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Non-verbal communication just like verbal communication has functions, which include managing identity among people, defining the extent of relationships, and communicating attitudes and feelings when people are interacting (Hinkelman, 2001).
In Spain, communication is sometimes non-verbal through gestures that people use unconsciously (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005). There are many gestures with different meanings depending on the culture where they are used. Gestures complement information and provide additional details when two people are interacting. Communicators also use gestures to capture the attention of the audience. The use of gestures in Spain makes it easier for foreigners to learn the language, as most of the gestures are similar to those used by English speakers (Hinkelman, 2001). It is common in Spain to be emotionally expressive. Spaniards kiss each other when exchanging greetings and use constant eye contact while talking. Conversations between Spaniards are usually loud and non-Spaniards may interpret that as being angry or annoyed. However, the high tone is normal for all Spaniards. Spaniard culture allows the use of hand motions and signals. Personal distance between two or more interacting Spaniards is usually short compared to that of English speakers (Anita & Dawn, 2000).
Spaniard’s greetings involve a lot of touching every time familiar people meet. Relatives and friends shake their hands and men hug each other as a way of greetings. Women kiss each other on the cheeks and make small sounds. Two Spaniards seated together in a hotel touch each other many times constantly as a way of expressing closeness and warmth (Hinkelman, 2001).
Spaniard’s culture is rich in hand gestures that are similar to those of English speakers but differ in meaning. For instance, Spaniards may use their index finger to refer to money when they rotate it in a circular motion (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005). Unlike English speakers where a thump up means “well”, in Spain, it is interpreted as insulting. Moving the index finger several times for Spaniards means sexual interest as opposed to the English speakers where it signals one to come. Spaniards wag their index finger pointing up as a neutral response to a question while for English speakers it means, “Don’t” especially when scolding a child (Anita & Dawn, 2000).
Conversation between Spaniards is accompanied by smiling and minimal eye contact, which makes English speakers think that the Spaniard is not serious and cannot be trusted with what he or she is saying. Spaniards interpret the difference in eye contact with English speakers as being cold and threatening (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005). Spaniards prefer proximity to long distances when they talk to each other, which may extend to a maximum of 18 inches. Non-Spaniards may be distanced from each other even as wide as 32 inches when talking. Spaniards interpret throwing of objects to each other as ruddiness while for English-speakers it is common especially with the youths to throw objects like cigarette lighters or keys (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005).
Spanish is the official language in Spain and 72% of the citizens use it as their native language. Other languages exist but are not used for official purposes. Spanish is important for both indigenous people and those who have traveled to Spain on business missions. Effective verbal communication is a necessity especially for business (Anita & Dawn, 2000). Spaniards like transacting business with people they know and since that is only possible when people communicate then verbal communication becomes paramount. Once a relationship is established, the business partners continue being in a relationship even after they switch organizations because Spaniards regard personal relationships more important than the organization where a person works.
Spaniards prefer face-to-face communication to written form except when the situation demands the use of a written form of communication. Therefore, people need to present themselves well when they are dealing with Spaniards (Anita & Dawn, 2000). For example, when people are telling about their achievements in education and experiences that they have had in work they are encouraged to display modesty through formal communication and observe all the protocols (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005).
Spaniards avoid confrontations where possible and admitting they have made a mistake in public is hard for them. Businesses can only take place between people who trust each other and all the protocols must be observed. For example, in an organization, the top managers make decisions because the country is hierarchical. It is therefore common for one not to meet the person who makes the decision (Hinkelman, 2001).
It is common for one to be interrupted by the listener while talking, which is not interpreted as ruddiness as it shows that the listener is paying attention (Anita & Dawn, 2000). Spaniards like maintaining their faces while interacting with other people and therefore do not tell when they cannot understand something, especially when interacting with non-Spaniards. It is therefore important for people who do not understand Spanish to familiarize themselves with gestures (Anita & Dawn, 2000).
Verbal communication in Spanish is very thorough and is reviewed constantly to ensure that everything is understood. Communication is considered effective if people can reach an oral understanding before any formal contract can be drawn. During business meetings, many people may speak at the same time and thus interruptions are expected (Estudillo & Spadaccini, 2005). Spaniards meet for business purposes and discus important ideas only. Therefore, it is common to have a meeting end without any decision made. It is rare to find Spaniards give opinions in a meeting as they are only supposed to exchange ideas. During meetings, it is therefore paramount to observe non-verbal communication from your listeners (Hinkelman, 2001).
The common religion in Spain is Christianity where most Spaniards are Catholics. A few Spaniards are Protestants while the rests are Muslims and Jews. However, Spaniards observe their traditional values where it is common to find events being more cultural than religious (Hinkelman, 2001). Most Spaniards observe the Holy Week by going for processions wearing special garments and without shoes as well as holding a burden of a kind in their hands. In every town, there is a Christian church where people worship during the Sabbath days. In large cities, it is common to find cathedrals that were constructed many years ago (Smith, 2002).
A family is important because it forms the basic unit of the society whether nuclear or extended. The role of families is to provide social and financial support to all the family members. Today, it is common to find people working outside their family business and leaving their extended families to work far from home after receiving advanced education. Most families also have a lesser number of children compared to families in the past (Kamen, 2005).
Anita, K. & Dawn, L. (2000). Gender, identity, and representation in Spain’s golden age. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.
Estudillo, L., & Spadaccini, N. (2005). Hispanic baroques: Reading cultures in context. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
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Hinkelman, E. (2001). Passport Spain. Novato: World Trade Press.
Kamen, H. (2005). Spain, 1469–1714: A society of conflict. 3d ed. New York: Pearson Longman.
Smith, P. (2002). Contemporary Spanish culture: TV, fashion, art, and film. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.