The work culture in Spain

Hello everyone,

As an expatriate, working in Spain can present unique opportunities but also challenges. Discovering new communication styles, adapting to new cultural norms... working in Spain can be both exciting and confusing.

Share your experience to better understand the work culture in Spain and facilitate the professional adaptation of people who are wondering about it.

How would you define the work culture in Spain?

What was the most difficult thing for you when you started working?

What made the biggest impression on you?

How did you fit into your team?

Thank you for your contribution.

Mickael team


Difficult to know where to start, let's try from the beginning.

We bought a business on the coast and just wanted the lifestyle, long sunny days, long lunches and lots of like minded people to share it with, then after a few years the reality kicked in, first we were plagued by a rogue accountant whose answer was “everything's fine” or “todo bien” as they say, well, it wasn't, he had not been completing our accounts correctly and not even filing them with the authorities, not good, I hear you say.

The upshot of this is, huge bills produced by the Social Security for people we did not employ and massive bills for company tax that we do not owe.

To date these bills amount to close on €200,000 and they have not confirmed them yet so, if you want a good lifestyle and want to return to the UK with €1,000,000 you had better take €2,000,000 with you to Spain.

When our family of five moved from the US to Barcelona, my husband went to work and I stayed home with the children and took care of the household. I quickly learned this was not the norm and many mothers send their children to full day school as young as 2 years old so they may return to work.

My husband, having come from a fast-paced corporate environment in the US experienced a very different cultural standard than what he was used to. The attitude of the Spanish, as one contributor said above, is very malaise. The term “no pasa nada” is often heard, meaning “don't stress, no problem”. While this mentality is one that the US could afford to adopt every now and then, it's far too frequent in Spain. There is little to no sense of urgency, vacations are constant, and the overall mindset is flat out careless. The Spanish are also very protected by the local laws, which allow an employee to take “mental break” leaves for however long he/she likes. It was very challenging to run an office in Barcelona for a global corporation, therefore the office branch in Catalunya eventually closed.


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How would you define the work culture in Spain?

There are a lot of multinationals and tech companies in which too much hierarchy and bureaucracy is going on. There are not a lot of benefits and because of that you often see people protesting. For example, there is usually no possibility to work 4 days a week or a few hours less. Most companies can only think about money. Small companies or start-ups you don't see a lot, probably because of the high amount of taxes. I was disappointed to hear that freelancers have to pay the government between 80-300 per month, which most freelancers obviously can't afford.

What was the most difficult thing for you when you started working?

Next to the hierarchy and bureaucracy, I'm Dutch and here I discovered that we are actually really hard workers always looking for an actual solution. We really want to help and work towards a result. For me Spaniards (or better said, Catalans as I live in Barcelona) are quite lazy and lay-back. In general, they don't care much if something doesn't result in anything, the customer isn't happy or lied to. This has been difficult for me to deal with. You also notice it when calling with a certain institution. They never take the initiative themselves, it's always 'someone else' so...

What made the biggest impression on you?

I also can't believe that people without actual skills are put in certain positions. Someone being 'nice' probably impresses more than a CV. In general, if it comes to finding a job or whatever, you have to talk with the person face to face to get things done.

How did you fit into your team?

I work in an international environment, so it's fine however I still struggle with the demotivation and lack of results.

I work in a public school, and although ide say the teachers are hard workers, the "don't worry attitude" is everywhere. They do get a lot of benefits of time off , like a year of sick time, time off for stress, 2 weeks paid leave when you get married, multitude of holidays etc  and on and on. I agree in the US we need more caring attitude and Less pressure at times. But here, people don't seem to have any ambition to make more money or improve efficiency at all on or off the workplace. The "acceptance attitude is rampant, and when things go wrong it's no one's fault. And no one tries to change processes. Everyone wants to become a civil servant which means a job for life..... literally. But that breeds a lack of ambition and non caring attitude for customer service etc. As there's no accountability for anything, so why try.  It's more about your next vacation.... Even when I ask kids what do they want to do when they grow up, they draw a blank or just say "be a teacher". No mention of becoming doctors or engineers or anything. Being a teacher is wonderful yes, but no mention of other careers?  The only ones that say they want to be engineers or get IT jobs are the kids that are here as immigrants.....

Sadly Spain will never be very advanced, if they don't change the laissez faire attitude....

I would say: "It depends!"

Yes, work ethics can be lacking in some Spanish employees, but certainly not all!

The work days here are surprisingly long compared to France with it's standard 35-hour weeks. The rythm is different too, much slower: because doing a maximum of work in a minimum of time while being paid extremely low wages, well that's not very motivating is it? So most employees just do what they're asked and if extra problems come up they will be dealt with due time!

I might be playing the devils advocate here but I actually like the way that work isn't the most important thing on people's minds : family and friends, those are Very important. Work comes second, or third, or...

But when in the end we look back onto our lives, what will bring the fondest memories? Professional achievements? The amount of money we have earned? The number of hours spent in the office? I believe the Spanish are onto something here!

So maybe we could teach ourselves to put up with that careless (carefree?) "no pasa nada" attitude in order to become happier people ourselves. It's not easy, I know... ;-)

@smithlauren21781 absolutely what I found. With one exception. The Spanish become very alert and on time when they are owed money.