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Working in Spain

Your guide to expat life in Spain

Want to work in Spain?

Spain has one of the largest economies in the world and is the fifth largest economy in the EU. Despite this, the country is still grappling with high unemployment rates. Although the economy is steadily recovering, jobs are hard to come by, so many expats run their own businesses. The tourism and automotive industries are among the biggest employers in Spain, and it’s a world leader in renewable energy.

Business in Spain

Spanish business culture is similar to the rest of Europe, but there are some subtle nuances to be aware of. Social status and personality often carry as much weight as an individual's skills and experience. Not only will a successful businessperson be well dressed and dignified, they’ll also be good company and entertaining. Spaniards often prefer to do business with people they know and trust. And family life and leisure activities take priority over work.

Spaniards are proud people. Never mock or belittle their country, its customs or perceived stereotypes, even if you’re trying to make a light-hearted joke. You’ll fit in well if you show patience and humility.

Traditionally, Spain’s business world has been male dominated, with women only rising through the ranks in family firms. But things are changing, and the number of women being appointed to senior positions saw a big rise. Most managers are authoritative and take a firm but kind approach to leadership. They also place a lot of importance on courage and decisiveness, and they don’t appreciate being undermined or made to look weak.

Practical details

The business language is Spanish. Don’t expect English to be spoken widely in business circles, although some big corporates use both languages. Business hours are usually from 09:00 to mid-evening, Monday to Friday, with a two-hour lunch break in the early afternoon.

In terms of business dress code in Spain, brand names and designer labels are popular among businesspeople who dress formally and conservatively. Dark or linen suits with white shirts and silk ties are good choices for men, while women usually wear smart dresses or tailored suits.

A handshake is the usual greeting at initial meetings. The traditional Spanish greeting of air-kissing on both cheeks is usually reserved for people you know well. Be prepared to indulge in small talk before getting down to business. While gifts aren’t expected, they’re sometimes exchanged at Christmas or to celebrate a successful negotiation. Gifts should be good quality and opened in front of the giver.

Expat salaries in Spain

Spain isn’t known for lucrative expat employment packages, and salaries tend to be considerably lower than in other European countries and the United States.

Top tips for working in Spain

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Spain.

Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it'll get done tomorrow, or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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