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General facts

Population: 47.1 million

Capital: Madrid

Official language: Spanish

Currency: Euro

Religions: Roman Catholic, Muslim and Protestant

Key industries

Tourism

Accounting for around 11% of Spain’s annual GDP, tourism is vital to its economy and is one of its top employer sectors. Spain is the 2nd most visited country in the world after France and its capital, Madrid, and Barcelona are the most visited cities. Over 2.6 million people are employed in Spain’s tourism sector during peak season, which is April to October.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is another of Spain’s largest sectors and employs 11 million people. Spain is Europe’s largest producer of wind energy and a leading producer of solar energy. The country plans to fully switch to using 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Business hours are longer because many businesses still partially close for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day for a siesta. It allows people to nap or to just take a break at the hottest part of the day. Not all businesses fully shut down though as they used to.
  • Spain has at least 14 public holidays (the most in Europe) as well as other local fiestas. Also, a lot of annual leave is taken in August, so it’s a quiet time for businesses that aren’t in the tourism sector. Bear this in mind when booking in meetings.
  • The negotiation process in Spanish business can be lengthy but don’t try to hurry it along as it’s expected that you’ll make good personal relationships before signing on the dotted line.
  • A lot of Spaniards prefer verbal, face-to-face communication rather than written, so try to pick up the phone or go over as much as you can.
  • Although the Spanish are known for not being as punctual, make sure you are and turn up on time to meetings even if your colleagues run a little late.
  • Be warm and friendly in your emails and phone conversations rather than being too direct.
  • Have an understanding about cultural differences so you don’t offend anyone. For example, it’s important to know the difference between Catalan and Basque.

Dos and Don’ts in business

Do…

  • …use the formal usted instead of the informal tu when speaking in Spanish to business associates unless they specify otherwise.
  • …wear conservative, professional clothes and make sure you don’t wear anything too flashy.
  • …have your business cards translated and printed double-sided with English on one side and Spanish on the other.
  • …bear in mind that if you’re invited to a business dinner, you won’t eat until 9pm at the earliest.
  • …maintain eye contact when chatting with your Spanish colleagues.

Don’t…

  • …worry if you stray from the meeting agenda. Spanish meetings have a more relaxed approach and are for discussions rather than decisions.
  • …be afraid of interrupting during discussions as it is quite common for the Spanish to talk over each other.
  • …expect decisions to be rushed. They tend to take time in Spain to thoroughly consider all of the details.
  • …leave a business dinner as soon as you’ve finished eating. A big part of Spanish culture is the sobremesa, which is the after dinner discussions.
  • …discuss religion, politics or salaries.