Spain is a country that is quite different from the rest of Europe. From the Mediterranean climate to their delicious food, Spanish culture is diverse. Even within the country itself, the culture and customs that people follow vary between the different regions in Spain.
This diversity is reflected in the country’s customs and traditions. It is important to keep in mind that while some customs may appear rude or weird in one culture, they may be completely normal in another.
If you are planning to do an internship in Spain, here are some of the do's and don'ts that you should keep in mind when you are in the country. These will make it easier for you to navigate the country.
When you meet someone
In Spain, the most common form of greeting is with a handshake. And so, when you meet someone, regardless if it is the first time or not, it is important to greet them with a firm handshake.
A handshake is normally accompanied by eye contact. This is seen as a symbol of confidence in Spain. When you have known the person a little bit longer, you can expect an additional kiss on the cheek, a hug or a pat on the back.
When you are dining inside and outside
In Spain, food is a very important part of the culture. This means that dining etiquette is also important to keep in mind. When you have been invited to dine in someone’s house, it is appreciated when you bring a small gift like a bottle of wine or some kind of dessert.
Fid 1. Dining in Spain (Source: Pexels)
This is seen as a thoughtful gesture in Spanish culture and it will be very welcomed. It is seen as polite etiquette to offer help to the host. Even though most of the time they will tell you not to worry, offering to help around the table or the kitchen is appreciated.
Complementing the host’s house is also considered good etiquette when you have been invited to their home to dine. When it is time to eat, you should wait till you are shown to your seat or when other people start sitting down.
The host will usually assign where you will be seated. When you are dining out or at home with friends, it is respectful to pass the food to the left-hand side. And when you are seated at the table, it is important to give the seat at the head of the table to the most honoured person in the group.
The person who is the second in importance will be seated to the right of the host. You should start eating only when everyone’s food has arrived as well. And when dining in someone’s house, you should wait till the host has been seated.
Fig 2. Tortilla (Source: Pexels)
When paying for the bill, usually the host pays for the food. If not, rank and other circumstances determine who pays the bill. In Spanish restaurants, a gratuity is usually added to the bill. However, in circumstances where it is not, a tip of 15% is acceptable.
When you are in a business setting
While there is a relaxed sense of time in a Spaniard’s everyday life, in the business world, it is required for you to be punctual and arrive on time when there is a business meeting. It is normal for meetings to begin with a bit of introduction and small talk.
It is common for Spaniards to want to get to know their business partners before they enter into serious negotiations. As the meeting commences, allow your business colleagues to speak at length.
Fig 3. Business Meetings (Source: Pexels)
While you can interject in between their talk, it is advised to let them speak their piece till the end so that they feel like they have voiced all their thoughts and opinions by the end of the meeting. Agendas are not strictly followed and meetings are quite flexible. Therefore, do not expect a meeting setting that is too rigid.
Opinions and thoughts can be spontaneously interjected during other conversations, which is a normal occurrence. However, this does not mean that Spaniards are unorganized. Business in Spain is actually quite hierarchical and the business culture tends to be more vocal. Communications occur at the senior level and the amount of respect that the subordinates give their boss depends on their personality.
When you are dining inside and outside
When talking about Spanish cuisine, you should avoid insulting or criticising their food. Spaniards are very passionate about food and do not take it lightly when their food is criticized or modified in any way.
Other habits to avoid when dining in Spain is to not place your elbows on the table, do not slurp your food or burp in public. All these actions are considered bad etiquette in Spain. For example, slurping your noodles in places like Japan may be acceptable. But in Spain, it is rude to do this.
When in public
When you are out in the streets in Spain, be mindful of what you wear. It is advised to not wear shorts unless you are going to the beach. You should also not walk around alone at night. If you do go out at night, it is best to go out in groups to be safer.
There are many street performers in Spain and it is understandable that you would want to stop and watch the entertainment. But do not stop for too long because a pickpocketer may make you their target.
Fig 4. Spain (Source: Pexels)
When talking to people, avoid criticising the Spanish culture, people and nation. Spaniards themselves may complain about the current issues in their country, but they are still very proud of their homeland. A stereotype to be avoided is to imply that Spaniards are lazy, late or bad at their job.
This is a stereotype that can be frustrating to hear as the Spanish workforce is highly competitive and many Spaniards have worked hard to keep their jobs.
If you are thinking of starting an internship in Spain, keep in mind all the do’s and don’ts of Spanish etiquette, They will help you navigate through the country during your internship. They will also help you assimilate better to the company culture in Spain and how they conduct business with other countries.
Every culture is unique and different in its own way and Spain is no different. It is a country full of rich customs and traditions. And you will find that these traditions also vary between different regions in Spain.
An internship in Spain is a great opportunity to truly experience the intricate complexities of a culture and how it affects the way business and negotiations are done within the country. With AIP, you will have all these experiences and opportunities to grow and expand your knowledge of the country.
It will be the chance of a lifetime to both grow your professional career and develop your personal skills.
Start your internship with AIP and see Spain from a whole new perspective. If you want to learn more about the programs on offer for this destination, visit our website!