Three Myths About Working in Spain

6 November 2017 0 Comments Category: blog, Cat Gaa, Living in Spain

Working in Spain

I began my professional life in Spain. Ten years after graduating from university with a degree in journalism, I have worked in four different jobs in this country: as a classroom teacher, as a summer camp director in charge of 15 employees and over 300 teenagers, as a language examiner and now, as an international admissions counselor at a university in the Spanish capital.

Admittedly, I didn’t move to Spain for much more than the chance to improve my Spanish skills and take a working gap year. Yet I have found that the first ten years of my working life to have helped me move into the professional sector in Spain while enhancing my marketability – my CV now stretches beyond using my native tongue and has allowed me to change jobs across a solid sector.

Myth Number 1: It’s difficult to find employment in Spain

While the Spanish business sector and countless small enterprises definitely suffered after the 2008 crisis struck, it been incredible for the creation of business, particularly start-ups, entrepreneurial ventures and even expansion in some sectors like digital marketing. Creativity is booming, and young Spaniards are behind enterprises such as Spotahome and Glamping Hub. Additionally, larger businesses like CostCo, an American wholesale supermarket, have made Spain their first European home.

Spain is estimated to grow at a rate of 3,5% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

What is true: Is it impossible to find a job in Spain? Well, no. But it is impossible, it seems, to make big bucks unless you become self-employed, called autónomo. Salaries in Spain are still below the rest of Europe, on average (though this balances out somewhat with the reasonable cost of living). Minimum wage still sits under 800 euros a month – almost half of the European average, which is just over 1500 according to a 2016 study.

Job opportunities seem to abound in larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona. I had no issues finding interesting job opportunities when I was considering a move to Madrid in Spring 2016, and I landed half a dozen interviews on my LinkedIn profile alone. Moving out of the teaching field in Seville, however, was more difficult. Other booming cities are industry giant Bilbao and up-and-coming tourism darling Málaga.

No hablas español? You may be hard-pressed to find a job where an intermediate level of Spanish isn’t a pre-req. That said, you might be in luck if you speak a lesser-known language or are trilingual, as many expat- and tech-focused companies would allow you to work digitally or even as part of a multi-lingual team. Being bilingual in English and Spanish is no longer a leg up when it comes to languages – try Dutch, Scandinavian languages or Arabic.

Finally, job offers are often about who you know. Network as much as you can to ensure you’re top of mind and that your contacts know that you’re looking. This includes LinkedIn, which is a major recruitment tool for large companies.

Myth Number 2: Everyone takes a daily siesta and holidays in August

Oh, if only.

Spain is shedding its siesta/fiesta preconception and building back their economy – and this is forcing it to readjust expectations in the business and service world.

Truthfully, the only person I know who takes a siesta after lunch is my father-in-law, who is teetering on retirement anyway.

What is true: One benefit of employment in Spain is the push for balanced work days that focus on family. While it was true for decades that workers had a long lunch break in the middle of their jornada but then return to work in the afternoon, there’s a call to join the rest of Europe with intensive work days – shorter lunches, no long breaks and working year-round.

And that says nothing for returning to Greenwich Mean Time after decades in the wrong time zone…

Commerce doesn’t stop automatically in August just because people go on holiday. You’ll find reduced workdays, with workers retreating home at 3pm, just as it gets hot, and smaller work forces in the office. Just ask me – I spent the whole month getting a tan from the glow of the computer screen.

What does this mean for families? Better work-life balance and more rest for workers.

Myth Number 3: There’s a lack of professionalism

During my first stint as a teacher, I was surprised at the amount of gossiping in the teacher’s lounge and the dress code. This would be my first foray into professional life abroad, and I was taken aback by the seeming lack of professionalism.

Five years later, I gave a former colleague a hug upon seen him. I expected him to be happy to see me, but he replied, “You’re my boss now. You shouldn’t be hugging me.

Eep.

What is true: Work life is different in Spain, there’s no doubt about that. And there is some truth to this myth, in my experience. Punctuality can be fluid, particularly if you’re at the doctor’s office, and I found that interview questions can drift into your personal life. (I’ve been asked about religion and when I planned on starting a family on more than one occasion). In smaller companies, it’s more normal to go out for a drink with your boss and follow one another on social media than in my home country.

In my own opinion, the more relaxed work environment (remembering that I have worked in education, not in a corporate setting) is an allusion to relationships and the idea that Spaniards are friendly. While this is not always the case and Spain is different from one end to the next, the longer I have lived here, the more comfortable I’ve gotten with being friendly with colleagues.

My Advice

Are you looking to work in Spain or even change jobs? Don’t be put off by austerity reports and go for it.

As someone who has worked for ten years and has switched jobs in Spain several times, my advice is simple: read your contract carefully and don’t skimp on understanding the convenio (worker’s rights). You may be entitled to salary bumps or extra vacation days that you’d miss out on otherwise. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to negotiate salary, either. Take a look at the convenio if you read Spanish and ask around your contacts.

Finally, prioritize happiness and job satisfaction over salary. The trade off to living and working in Spain is that you’ll have a better experience if you let go of prestige or how much more money you could be earning back home.

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