Making friends in a professional environment can be difficult when you’re from a different culture and can barely speak the language. Our guide to making friends in a Spanish workplace outlines ways you can make an instant connection with your colleagues and overcome the cultural and language barriers that you think stand in your way.
Be open to taking a drink with a colleague after work or meeting for a coffee before work. Spanish people socialise at work a lot and it’s not unusual for them to meet before work and after work to tomar algo so get into the habit of socialising before, after and during working hours.
Show an interest in their region
Nearly all Spaniards have a pueblo and the regional differences in food and drink mean every region has it’s distinct offering. Spaniards are usually fond of their pueblo (a village they consider home, and return to frequently because their parents or grandparents live there). They have a strong affinity to anything from their region so if you happen to speak to someone from Rioja you can charm them with your love for Riojan wine, or if they’re from Valencia tell them how much you love Valencian paella. Remember to ask about their pueblo if they’ve been there recently. For most Spaniards talking about their pueblo makes their eyes light up and generates a feeling of joy.
Connect over food
Spaniards love food, their days are timed around meals (you can’t say buenas tardes until after lunchtime, no matter how late lunchtime may be) and they all have their favourite dish, favourite gastronomical region and favourite cook (usually their mother). Their passion for food means you’ll rarely get an invite refused if it involves food. While every Spaniard will insist Spanish food is the best, and the best Spanish food comes from their region, they are open to other cultures’ cuisines so offering something from your home country is a great way to connect over food and create an interest in your culture.
Try your Spanish
Even though you might not have perfect, or even fluent, Spanish, making the effort to speak to your colleagues in Spanish will go a long way. The Spanish are very patient when foreigners try to speak their language and everyone is happy to give advice, opinions and teach you the local slang, so speaking will not only help you make friends, it will give you a network of Spanish language advisors and invaluable practice.
Understand their culture
Your Spanish colleagues might be late to meet you and will interrupt you as you speak but this isn’t meant to offend. Both happen in the workplace but are more prevalent amongst friends and family so the more comfortable they are with you, the more likely they will arrive late and interrupt you.
Share the Puentes
The Puentes (the bridges; when they take the days off work between the weekend and a public holiday) are precious to Spaniards and every year there’s a rush to get the best bridges before other people book them. Booking all the bridges before anyone gets a chance is an instant way to lose friends so make sure you only take your fair share and if you get the opportunity allow a colleague to take one of yours, you’ll have made an instant friend.