The Business Lunch: Spain’s Most Popular Dishes and Mealtime Etiquette
Business lunches are like old mopeds – they sound fun but most of the time they are kind of slow and boring. Business lunches tend to be afterthoughts when traveling for work, but this could be a simple reflection of Anglo culture. Here’s why:
Who you eat with is just as important as what you eat.
Spain is one of many countries whose inhabitants tend to put a lot of importance on sharing meals with friends, family, and yes – potential collegaues. Spain has a under estimated work ethic, despite being known for their siestas (and yes, that really is a thing here) they have been diligently climbing out of a very difficult economic situation.
The sense of urgency to perform well is palpable, so it’s no wonder that when it comes time to have lunch or dinner people generally want to switch gears a little. First tip – don’t talk business unless one of your Spanish colleagues initiates the conversation first. Yes, some occasions call for talking shop over cheese plates and sangria, but in most instances lunch should be approached as a time to connect with the people you are doing business with and to build a relationship (or at least a working rapport).
In addition to loosening your tie a bit, there are other considerations that should be taken into account when attempting to have a successful almuerzo in Spain
Firstly time is a big thing to consider. Things start a little later in most parts of Spain, so shoot for between 1:30pm and 2pm.
Keep an eye out for signs that say Menu del Día. Forget the exact translation, in Spain it means “lunch special” and is typically a pre-fix menu that includes coffee and sometime dessert.
Look smart. In cities, especially areas of town where there is a lot of banking and business activity, locals tend to dress well. This doesn’t mean you have to get ready for a black tie luncheon, but men should wear jackets and women should consider dresses or pants suits.
Water and bread are things that need to be ordered (and paid for) and tipping tends to be around 10% though some locals will only leave small change, tipping 10% is a safe bet.
Now all that’s left to do is pick out a restaurant. Whether you end up in a marisquería (seafood restaurant) or an asador (grill house) you can get your hopes up for some great dishes. You can’t leave Spain without sampling jamón serrano (cured ham that goes great with cheese) or tortilla (Spanish/potato omelets that is eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Also find yourself a partner and grab some paella, this tasty dish is out of this world but is not served in single portions.
Lastly, remember that speaking a little Spanish goes a long way in impressing people and demonstrates a basic level of respect. Check out our Enquiry Centre for information on classes and other resources. If you already have some Spanish skills in your linguistic tool kit give our Spanish Level Test a go and see where you can make improvements so you can wow some locals.