The past couple weeks at my internship have been pretty routine. I´ve spent most of my time creating a database of other venture firms to partner with and researching trends in industries that my boss wants to invest in. Throughout my internship, I´ve noticed that there are a lot of differences between the work culture here in Spain and what I have experienced back in the United States.
The best way to describe the difference is that the work environment here in Spain is much more laid back. I get to work at 9am every day but many times my coworkers don´t arrive until 10 or 10:30. They work in short increments, taking frequent breaks out on our terrace to smoke and chat with each other. Around 1:30 or two, most people leave for lunch, and they usually are still gone when I leave for the day. Unless it is something that needs to be done before meeting with a potential client, I am never given deadlines for my work. Even though I work in a small office, it is rare for everyone to be here at once because people are always traveling or out of the office for various reasons.
A common misconception of this is that Spaniards are lazy. It could not be further from the truth.
I think the thing that contributes the most to work culture here is that relationships are very important to Spaniards. The long lunches and breaks throughout the day are times to catch up with coworkers. People come in later in the mornings because they were up late spending time with family and spent their morning getting breakfast at a cafe with friends. My coworkers seem very interested in my personal life, asking about my family, my political views, my hobbies and what I´m doing over the weekends.
Overall, I think I like the work culture more here than in the United States from the perspective of being an intern. However, there are pros and cons to everything. I think that having good relationships with coworkers can help you work more effectively, but spending so much time socializing does mean that it takes longer for things to get done. Also, people traveling so much and being out of the office has been very frustrating. Last week, my boss left for three days without giving us interns anything to work on, so we had to be creative about how to make ourselves useful. We aren´t always given a lot to do and often the projects we are given are very vague.
Working in this environment has taught me a lot. I have learned how to take my time, work without a strict timeline and initiate projects on my own. Most importantly though, I have realized that I don´t want my whole life to revolve around work. A Spaniard I met told me that when he meets Americans, he is always surprised that one of the first things they ask him is what he does for a living. Here in Spain, they will ask just about everything before discussing work. While I want my career to be important, I also want to make sure I have time to travel, spend time with people I care about and do the things I love.