Working in Spain?

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Working in Spain

Ready for a new working experience in Spain? Contrary to its stereotypical image, the land of siestas is a country that takes pride in its industrious tradition. If you are considering working in Spain, InterNations will support you with information on business culture, taxes, and the job search.

At a Glance:

  • Although unemployment has been a significant issue for the country, expats will likely be able to find a job in the service sector.
  • The Spanish lunch break is not only an occasion to relax, but also to talk about business. Compared to the past, women are becoming more and more active in in Spain’s business world.
  • After finding a job, it is important to get all the paper work done and to find out everything about taxation.


Spain’s business environment reflects the attitude of many Spanish people themselves: polite, easygoing, and, sometimes, a bit chaotic. This is not to say that working in this country should be considered a negative experience. While Spain used to offer an attractive combination of a laidback work environment and economic success, the recession hit the country hard. In fact, its unemployment rate soared from 8% in 2007 to its peak of almost 27% in 2013. Recently, things have been looking up, though, and the unemployment rate decreased by 15.28% in the second quarter of 2018.

Spain remains one of the favorite vacation spots in Europe meaning expats will likely be able to find employment in the country’s tourism industry. Other sectors such as the high-tech industry will be looking for workers with specific skillsets, something which will prove to be a significant advantage in the recovering Spanish job market.

Lunchtime — To Eat, Sleep, or Talk Business?

When working in Spain, be sure to take cultural differences into account. Spanish people are open and friendly. However, in a business setting, you can expect to come across different practices. The most important thing to remember is that Spanish business hours may be rather different from those in your home country.

An ordinary day of working usually begins around 09:00–09:30 and lasts until 20:00, with an average two-hour lunch break between 14:00 and 17:00. Depending on where you are from, this may seem a bit excessive. However, this lunch break is not only an excuse to eat and take the traditional Spanish siesta, but also an opportunity to discuss business.

Once you start working in Spain, you will see that a 40-hour workweek with up to 30 days of paid vacation is the norm. The months of July and especially August are rather slow for business, with shortened working hours. Keep this in mind when scheduling important meetings during this period.

Business Etiquette

Consider the following list of tips for working in Spain:

  • Be punctual but do expect to wait 15–20 minutes for the arrival of others.
  • Dress conservatively in neat clothing.
  • Break the ice with some small talk before you introduce serious topics.
  • Closing a deal or settling upon negotiation takes time.
  • Avoid confrontation and make an attempt to solve problems and disagreements without making accusations.
  • Do not boast about your success. Humility is considered a virtue.
  • An invite to a Spanish home is normally reserved for close, personal relations.
  • Although most Spanish business people speak English, it is greatly appreciated (and a distinct advantage on a professional level) if you speak Spanish.

Expat Businesswomen in Spain

While Spain’s patriarchal society has gone through a number of changes in the past decades, working in Spain as a woman may require some getting used to, depending on your prior experience. Women in very high positions were a rare sight in the past. However, it is now becoming increasingly common to see them working on the board of directors in companies. The OECD Better Life Index of 2017 indicates that 55% of women in Spain have jobs compared to 66% of Spanish men.

It is still customary for men to treat women in Spain. In fact, when attending business lunches, women who wish to pick up the tab for their male guests should arrange this with the restaurant staff prior to eating out.

Another fact that may be of some interest for women working in Spain is maternity leave. Female employees receive support during this stage of life, with a minimum of six weeks off after the birth of the child. The maternity leave can be extended up to 16 weeks and its benefits can be applied to foreign residents with a residency permit as well. Check the Ministry of Employment and Social Security for more information.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

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