such as travel reimbursements, a company phone/laptop, lunch vouchers, relocation package, health insurance, gym membership, languages courses etc. If any of these things are mandatory as part of your job search, we recommend double checking the job spec or inquiring about them during an interview. However, it's always best to manage your expectations as not all companies will offer everything.
22. Internship culture
Going abroad to do an internship is invaluable for your CV and gaining relevant experience has never been so important. Internship opportunities are endless in Spain and they are extremely popular among young individuals, both during and after their graduation.
23. Public holidays
There are 10 public holidays in Spain every year, with the addition of regional holidays. The list of regional holidays changes every year according to what the authorities decide.
24. Holiday season
Depending on the market you are representing (Spanish, UK, Dutch etc), you will experience a 'holiday season' or quieter periods in the market at some point during the year. For the Spanish market, these periods are typically in August or around Christmas. Our advice - do your research to avoid delays or missed business opportunities!
25. Summer schedule
Most Spanish companies adopt a reduced summer schedule which means that they finish at 14:00 or 15:00 in the hot summer months of July and August.
26. Water, tea and coffee
The typical Spanish working day is broken up by two or three short coffee breaks. A lot of companies will provide water fountains and tea and coffee for free, however this isn't always the case so it's best to bring your own just in case. The office can get pretty warm during the Summer in particular, so you may want to bring extra water to work with you.
Lunch is the most important meal of the day, with many people going out to a nearby restaurant or cafe. Lunches tend to start later (around 14:00) and last longer, so it's the perfect time to socialise with colleagues!
Friday afternoon's are the best part of the week for most companies as work will often end around 2.30-3pm. There's also a much more relaxed atmosphere in office and some companies may even let you wear casual attire.
29. Good work-life balance
Spaniards love to socialise and they definitely know how to enjoy themselves outside of the office. It's the norm to go out with your colleagues for after-work drinks, dinners and other social activities regularly during the week. As an expat, this makes it very easy to get to know people and make new friends. It's safe to say that the Spanish definitely work to live and do not live to work.
30. Social activitites after work
It's no surprise that the Spanish love to socialise, many companies will organise social activities after work or during the weekend for the whole team to participate in. This is the perfect opportunity to build friendships and have some fun!
The 'after work drinks' scene has made its way to Barcelona. Going for a beer or two with colleagues is quite common, no matter whether it's a Tuesday or a Friday.
32. Christmas party
Spanish companies will organise a big Christmas dinner/party for their employees, no expense spared. It's an opportunity for the team to dress up, enjoy a fancy dinner and start the festive celebrations off the right way.
33. Birthday at work
If it's your birthday, it’s customary to bring snacks and sweets to the office for everyone to enjoy. Your colleagues will also sing happy birthday to you and may even decorate your office space.
34. Spanish phone etiquette
Knowing the correct Spanish telephone etiquette can be very useful, both at work and in your personal life. It is common to ask the question 'who is calling?', as most callers will not identify themselves, especially when you need to transfer the call. Remember that you should never simply answer the phone with 'Hola'.
Whatsapp is probably the most popular form of communication for the Spanish, even at work it is common to have a Whatsapp work group chat. Sending voice messages via Whatsapp is preferred over calling someone, so if you ever notice someone speaking into their phone or holding their phone upside down to their ear, the chances are they're either recording or receiving a voice message.
36. Highly value international experience
International experience is highly valued, as most employers know that working abroad gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, meet new people and learn new skills. Emphasising on your CV that you've lived an d worked abroad could help you stand out from the competition when applying for a job.
37. Highly value language skills
Language skills are highly sought after by employers, as an increasingly globalised world means that companies will need to communicate with clients from different markets around the world. If you speak more than one language it can also open up so many doors for you in terms of job hunting, particularly in Barcelona where the big multinationals are always searching for multilingual hires.
38. Dutch, German and Nordic languages
International talent forms a key part of Barcelona’s workforce and as an expat, you’ll find an endless amount of opportunities for people with language skills! Dutch, German and the Nordic languages are typically the most in demand as they are harder to source.
39. Temporary recruitment
Some companies in Barcelona recruit for temporary projects or for a specific on-boarding program. Bear this in mind when applying for jobs as companies are always searching for language speakers, even if it is only short-term. You never know, the opportunity may arise to extend your contract or make it permanent.
There are plenty of active recruiters on platforms such as LinkedIn who will no doubt reach out to you at some point about job opportunities in Barcelona. Our advice is to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, highlighting all relevant experience, skills and languages.
41. Photo on your CV
When applying for jobs, it’s very important to adapt your CV to the local format and to give employers what they want to see. In Spain, this will include things such as a professional photograph of yourself.
Barcelona is well-known for its diversity, particularly in business. You will find an abundance of different companies in Barcelona, from start-ups to multinationals, each bringing their own unique work culture. Before applying for any jobs, try to identify what motivates and inspires you and do your research to figure out what kind of company would best suit you.
After moving to Barcelona, you may find the new culture and lifestyle that you’re suddenly immersed in is completely different to what you’re used to back home. It may take some time to adapt, but our advice is to throw yourself in the deep end, try new things and embrace this new way of life. This will certainly help you with your job hunt as there are plenty of opportunities just waiting to be discovered.
44. Proud of their culture & traditions
Each region of Spain has its own unique culture and traditions. If you're lucky enough to live in Barcelona, immerse yourself in the culture and celebrations all year round and experience what it means to be a true Catalan.
45. Fast-paced environment
Barcelona is an extremely vibrant city and things are changing all the time. Here at Barcelona Expat Life, we believe that if you work hard and prove yourself, you have the power to create many opportunities for yourself.
Barcelona is the perfect destination to start your new career, but remember that every company will have it’s pro’s and con’s. As long as the con’s don’t outweigh the pro’s and you bear the above in mind when starting your new job, you should be able to adapt to the Spanish business culture with no trouble whatsoever.
We hope that by knowing these things, you will find it easier to integrate into your new workplace.