Mexico City and Madrid are both capital cities that share the same national language, but that’s where their similarities begin and end. In fact, they are nothing alike, which shows that business etiquette in Spanish speaking countries varies greatly. The way of life in Mexico City is very different from that of Madrid, as I have learned through my internship experience.
1. Office commute
Mexico City has a large population of 9 million people, while Madrid is home to about 3.6 million. This greatly impacts walking culture in the city. I have an app that tracks the number of steps I take each day. My average here in Madrid is about 15,000 per day while in Mexico, the most I can expect to walk in a day is 3,000 steps. This big difference can be attributed to the difference in quality of life in Madrid and Mexico City. Walking in Mexico is a risk, due to the danger one can encounter in the streets or taking the metro. For this reason, I’ve never taken the metro in Mexico. Safety aside, walking from one place to another in Mexico City is not feasible. The neighborhoods are just too far apart.
I love walking. I believe that it is the best way to really know a city. My days spent commuting to my internship, getting groceries and exploring Madrid, all on foot, are a relaxing time. Seeing the quaint, historical architecture of Madrid, with its cobblestone roads and boutique shops are the highlights of my day. And, of course, walking around the city is always safe, even later in the evenings.
2. Working hours
People from Spain are not morning people. In Mexico City, most places will be open by 7 am, while in Madrid it is very unusual to see small businesses open until the afternoon. Even the exercise classes in Madrid, that in other cities might be full at 6 or 7 am, will not even be crowded by 8 am.
A typical work day starts at 9am and goes until 1:30pm, where people go home to eat lunch and enjoy a “siesta” until they begin their work day again at 4pm until 8pm. Because the work day ends so late, it’s very typical for people in Madrid to stay out late enjoying dinner.
3. Office communication
Last but certainly not least- the people! Mexicans and Spaniards are quite different. In Mexico City, we tend to be more gentle and sugarcoat most things to avoid hurt feelings. Here in Madrid, everyone is very direct and they cut to the chase without the same caution for feelings. This has its pros and cons. Business etiquette in Spanish cultures really impacts communication styles.
In the beginning, this was an issue for me at my internship. When I couldn’t understand what my boss was telling me, I was often too shy and nervous to ask her again. The directness can be intimidating, but with time I found it useful in improving my work and found the honesty to be genuine and said with good intentions.
It is always important to keep in mind that cultural differences exist, in some places more than others. You just need to give yourself the time to learn about a place, its people, and their culture. You’ll eventually come to appreciate the little differences in how we live our lives.