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Spain: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Spain

It’s important to understand the language nuances in Spain. Many Spanish business people speak English or French. In Barcelona, Catalan is used in a business setting among native speakers; otherwise Castilian Spanish is used, like in other parts of Spain.

When greeting business acquaintances, you usually shake hands; although in a more casual setting, you will probably be greeted with double kisses and a hug. For ladies, expect two kisses (right cheek followed by left) whereas men may just receive a quick hug or handshake from the same gender.

Formal wear is the norm and both men and women should wear a suit for business meetings - men usually wear a tie to business meetings, although in summer this is more relaxed. Scruffiness is frowned upon.

Business cards are usually exchanged after introduction. All Spaniards have two family names - only the first is used in conversation, but any academic or professional titles should be acknowledged.

In Barcelona, invitations to homes are not common and clients or business associates tend to be invited out, usually to pre-dinner drinks and tapas or dinner. In Madrid, breakfast meetings are also popular.

Office Hours

In Barcelona, Seville and Granada, business hours are generally 0800/0900-1800/1900, with an extended lunch break from 1330-1500/1600. In Santiago de Compostela and Malaga, office hours are generally 0900-1400 and 1700-2000. Banks and government offices open only in the morning.

In Madrid, standard business hours are Monday to Friday 0900-1400 and 1600-1900, although 0800-1500 is quite common during summer. Larger companies and multinationals, however, are increasingly working through the day, in line with the rest of Europe


The economy in Spain suffered tremendously under the global economic downturn of the early 21st century. The unemployment rate reached a new Eurozone high at 21.3% in early 2011, with a record of 4.9 million people unemployed, but by 2017 it had fallen to 18.9% - the lowest in six years - and things are improving. The inflation rate in Spain fluctuated from 3 to 3.8% in 2011 but was 2.9% in early 2017.

The agricultural sector produces cereals, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, meat and wine. The fishing fleet, although reduced, remains one of the world's largest. In the Canary Islands, bananas are the main crop produced by the agricultural industry, with just over 90% of produce going to the mainland. In fact, the Canary Islands are the largest banana producer in the EU. The next most important crop is tomatoes, followed by potatoes, flowers and ornamental plants and vines.

Many of the larger hotels have comprehensive conference centres. There are also a number of dedicated convention centres both in the north and south of the island.In the service sector, Spain is the second most-popular destination in the world and has a vast tourism industry.


US$1.303 trillion (2017).

Main exports

Machinery, motor vehicles, food, pharmaceuticals and medicines.

Main imports

Machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semi-finished goods and food.

Main trading partners

France, Germany, Italy, UK and Portugal.

Keeping in Touch in Spain


Most telephone boxes require telephone cards that can be purchased in grocery stores. Call centres and internet cafés allow you to call overseas at a lower rate. Area codes are incorporated within a nine digit number dialled from wherever you are. Emergency calls: 112.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good throughout most of the country. It is relatively easy to get a mobile phone to use temporarily in Spain. Most service providers like Vodafone, Orange and Telefonica offer prepaid SIM cards (that include data roaming). Spanish mobile numbers begin with 6.


Wi-Fi is ubiquitous across much of Spain, and is often available free of charge in hotels, restaurants and other establishments. Internet cafés are available in most urban areas.


Broadcasting in Spain has witnessed a spectacular expansion in recent years with the emergence of new commercial operators and the launch of digital services. The main TV broadcaster is the state-owned TVE which operates TV-1 and TV-2. Antena 3, La Cuatro, Telecinco and La Sexta are privately run channels.

The main English language papers in Spain are The Olive Press (; available in various restaurants and hotels in Andalusia) and Sur in English (; found in establishments along the southern coastline). UK papers are mostly available in Madrid, Barcelona and major tourist beach towns in Costa del Sol and the Balearic Islands.


There are efficient internal and international postal services to all countries from Spain. The postal service is generally cheap and efficient. The main postal company in Spain is Correos, but there are also private companies like Fedex and Sears for express delivery service. Airmail within Europe usually takes around five days.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-2000 and Sat 0800-1400.

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