Spain Etiquette: 12 Business & Cultural Rules

Spain Etiquette
When greeting Spaniards, shake hands and make eye contact. A hug (for men) or kiss on the cheek (for women) is acceptable for families and friends. Avoid flashy or revealing attire and use formal and direct language to communicate.

1. Saying Hola (Hi)

Greetings are a fundamental aspect of Spain’s rich cultural heritage. The Spanish are warm and affectionate, so don’t be surprised if you receive a hearty embrace or a friendly peck on the cheek.

Shaking hands is a safe bet when meeting someone for the first time or in a professional setting. If you’re greeting friends or family, a hug for men or a kiss on each cheek for women is more appropriate.

When addressing someone older or in a position of authority, use the appropriate title; “Señor” for men and “Señora” for women. If you’re unsure whether to use a formal or informal address, go with the formal option until you’re told otherwise.

2. Dress Code

Business meetings in Spain take a formal approach to dress code. Men should wear suits and ties, and women should opt for conservative business attire.

If you plan to visit a church or cathedral, avoid clothing that’s too revealing or flashy. Women should avoid wearing short skirts or dresses, and men should avoid shorts.

The dress code is more relaxed for casual dinners or outings, but that doesn’t mean you should wear anything you want. Women can opt for sundresses or skirts paired with a blouse, while men can wear jeans or khakis paired with a button-up shirt.

3. Mealtime Etiquette

Mealtime in Spain is a way to nourish the body and connect with others. Lunch is the main meal, typically between 2 pm and 4 pm. Dinner is served later, usually after 9 pm. The Spanish love their siestas, so most establishments close during lunch.

Try to arrive on time when invited for meals. Once you’re at the table, wait for the host to eat before you start. In Spain, meals strengthen relationships and create bonds between family and friends. Therefore, it is common for Spaniards to gather around a table and share a meal.

4. Learn Spanish Phrases

common Spanish phrases with English translation
Common Spanish phrases with English translation

While you can find English-speaking Spaniards in tourist areas, learning some basic Spanish phrases and vocabulary can make your trip more enjoyable and memorable. It will help you communicate with the locals and show that you respect their culture and are trying to connect with them.

Here are some essential Spanish phrases:

  • Por favor for please
  • Gracias for thank you 
  • Disculpe or Perdon for excuse me
  • Sí for yes
  • No for no
  • Lo siento for sorry

It’s also important to pronounce these phrases correctly. Take some time to practice the pronunciation of these phrases before your trip to avoid misunderstandings.

5. Social Setting Gift Giving

Gift-giving is an essential part of social interactions, and it’s good manners to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s home. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be thoughtful and reflect your appreciation.

Just like French, Spanish people love their food and wine; a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine is a great way to show gratitude.

Flowers are also a good option when given in odd numbers, but certain flowers have specific meanings. White lilies and chrysanthemums are for funerals, and red roses are considered romantic, so it’s advisable to steer clear of them.

Wrap the gift nicely and present it with both hands as a sign of respect. The presentation of the gift is just as important as the gift itself, so take the time to wrap it nicely and make sure it looks presentable.

6. Public Behavior

As you navigate the bustling streets of Spain, it’s crucial to be mindful of your surroundings and respect the local environment. Littering is a big no-no in Spain, so dispose of your trash correctly and use designated bins.

Respecting the quiet zones is another crucial aspect of public behavior in Spain. Avoid loud or disruptive behavior, which includes shouting and playing loud music. Being courteous to fellow travelers, including locals, is key to having a positive experience in Spain.

7. How To Tip

Unlike America, tipping is not mandatory in Spain. However, you can leave a small tip to show appreciation for excellent service. When dining at a restaurant, it’s common to leave a tip of around five percent of the bill or round up the total amount.

Tipping in bars is a little different. In most cases, it’s enough to leave a few coins on the bar table, usually around twenty cents. Tipping taxi drivers, hotel porters, and other service providers in Spain is also common practice.

8. Business Etiquette

Businessmen exchanging their visiting cards
Businessmen exchanging their visiting cards

One of the most crucial aspects of business etiquette in Spain is punctuality. Spaniards value their time, and being late for a meeting shows disrespect.

Spanish business attire tends to be formal and traditional. Men should wear suits and ties, while women should opt for conservative business attire, such as dresses or suits. Avoid bright colors, bold patterns, or anything too casual.

Shaking hands is the most common greeting when meeting your business associates. Make eye contact and use formal titles. Also, feel free to exchange business cards if prompted.

9. Dining In Business Settings

Spaniards take their meals seriously, and dining with business associates is no exception. Here are some essential tips for navigating table manners in a Spanish business setting.

  • Use your utensils correctly. In Spain, the fork and knife are the primary tools for eating, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. Don’t switch the utensils or use your hands to eat.
  • Avoid talking with your mouth full. Take small bites and chew with a closed mouth to avoid awkward or embarrassing situations.
  • Avoid slurping, burping, or chewing loudly while eating.
  • Wait for everyone to be served before starting to eat. This shows respect and consideration for your fellow diners and the person hosting the meal.
  • Keep the conversation light and professional. Avoid discussing controversial topics like politics or religion, and focus on neutral or positive subjects.

10. Communication Style

Spanish communication is more formal and direct, and it is essential to maintain professionalism when interacting with Spanish colleagues or clients.

The Spanish are not afraid to show emotion and communicate honestly. Avoiding ambiguity and being clear with your message are key. This is particularly important when negotiating or discussing essential matters in the business setting.

Avoid confrontational language or aggressive behavior. Maintaining eye contact while speaking to show interest in the conversation is crucial in building and maintaining relationships.

11. Business Gift Giving

Gift-giving in business is common when closing a deal, signing a contract, or after a successful meeting. When selecting a gift, keep it simple and professional.

A small token of appreciation like a branded item, business book, or art is ideal. Overly expensive or personal gifts are inappropriate and could create an awkward situation. When offering a gift, present it with both hands.

12. Socializing With Business Associates

Spanish culture emphasizes building personal relationships, so socializing outside work is common. When inviting your business associates for dinner or drinks, make it clear that you’re inviting them as a gesture of goodwill rather than as a part of the business deal.

When selecting a restaurant, ask for recommendations from your local contacts or hotel concierge. While socializing with your business associates, avoid controversial subjects like politics and religion. Instead, focus on neutral topics such as culture, sports, and food.  

What are some customs or taboos in Spain?

Here are some Spanish cultural don’ts:

  • Criticizing the people or anything to do with the country.
  • Making jokes about the Pope or the Catholic Church
  • Planning activities for Tuesday the 13th which is an unlucky date.
  • Discussing politics and religion
  • Discussing Catalan independence
  • Arriving late for a bullfight


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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