Published on February 2, 2015

Business etiquette in Europe


Europe is a continent where you can find many different cultures, languages and people. Two countries might seem similar and they might even share the same or a similar language, but one would be mistaken to assume that there are no cultural differences between those two. When starting a job or an internship in a country in Europe, one needs to be aware that through those different cultures, there are different business etiquette in place. Knowing how professionally things are being handled in a country, can save one from little embarrassments. Let’s compare business etiquette in Madrid and in London, both in Europe, but probably couldn’t be more different.


In the Spanish culture there is a high emphasis on traditions, family and relationships. In general Spaniards are described as open and communicative. However, it is important to know that Spaniards highly value their leisure time and enjoying life instead of putting too much emphasize on work.


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Greetings - A normal greeting in Spain is a kiss on the cheeks. To greet a business partner, a formal handshake is used, especially when meeting for the first time. If a kiss cheek is appropriate, the Spanish side will initiate it.

Business Meeting - If it is the first meeting, the Spaniards will try to get to know you and and ask all kinds of question about family life and background. They test first if you are trustworthy to start a business relationship with. Usually it is unlikely that the meeting will strictly stick to the set agenda. Negotiations are open and agreements often flexible.

Conversations - In conversations they are only few taboos. Family life can openly asked for. Spaniards love their food and wine and will always recommend and offer it to you. Show that you share that love and you will have a first plus. Also, the majority of people in Spain do not speak English. If you want to sell something in Madrid, try to do so in Spanish.

Time - There is a common belief that Spaniards are not punctual or do everything mañana. That is definitely not true in business settings. To make a good impression you should always be on time.

Dress - When doing business in Spain it is important how a person looks and how he is dressed. To make a good impression, dress fashionable and smart, wear nice shoes and have a neat hair cut. Designer names are noted and also appreciated.


Compared to the Spaniards the British are probably a lot more reserved and polite. This also reflects in their business etiquette.

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Greetings - In the UK a handshake is the usual greeting in a social and a business setting.

Business Meetings - Business meetings are seen as a key communication for doing business in the UK. The meetings are planned in advance and the people attending are expected to be well prepared, since the agenda has been distributed beforehand. The agenda is planned carefully in order to be effective and the results are documented in the minutes. Negotiations are rather done by senior manager since the trust their qualifications is higher. Also it is to note, that British approach business manner more in a detached and emotionless way.

Conversation - Conversations with British are in general more reserved and polite. However, they are also known to be very friendly and welcoming.

Time - As usual, it is very important to be on time or to be there a few minutes before a meeting starts. British always have some tolerance for foreigners, which means you don’t have to panic if you get lost on the way to a meeting. However, try to call if you think you will be late.

Dress - The dress code is rather formal and conservative. Men wear dark colored, conservative business suits and women wear a business or a conservative dress.

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Photo 1. by Verne Ho, CC0 1.0

Photo 2. based on Madrid, by Mary, CC-by-SA 2.0

Photo 3. based on London, Tower Bridge, by hans-jürgen2013, CC-by-2.0

The author
Katrin Terkatz

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