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Doing business in Spain: don’t be caught out by cultural differences!

Doing business in Spain: don’t be caught out by cultural differences!

Look anywhere or ask anybody and you will very easily stumble across a whole host of stereotypes and expectations about Spanish people. They’re never in a hurry to confirm anything, will be late for any meeting, don’t have a very strong work ethic… these stereotypes exist and are sometimes even confirmed among the Spanish population, not just foreigners. But just how true are the perceived differences in culture, and what do they mean for your trade deals?

Needless to say, there is certainly a different way of doing things among Spanish business people and they are very important to know if you want to enter this market:

1. Not all Spanish people are the same.

There are 17 autonomous regions, and all of them have a different culture, meaning that in some cases, people identify most strongly with their region, followed by their country.

Different regions also have different regional languages. In Catalonia (including Barcelona), Catalan is the dominant language and, owing to centuries of oppression, there exists a strong tension between the Spanish government and the Catalonian one, with the events from yesterday in Catalonia clearly demonstrating this. In northern Spain there are also some 700,000 speakers of Basque, while in the north-west Galician is the dominant language.

Be aware of these differences; while Spanish businesspeople do not expect foreigners to speak their regional language, and indeed English is often the language of communication, take care to avoid any slang or regional words to aid ease of comprehension.

2. Business in Spain is done between people, not companies.

Spain has a very relational culture in business, and will want to build up a strong relationship and sense of trust and association before agreeing to a deal. For this reason, if you have the opportunity to speak to a potential partner face to face as opposed to over email or telephone, you should make the most of this. Out of office meetings, such as going for lunch together, can be very useful in getting to know your Spanish partner. It is also very useful to be introduced to the prospective client by someone they already trust, as this will build your credibility in their eyes.

However, do be aware that the first meeting you have with this person will be both an opportunity to build a relationship and begin to discuss business. It is nevertheless primarily a chance to get to know each other, and build up acquaintance. While some cultures will find the lack of urgency to get onto business frustrating, it can be a very important part of getting the deal you want further down the line and will mean they are more trusting and accommodating.

This relational approach also means that just because your company has dealt with theirs before does not mean they will automatically extend their opinions of you to your whole business. It is advisable to keep company interfaces intact and avoid changing the person with whom they will interact, as this may start the process of building trust all over again.

3. Be prepared to act formally, at least at the beginning.

Business in Spain can be more formal than you may expect. Spanish business workers will usually dress well, with a formal suit and a tie, although younger generations may be permitted to wear more comfortable attire in some cases.

You may be expected to shake hands when entering or leaving a room, and it is important to maintain good eye contact when interacting with others in order to build trust and appear open.

In conversation during  very formal meetings, it is respectful to address people by their professional or academic title, followed by their surname. Otherwise using their first names is acceptable and if speaking in Spanish and there is clearly a large age differentiator between you (in that they are older than you), it is advisable to begin using usted to show respect until invited to change to using tú.

4. Time-keeping… may not be what you are used to.

The stereotype of Spaniards being late is not always untrue, and you may find that meetings start a little late as in this context, business workers in Spain do tend to be a little more laid back than we are used to. However, that is not to say that they do not also work very hard – and just because they are late does not mean you should be also!

Also, scrap the idea of slacking off to take a siesta, for this tradition is no longer really in place in the Spanish business world.

5. There is certainly a hierarchy you need to pay attention to.

Just as in many cultures, there is a very clear hierarchy in business in Spain, and it is important that you enter the company at the right level. Speaking to someone above or below you might mean either loss of face (reducing your credibility) or simply a frustrating lack of decision-making capability, so you should always try to speak to your Spanish counterpart.

You should also be aware that many Spanish companies are family owned and decisions may be made at the very top, literally over the dinner table. Bear this in mind in your approach to communication with the business.

6. Don’t worry – the benefits for the UK are huge!

Perhaps thinking about cultural differences and language barriers is a little daunting at times, but the Spanish market forms a huge opportunity for UK brands to export. With a population of 47 million, it is one of the biggest consumer markets in the EU, and is also an entry route into Latin America. English is accepted as a business language, and a familiarity among consumers with British names and products may prove helpful. There is also an efficient transport system with competitive costs, and should you need to make a visit in person, there are many low-cost flights with great availability from the UK to Spain, making it one of the most accessible markets in terms of personal visits and arrangements- plus of course you should enjoy the better weather and the Spanish tapas!

If you are thinking of entering the Spanish market with your products then here at Bolst Global we have a dedicated team based in Spain who can support you with those first steps including strategic planning, market assessment and partner identificaition. For further details on this and how we can help you further then please get in touch by contacting victoria@bolstglobal.com


3 consejos si quieres exportar por primera vez

3 consejos si quieres exportar por primera vez

Consejo #1: Decide en qué país quieres vender tus productos
A veces, con tantas opciones, es difícil decidir cuál es el mejor mercado para tu producto. En el futuro, tendrás oportunidades de enfocarte en otros países, pero el primer mercado es una decisión importante. Te damos algunos factores importantes a considerar:

  • Tu estrategia

¿Quieres enfocarte en un país parecido al tuyo, y utilizar una estrategia de marketing que conoces bien? Si tienes más flexibilidad y estás abierto a nuevas oportunidades, será más fácil ganar terreno en un nuevo mercado.

  • El tamaño del mercado

No sólo deberías considerar la población, sino la economía y el poder adquisitivo de tus clientes potenciales. Hay muchos países con mucha población, pero puede ser que tu producto sea de lujo y sólo un porcentaje mínimo poder adquisitivo para permitírselo.

  • El acceso

Quizá ha identificado un mercado con mucho potencial, pero ¿has considerado si tu producto tiene muchos competidores, ¿Has comprobado si existen muchos productos parecidos? Por un lado, mucha competición puede ser beneficiosa, porque significa que a los clientes les interesan tu categoría, pero por el otro lado, puede ser que haya demasiadas marcas y podrías no tener tanto éxito.

Consejo #2: Busca los requisitos legales del país adónde quieres exportar

Cada país tiene normas diferentes para la importación de productos, y es necesario que sepas los que tienes que cumplir. Por ejemplo, en los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, es imprescindible que cada producto que contenga carne lleve una certificación oficial de que la carne está sacrificada de acuerdo con la ley islámica. Además, normalmente es esencial que haya una traducción de los ingredientes y existen varias normas sobre la fecha de vencimiento. Por ejemplo, en el Reino Unido, hay muy a menudo una fecha de ‘best before’ (el producto es mejor antes de esa fecha), pero en los EAU, tienes que escribir una fecha concreta de caducidad.

Si quieres tener éxito en el país elegido, prepárate bien: asegúrate que tienes toda la documentación necesaria, y así evitarás problemas inesperado.

Consejo #3: Confirma todos los detalles antes de confirmar el precio con el cliente

Ya has encontrado una tienda o un distribuidor que quiere comprar tus productos, y habéis negociado un precio justo. Pero, espera, y asegúrate que no vayas a perder dinero en el proceso de exportación.

  • El transporte: ¿Quién paga el precio del transporte de tus productos? ¿Tienes que entregarlo al otro país, o va a ser recogido por el cliente?
  • Las etiquetas: ¿Tienes que poner más detalles, ingredientes o certificaciones? ¿Ya están traducidas? ¿O tienes que pagar un traductor para producir una nueva versión en otro idioma?
  • El pago: A veces se tiene que considerar el método de pago y si hay un coste asociado con el banco o administración. A veces no se puede evitar, pero se debe pensar en ello cuando calculas los beneficios.

Si quieres saber más sobre exportar de manera eficaz ponte en contacto con Bolst Global. Gracias a nuestra experiencia y conocimientos podemos ayudarte a ganar terreno en un nuevo país.

Reflections on my intern experience at Bolst Global

Reflections on my intern experience at Bolst Global

Here at Bolst Global HQ we are always keen to support young talented individuals who are interested in exploring career options and opportunities within international trade and business. This summer we welcomed three interns who helped us on a number of multilingual and cross-cultural marketing tasks and projects. Here Emma Turner tells about her experience with us.

For the past six weeks, I have had the fortunate opportunity to work as an intern at Bolst Global, working with Victoria and Lucia alongside my fellow interns Jess and Patrick. From the first day, I was able to get a real feel for the type of work that Bolst Global does. After some introductions and a briefing about the current projects on the go, I got straight into proofreading a 50-something page report done for a client about the market for a specific product in Scandinavia. From this I was able not only to get to grips with the scale of the work involved in a project like this, but it also led me to write my first blog post of the internship – one which would see many more on various topics to follow. If any of my friends need to know about specific health food trends in Sweden, Denmark or the UAE, I’m pretty sure I’ll be the one they ask!

Among writing regular blog posts over the course of the six weeks, I delved into other sides of the business: getting to practise my French in a formal business email to some prospective clients, reading market research reports and producing an international business guide to the UK market, looking over social media strategy and revamping the website, which made me think about website copy and formality as well as the more fun graphic side of things. Anyone who saw me will have seen my occasional frustration at attempting to make some logos line up nicely in a gallery on the homepage, but the result was very satisfactory! Having never done any international business before, all of this was really varied and really well supported by Victoria and Lucia, who were really patient in teaching me about what they do while also giving me the freedom to use my own initiative and come up with new ideas, like brainstorming product names and new blog topics.

However, the work I have done has only been one part of what has made this experience so invaluable and exciting. Being surrounded by so many people with a great work ethic and many ambitions is really inspiring, especially knowing that Bolst Global is really only at the beginning of its worldwide journey, and I’ll be able to watch proudly as it progresses even further in the future. Furthermore, the opportunity has helped me grow not just in skills, but as a person, helping me to learn more about where my skills might lie in the future.

Finally, it would be wrong to omit the social aspect of the internship. Whether it was winning a quiz about LinkedIn as a team and heading home with a bottle of wine, or going for team drinks to say goodbye to the other interns and getting to know each other outside the office, I am reminded clearly that what really makes an opportunity like this special is the people. To be surrounded by and get to know so many talented and ambitious colleagues, working in a company whose values I share and to whom people are real people and not just employees, will certainly make this internship an opportunity I won’t forget.


At Bolst Global we are always keen to hear from ambitious and energetic candidates who would be interested in working with us as interns, graduates or associates and are always open to speculative application.

If you would like to find out more about current roles at Bolst Global or to put forward your application then please send a CV and covering letter addressed to Victoria at admin@bolstglobal.com

Spain: great opportunities for UK health and wellness brands

Spain: great opportunities for UK health and wellness brands

Did you know that Spain ranks as the 6th export market for the UK?

The Spanish market has been always important for the UK due to the number of Brits living and visiting the country, but with the Spanish market enjoying the greatest GDP increase in the Eurozone in 2016 it is a market which offers increasingly attractive opportunities for UK food and drinks brands, particularly within the health and wellness sector.

The economic recovery and positive attitude of the population where consumers are no longer focused on price but also on quality and taste is allowing many foreign brands to enter the country. In addition, with the changes in the Spanish lifestyle and the stress of daily challenges, consumers are becoming aware of the importance of having a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Spanish consumers also love fresh products and their relationship with the sales staff in retail outlets and specialised stores continues to be very important, unlike the prolific rise of e-commerce we have seen in the UK.

As a result of this, there is a growing appetite for healthy products with 45% of Spanish consumers wanting more availability of healthier alternatives (Nielsen data). Therefore categories such as Free from, Vegetarian and Vegan are growing and Spanish consumers are now more concerned about the quality and the health benefits these items provide than ever before. This clearly creates opportunities for brands in this segment as well as British innovative products, which are usually more advanced than the Spanish ones. However, pricing is the main challenge for consumers within these categories, as organic and free from products are more expensive in the Spanish market. Other notable trends in the market include energy boosting products, coconut water and superfoods.

In the retailing landscape, Mercadona is leading the market with 20% of the share, followed by Carrefour and Dia. El Corte Inglés is the high-end supermarket, and then, specialised organic and health stores called “Herbolarios”, where organic or so-called “ecological” products can be found in Spain. Although you can find organic food in big retailers such as Mercadona, the main distribution channel is specialised stores such as Supersano.

There are many opportunities for UK innovative brands, so don’t miss out this chance – Spain is waiting to take your products!

Bolst Global has an experienced on the ground team in Spain who can support your brand to understand the market opportunities, assess the market for your products and assist with identifying potential local partners for you to work with.

If you would like further information and to find out how we can help you then please fill out the form below or contact lucia@bolstglobal.com to request more details on our Spanish market entry package.



Quieres exportar a los Emiratos Árabes Unidos? Te damos 3 consejos

Quieres exportar a los Emiratos Árabes Unidos? Te damos 3 consejos

Después de asistir al festival Gulfood en Dubai hace unos años y haber emprendido varios proyectos para clientes en este mercado, aquí en Bolst Global estamos en sintonía con este mercado cada vez más atractivo y con las tendencias y necesidades que contribuyen a su dependencia significativa en los importaciones. Como un famoso destino turístico popular que aprovecha también de una población creciente de expatriados, esta región constituye un principal destino posible para muchas marcas de comida saludable. Bolst Global ha asistido varias veces a Gulfood y además conocemos este mercado perfectos, Aquí os damos tres consejos.
#1: Es posible que los requisitos legales y la entrada al mercado no sean lo esperado

Cuando se exporta a un nuevo mercado extranjero, es demasiado fácil no saber prepararse para los diferentes requisitos entre su país de orígen y el país nuevo. Por ejemplo, en los EAU, las normas religiosas aseguran que cada producto que contenga carne (no importa la cantidad) debe tener una certificación de que esté sacrificada de acuerdo con la ley islámica. Además, se debe incluir un listado de todos los ingredientes en árabe, aunque es permisible utilizar una etiqueta adhesiva para eso.

No se confunda tampoco con las maneras de poner sus productos en las tiendas. La mayoría de tiendas prefieren comprar productos mediante distribuidores o consolidadores, que le pueden ofrecer apoyo con el mercado local y los requisitos, y que también ofrecen la ventaja de poder importar cantidades más pequeñas en lugar de comprar a granel.

#2: Sepa que los EAU dependen mucho en algunas importaciones

El Cooperative Council (GCC) importa una cantidad grande en comparación con su producción de comida en general, y los EAU no constituyen una excepción. Debido al clima duro y la escasez de agua potable, la agricultura es fuertemente limitada y se vuelve más caro para los granjeros. Claro que esto tiene un impacto significativo en los precios de productos: los clientes que deseen comprar productos orgánicos, por ejemplo, tendrán que pagar tres o cuatro veces más que el precio de productos normales.

Otro producto que se importa muy a menudo en los EAU son los lácteos: ya se puede encontrar muchas marcas extranjeras de yogur o queso en las tiendas en los EAU.

#3: Infórmese sobre las nuevas tendencias y oportunidades

> Las comidas sin: lactosa, gluten, etcétera

Según Euromonitor, hay una nicho de mercado creciente para las comidas que no contienen ciertas ingredientes como la lactosa, o el gluten, y aún los sin azúcar o carne. No es solamente porque más personas creen que tienen alergias, sino porque más personas han elegido evitar estos ingredientes para estar más sanos.

> Las comidas de deporte

Entre 2011 y 2016, había un crecimiento de 98,5% en el valor de productos de nutrición deportiva. Como más y más personas se dan cuenta de las ventajas de deporte para complementar una dieta saludable, dirigen la atención hacia productos que les ayuden: los que dan energía o aportan un beneficio nutricional, como los productos de alto contenido protéico. Productos de proteína constituyeron el 83% de ventas en 2016, de los cuales la mayoría fue las proteínas en polvo y las bebidas de alto contenido proteico. Esta tendencia es particularmente significativa puesto que los medios de comunicación occidentales estimulan la demanda para la apariencia muscular y las generaciones jóvenes buscan obtener los mismos resultados que promueven las celebridades.

> Las variedades de té

Este sector ha sido promovido no solamente por el influjo de expatriados indios y árabes, que prefieren ciertos tipos de té, sino también por la cantidad creciente de nuevas sabores y variedades de té. En particular, hay una tendencia hacia los tés con propiedades especiales o funcionales, como el té para adelgazar. Además, esta categoría aprovecha el apoyo de los blogueros y fanáticos en las redes sociales. Así no es sorprendente que el té haya visto un crecimiento de valor de 7% en el último año, y aquí es posible que haya una oportunidad para marcas inglesas que ya tienen una reputación en Inglaterra.
Si quieres saber más de las maneras en las que su producto podría ganar terreno en este mercado emocionante, fíjese a nuestros servicios o mándanos un email con tus datos para que podamos ayudarte con lo que necesites.

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