Xenophobe's® Guides: Spanish business culture

Xenophobe's® Guides: Spanish business culture

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Ambition does not drive Spain's business culture, and large supplies of patience are needed. The adage of 'work to live' never rang so true, as it does in Spain's working culture.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

Ambition in business is rare. The Spanish do not care about success; their main aim in life is to have enough money not to work. Dangling the carrot of promotion with a higher income and a bigger expense account to encourage an employee to move to another area seldom brings positive results.

Anyone entering into negotiations with Spanish corporations should arm themselves with great patience and some knowledge of their business methods and conduct.

No director will gain respect by asking subordinates or anyone else for their opinion. It is considered a sure sign of weakness. Executives must make decisions themselves, which is why they are so highly paid.

In big companies, heads of departments are not encouraged to communicate, in case they interfere with each other's work. Individuals within departments are not encouraged to communicate with each other either, in case they, too, stop minding their own business.

This, of course, negates team spirit (unheard of in Spain anyway) and makes sure that no one knows what anyone else is doing, which may account for delays of up to five years before emails are answered.

Reprimands or criticisms are only accepted from the very top and on no account will be admitted. No-one is ever wrong. The buck is passed pretty swiftly to another department, which will not understand the problem and shelve it forever.

In most Spanish businesses, family connections, long-standing friendships and loyalty far outweigh cleverness or intelligence. Character and amiability are rated higher than business acumen. And if you are amusing during coffee time, you will get the job.

Four words that can be used to comment on individual colleagues include:

  • valiente: a courageous decision maker. He'll probably drop you right in it;
  • inteligente: boringly reliable, may well quote unintelligible statistics;
  • bueno: a clever dick, but honest with it;
  • listo: as sharp as they come. Don't trust him for a second.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Spanish.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Spanish by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

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