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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Doing business in Spain An introductory guide to the market

Tips for the business traveller

Spanish business etiquette is very similar to that in the rest of Western Europe and Australia. However, differences do exist. The following points may assist in developing more effective business relationships.


Address contacts by their titles, followed by their surnames for example, the Spanish equivalent of Mr is Señor, Miss is Señorita and Mrs is Señora.

It is best to avoid using a person's first name unless the Spanish contact indicates otherwise. Spaniards generally use both their maternal and paternal surnames, although contacts should usually be addressed by the paternal surname only: e. g. Señor John Smith Wilson would be addressed as Señor Smith. The first surname is the paternal one. When addressing others in Spanish, follow Spanish business protocol by using the formal you (Usted) mode of address unless invited to use the more informal .

Working Week

Many Spanish companies open later, and have longer lunch period and a later closing time, than their European and Australian counterparts. Smaller shops close for lunch at 2: 00pm and re-open again from 5: 00pm to 8: 00pm. However, it has become more and more common for businesses to stay open through the traditional siesta hours and large department stores are open all day. Many middle to senior level managers, however, only break between 2: 00pm and 3: 00pm. Many businesses are also open on Saturday mornings. Banks generally operate 8: 30am to 2: 00pm Monday to Saturday, although banking hours differ during the summer months.

Australian visitors should also note that when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, the preceding Monday or following Friday, respectively, is often declared a bridge ( puente) . Many people will be absent from the office over the bridge period. It is better to avoid business trips to Spain during the summer vacation months (particularly August, and to a lesser extent July) . In this period, offices tend to operate with skeleton staff and work reduced hours, such as from 8: 30am to 3: 00pm.


Spaniards take pride in their personal appearance. Business dress is usually more conservative and formal than the Australian standard, with jacket and a tie the norm.


Spaniards like to establish a personal relationship with business partners, and face-to-face meetings are beneficial. It is important to make visits, see projects and meet potential customers phone calls and faxes alone will not generate business. Prior appointments are necessary and a minimum of a week's notice is customary. Phone answering machines are used less in Spain than Australia and are virtually non-existent in government departments.


While Australians will note that many Spaniards will meet one another with a kiss on both cheeks, this is not appropriate for business contacts meeting for the first time. Instead, it is wisest to offer a handshake, and if a kiss is appropriate, the Spanish contact will initiate it.

Business Culture

Hierarchy and position play an important role in Spanish business culture. Take care to pursue any issues through the correct channels. As in Australia, many large corporations have degree of bureaucracy and it is important that the decision-maker within a company is identified and targeted to ensure success.

Business Lunches

Lunch is the main meal of the day and business discussions and deals are often conducted during working lunches. These lunches can often last more than two to three hours. Dinner is lighter meal, and often is not served until around 10: 00 pm. The party which extends the invitation generally pays the bill.


Almost all establishments include a service charge in the bill. However, it is still common to leave tip -in restaurants a five to ten per cent tip is common. It is also normal to leave small change on the bar or cafe tables. The custom of tipping has extended to hotel porters, theatre ushers and taxi drivers, though in none of these cases is it obligatory.


Gift-giving principles are essentially the same as in Australia, and thus gifts are not usually required in normal business situations. However, small Australian token, such as a bottle of wine, is a good icebreaker for first meetings, but certainly not necessary.

Commercial Language

Increasing numbers of Spanish business people do speak English, but it is by no means universally understood in the commercial world. Many companies in Spain have staff with good English language skills, but an initial approach in Spanish is more effective. It would certainly be advantageous to be able to provide product literature and undertake negotiations in Spanish. An understanding of Spanish also opens doors to the large Latin American markets.

Regional Differences

Spain is a large and varied country, and many Spaniards tend to identify themselves with their particular region with its own variations in culture, habits and behaviour. It is wise to be alert to regional sensitivities and differences. For instance, some areas in Spain such as Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque country, have their own regional language.

Travelling to and within Spain

Travel from Australia

There are no direct air links to Spain from Australia. Flights transit either Asian hubs ( e. g. Singapore, Bangkok) or other European destinations, such as London or Frankfurt, for connections to Spain. Thanks to Spain's developed tourism infrastructure, the country is well serviced by around 30 airports open to international traffic, including Madrid (Barajas) , Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza.

Travel within Spain

Spain's major cities are generally some distance apart. Air travel is by far the most convenient and efficient way to travel between them. However, good network of highw ys also links major cities.

The Spanish state-operated ( RENFE) railw y network consists of over 15,000 kilometres of tracks, covering the entire country. Currently, tr vel by rail in Spain is generally slow, although there is an efficient high-speed train system between Madrid and Seville. A second, even faster high speed train operates between Madrid and Lerida/ Lleida and will be extended to include Madrid Barcelona in 2004, with other routes to follow.

Public transport within Spain's larger cities is widely used and inexpensive. Taxis in the major cities are readily vailable and reasonably priced. Rates and the various supplements are usually displayed in all licensed taxis. Passengers should ensure that the taxi-meter is turned on. The underground metro system is regular, well-developed and efficient.

Visa and Passport Information

Australians wishing to visit Spain on business ( other than paid employment) do not require visa in their passport, unless the period of their stay is longer than 90 days ( three months) . Spain, along with 14 other European countries, is party to the European Union Schengen Convention, which provides visa free movement for Australians within the Schengen area for cumulative total of 90 days during a six month period. The Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norw y, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. However, visitors are required to present current passport and must have their passport stamped within 72 hours of entry to the Schengen states. Australian passport holders should consult the nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate for the latest information on visa requirements prior to travel.


1 = A$ 0.55 (at time of printing)

Note: Before Spain's conversion to the euro in 2002, Spain's national currency was the Peseta.
( 1= 166.386 Pesetas) .

Weights and Measures

Spain uses the metric system for all weights and measures.


220-volts AC, 50 hertz. However, some areas still have 110-volt supply.


Spain has a well-developed communications network, although in some areas, services can be patchy. Spain's international country telephone dialling code is 34.

Time Zone

Spain is in the Central European time zone. Standard time is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time ( GMT) . This puts Spain generally 8 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and 10 hours behind Australian Eastern Summer Time. The Canary Islands are on GMT.

Public Holidays

Generally: 1 January New Year's Day; 6 January Epiphany; 19 March San José (can be replaced with a local holiday) ; Easter Holy Thursday and Good Friday; 1 May Labour Day; 15 August Feast of the Assumption; 12 October National Day; 1 November All Saints Day; 6 December Constitution Day; 8 December Immaculate Conception; 25 December Christmas Day. In addition, there are often local holidays which vary by region.


Australian citizens are strongly advised to take out appropriate tr vel and health insurance for the duration of their overseas tr vel prior to departing Australia. Tr vellers should check with their insurer to make sure that their policy meets their needs.


Australian visitors to Spain should maintain a high level of personal security wareness. Australian travellers should consult the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ( www. dfat. gov. au) for the latest consular tr vel advice for Spain.

Push for Basque independence

Since the late 1960s, the extremist Euskadi ta Askatsuna group (Basque Homeland and Liberty, known as ETA ) has been campaigning for the independence of the Basque region (including Basque territory, the neighbouring Navarra region and further territory with traditional Basque links across the French border) . ETA has engaged in terrorist activities to dr w attention to its campaign, resulting in the deaths of close to 900 people.

Popular resentment against the group is strong. All political parties in Spain, with the exception of Batasuna ( widely regarded as the political arm of ETA) , h ve condemned the actions of ETA. In 2002, moves were initiated to ban Batasuna. The Government has recently arrested number of key members of the group. Nevertheless, ETA shows no sign of relenting and progress towards a long-term settlement in the region looks elusive. The situation in the Basque Country is likely to remain unstable for the foreseeable future.

Contact List

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Southern Europe Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Tel: + 61 2 6261 1111
Fax: + 61 2 6261 2176
Website: www. dfat. gov. au

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Australian Embassy Madrid
Plaza del Descubridor Diego de Ordas, 3
Santa Engracia 120
28003 Madrid Spain
Tel: + 34 91 441 6025
Fax: + 34 91 442 5362

Honorary Consul
Australian Consulate Barcelona
9th Floor, Gran Via Carlos III No 98
08028 Barcelona Spain
Tel: + 34 93 490 9013
Fax + 34 93 411 0904

Honorary Consul
Australian Consulate Seville
Federico Rubio 14
41004 Seville Spain
Telephone: + 34 95 422 0971
Fax: + 34 95 421 1145

Austrade Canberra

Manager, Europe Office
Minter Ellison Building, Level 2
25 National Circuit
Forrest ACT 2603
Tel: + 61 2 6201 7495, or 13 28 78
Fax: + 61 2 6201 7399
Website: www. austrade. gov. au

Austrade Madrid

Trade Commissioner Austrade
Plaza del Descubridor Diego de Ordás, 3
Calle Santa Engracia 120, 2nd Floor
28003 Madrid Spain
Tel: + 34 91 441 6180
Fax: + 34 91 442 3885

Export Finance and Insurance Corporation

22 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: + 61 2 9201 2111
Fax: + 61 2 9201 5222

Spanish Government Australia

Ambassador of Spain
Embassy of Spain
15 Arkana Street
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Postal Address: PO Box 9076
Deakin ACT 2600
Tel: + 61 2 6273 3555
Fax: + 61 2 6273 3918

Trade Commissioner
Economic and Trade Office
Embassy of Spain
Suite 403, Edgecliff Centre
203 New South Head Road
Edgecliff NSW 2027
Tel: + 61 2 9362 4212
Fax: + 61 2 9362 4057

Consulate General of Spain in Sydney
Level 24, St. Martin's Tower
31 Market Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: + 61 2 9261 2433
Fax: + 61 2 9283 1695

Consulate General of Spain in Melbourne
146 Elgin Street
Carlton VIC 3053
Tel: + 61 3 9347 1966
Fax: + 61 3 9347 3580

Honorary Consul of Spain South Australia
19 Menkens Street
Fulham Gardens SA 5043
Tel: + 61 8 8353 1469

Honorary Consul of Spain Western Australia
9th Floor, 5 Mill Street
Perth WA 6000
Tel: + 61 8 9322 6812
Fax: + 61 8 9321 4351

Honorary Consul of Spain Northern Territory
4 Kilian Crescent
Jingili NT 0810
Tel: + 61 8 8948 5571
Fax: + 61 8 8948 2515

Honorary Consul of Spain Queensland
16 Stanton Road
Smithfield QLD 4878
Tel: + 61 7 4038 2324
Fax: + 61 7 4038 2484

Spanish Government Madrid

Secretaría De Estado de Comercio Y Turismo
(Secretary of State for Trade and Tourism)
Paseo de la Castellana, 162
28071 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 349 3500
Fax: + 34 91 349 5242/ 5238

ICEX (the Instituto Espanol De Comercio Exterior)
( Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade)
Paseo de la Castellana, 14-16
28046 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 349 6100
Fax: + 34 91 341 6128/ 577 0750

Dirección General de Comercio e Inversiones
(General Directorate of Trade and
Paseo de la Castellana, 162
28046 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 349 36 16
Fax: + 34 91 349 35 62

Dirección General de Relaciones Económicas
Internacionales REI (General Directorate for International Economic Relations)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Edifico Marques de Salamanca
Pza Marqués de Salamanca,
28006 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 37 98 300
Fax: + 34 91 43 13 406

Subdirección General de Incentivos Económicos Regionales
(General Subdirectorate of Regional
Economic Incentives)
Paseo de la Castellana, 162
28071 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 583 7400
Fax: + 34 91 583 5138

Business Associations

Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC)

22 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Postal address: PO Box R65
Royal Exchange NSW 1223
Tel: + 61 2 9201 2111
Tollfree: 1800 685 109
Fax: + 61 2 9201 5222
Tollfree: 1800 634 972

Spanish Chamber of Commerce

Edgecliff Centre
Suite 409, 203 New South Head Road
Edgecliff NSW 2027
Tel: + 61 2 9362 3168
Fax: + 61 2 9362 4074

European Australian Business Council Ltd

Level 12, 83 Clarence St
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: + 61 2 9350 8103
Fax: + 61 2 9350 8199

Australia Spain Business Association

Tel: + 34 91 551 3778
Fax: + 34 91 551 7415

Consejo Superior de Camaras (High Council of Chambers of Commerce)

Director International Relations Service
Velazquez, 157
28002 Madrid
Tel: + 34 91 590 6955
Fax: + 34 91 590 6959

Further reading


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade