5 Major (Cultural) Keys to Remember when Working in Spain

Congrats! Not only are you living in Spain, but you're also gainfully employed! Ay! We made it! Now you're faced with the new, and exciting (even daunting) task of maneuvering through a new work environment, in a new country, a new city, in a different language with people you don't know! Challenge (reluctantly) accepted? Although many things are universal, each culture has its own eccentricities that one may not be aware of. Of course trial and error is essential when talking about personal growth; however, it can be a bit more of a hinderance to professional growth. You could stumble through a dark room and hope for the best or you can keep reading and learn from my mistakes! 

Photo via  GabiFresh

Photo via GabiFresh

Yawn not, Friends 

Feeling a bit sleepy? Yawning audibly and also stretching during class, or meetings is seen as a big "no-no." I know, it seems obvious, but even when I yawn silently, while covering my mouth , I've had employers ask questions like "late night?" or "are you bored?" Naturally, it's just my body replenishing its oxygen, but no need to pick fights. 

Café? Always. 

Having a coffee in Spain is less about the coffee and more about the chance to socialize for a few minutes mid-morning and right after lunch. It's cultural. When someone asks if you want a coffee, the answer is always an enthusiastic yes. Why? Because if you say 'no' you're basically saying, 'nah, I don't want to be friends.' If you don't speak Spanish very well, learn how to at least comment (read: complain) about the weather. That's always a conversation starter! 

*If you don't drink coffee like me, grab a tea, warm milk, glass of water, coca-cola, something. Just be there. 

Happy Birthday to You! 

This one still confuses me, but here goes! On your birthday, you bring in snacks and food to your place of work. Yeah, jamón, tortilla, croquetas, queso, cake, churros, the works! The more extravagant the better. Then, if it's a bigger office or school, you can put a little sign next to your elaborate offering saying thank you, and that it's your birthday. This will ultimately eliminate the awkward moment of everyone chowing down and murmuring, "But, whose birthday is it?" as you hover in a corner somewhere. You can do it breakfast edition, or during lunch. Also, when you invite your friends out to celebrate, first round is always on you! I know you're shaking your head. As am I friends. Best case scenario: your colleagues all put in to buy you a present. Worst case scenario... well, you get nothing, and treated the whole office to breakfast. At least you're trying! 


Drinking with your colleagues, boss included, is normal in Spain. Some companies even take weekend trips! Say yes! It's a great way to bond... and realize that your boss is human, especially after a few beers. Don't drink? Tonic water and lemon is clutch in situations like these. Basically what it all comes down to is making the effort and being present. We work long hours in Spain, and the people we work with more often than not, become friends too. That can't happen if you race out the door at quitting time everyday. If you're working from 9h to 19h, it helps to have a good relationship with your coworkers. Bring something extra to share during lunch, offer to wash dishes, or set the table; all these gestures are extremely appreciated. 

Bingo! Time to Play! 

Your boss approaches you and asks if you want to participate in the lottery for the low, low price of 10 (or 15 or 20) euros. What do you do? You're aware that the chances of winning are slim to none, but it's all about doing things together. If you reject their offer, you'll probably hear things like: "Well, when we all win this year, we won't share with you!" It's in jest, but, truer words have never been spoken. ha! Just do it, that way when your other colleague asks you to participate in her nephew's neighbor's baseball team's lottery you have a legitimate excuse! 

You got this! Just remember: 

Coffee: yes

Beers: yes

Lottery: yes

Yawning: bad


Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.