Thursday, March 26, 2009

What You Need to Know pt 9, The Spanish Work Ethic

If you are going to be working and living in Spain then you will have to adapt to the customs of the place to enjoy yourself fully. Many things are different but here are the main ones.

1) Expect a longer day. Because of the break at midday in most jobs, between 2pm and 5pm in general, the working day is longer. And not many people do the siesta in that time anymore, they are too busy shopping in the department stores and hypermarkets and eating long lunches.

2) Expect plenty of breaks during the day. The morning coffee is sacrosanct for most office workers and others. A car repair shop I know closes for a quick coffee at around 10am and they often don't get back until between 11 and 11.30. Remember though there is also the frequent fag breaks now smoking is prohibited indoors, toilet breaks and general "just got to run down to the shops/take kids to doctors breaks.

3) Civil Servants (I will not rant here) do not actually do anything most of the day. There are millions of them in Spain and their jobs are guaranteed for life. Kill the boss, do your time and come back to your original comfy chair with all the paperwork in the outbox still waiting for you is perfectly feasible. If you have to deal with officialdom in Spain be afraid, be very afraid.

4) The Spanish will work late to finish off jobs. (Sorry I missed a not out of that sentence) This is a particularly good trait as it means that they can always justify their existence in the job by having work ongoing at any point should a boss pop in from the cafe or bar to have a look what is going on.

5) There is a laissez faire attitude to work which resonates with the pace of life in general. If you want to work at your usual rate you may have to wait around a while so get used to playing with your Blackberry in waiting rooms.

6) I think Spain has the biggest GDP in the World. However on the official lists it is just eighth in general. (The best unofficial list is here in Wiki) The reason I say i think it is the largest is that the black economy in Spain is huge. The government is perceived to take such a cut from taxes and, more especially, social security payments that most people consider that it would not be right if some avoidance didn't go on.

7) If you run your own business prepare yourself for a myriad of red tape. Don't drown in it though. Hand the job over to a Gestor. They can do the drowning for you.

8) The Spanish believe in a job for life rather than testing out opportunities and different experiences. That is why they want to become Civil Servants. Unfortunately, there are not many private sector full time, permanent contracts around as it costs an absolute fortune to sack someone in Spain. Therefore expect short term contracts renewed at the end if both parties are satisfied and there is still work to be done.

9) There are expected to be around 5 million unemployed in Spain by the end of this year, around 20% of the workforce. If you are coming to work in Spain have a good life plan and business plan and expect to work for yourself to start with.

10) Unemployment. There are few benefits if you haven't worked in Spain before. If you have then benefit payments are generous but run out after two years maximum.

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