Spanish culture is very much based on going out, and therefore, visiting restaurants, bars and clubs play an important role in social, as well as business life. Whether it’s just a coffee together or an evening beer, people like to meet with friends, colleagues or business partners and just chill for the end of the day. And not just on a Friday, this goes on from Tuesday to Sunday!
Accordingly, business lunches are very important for the development of new, or the maintenance of existing, business relationships. There are some regional differences here: for example, many Catalans prefer to stay in the office even for more unofficial appointments, but otherwise, business topics are mostly also discussed when eating out.
For this reason, it is not recommended to arrive only on the date of the agreed appointment in the morning and then fly back immediately. Spaniards attach great importance to time spent together and to interpersonal contact, and indeed, there are many opportunities for this every day: So you could have a breakfast break together in a bar or cafeteria around 11 a.m. You should take the opportunity to eat together, as in Spain business lunch takes place only between 2 pm and 4 pm. Accordingly, people eat dinner late, around 9 or 10 pm. But between the time when the office closes and the business dinner, you might want to organise an aperitif and refuel with a few tapas.
At dinner together or an after-work meeting, you should not only talk about business but also show your personal side. Good small talk topics are family and football. You can easily ask whether your Spanish business partners are married and have children, as a family is very important to Spaniards. Just like football, or sport in general. If you don’t like these topics, just inquire about the sights of the city or tell them about your homeland. However, you should avoid pub-like humour, and don’t be tempted to make jokes about religion, politics, money or sex – that would not go down well!
In general, the following applies: Whoever makes the invitation will pay! However, the other party is expected to show a degree of protest. So you should at least offer to pay the bill. You will certainly not be allowed to do so, but at least you have shown your goodwill. However, you should reciprocate the invitation when you have the chance, and just as consistently insist that you pay!
If your Spanish business partner invites you to their house, this is to be considered as great proof of trust. Don’t come exactly on time, but give your hosts 10 to 15 minutes extra for the final preparations.
Depending on the time of the day, you should dress well. You don’t have to take off your shoes, this is not common in Spain.
Bring nicely packaged little gifts for all the family members, such as chocolates, toys for the children or something from your home country. All souvenirs will be unpacked in your presence.
With all probability, it will be a rather casual evening with many different dishes. Enjoy the lively entertainment and, in the end, thank your hosts extensively for the hospitality you have received.