Barcelona has an irresistible attraction for many British expats. With the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains close by, this vibrant, cosmopolitan city is also brimming with history and culture. But what possibilities does the city hold for expats that want to do business there?
Spain as a whole remains a relatively easy place in which to do business. This may explain why it was positioned 33 out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2016. Spain ranked well in factors such as trading across borders (earning first place), resolving insolvency (25th), and protecting minority investors (29th).
Perhaps due to its diversity, with Spanish nationals and international expats living and working closely together, there are excellent business prospects for expatriates in Barcelona. However, to make the most of business opportunities, fluency in the Spanish language and, ideally, a basic grasp of Catalan, is an enormous benefit.
When you get past the language, what is different about doing business in Barcelona? Well, there’s a different timetable for starters. Business isn’t typically 9 ‘til 5. Instead, it starts somewhere between 9 and 10am, breaks for lunch around 1pm, and resumes from about 3pm until evening. There isn’t quite a siesta, but a long lunch is quite normal.
That break in the middle of the day isn’t all about feasting and snoozing, however, as business is often carried out over lunch. Spaniards and Catalans love eating and it is very common to spend time in restaurants combining delicious food with business.
One of the characteristics of doing business in Barcelona, is that relationships tend to be formed between people, rather than companies. As a result, once you have established a connection, it will be unaffected when you, or the other party, change companies. Trust, therefore, is very important, and demonstrating reliability and strong business ethics is key.
You must also show due respect to those senior to you, as Spanish businesses are hierarchical. Even though you may be depending on a decision from a senior executive, it would be bad form to attempt to set up an initial meeting with anyone above your own rank.
On the subject of etiquette, dealing with associates in their own language is another essential, not just verbally but in all your materials. Offering presentations in both English and Spanish shows that you appreciate the opportunity to take your business to their country.
Some customs in Spanish businesses may seem strange, even rude. For instance, it’s quite normal for people around the meeting table to interrupt one another, and even talk over each other. This should not be misinterpreted as impoliteness, although it can make it difficult to follow the conversation, especially when it is in a foreign tongue.
Once you navigate around a few cultural differences, you will find that doing business in Barcelona can be a pleasurable experience. Spaniards are generally friendly and cheerful, and those in Barcelona are no exception. It’s likely that you will find the business community warm and genuinely interested in you and what you can offer through your business.
If you are setting out on a business venture in Spain, it is advisable to consult with a solicitor and accountant to ensure that all your dealings adhere to Spanish law and tax regulations. You may be considering setting up a company in Barcelona – a Sociedad Limitada. In which case, you will need assistance with this and with setting up an overseas bank account.
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