My friend Jennifer, an insurance saleswoman from Chicago recently gave me a brief insight about some of the experiences she made during a 6 month expat assignment in Valencia Spain.
My company just recently sent me on a 6 month overseas assignment to Valencia. I was very excited about this prospect as I’d heard of Valencia’s beautiful cityscape and great seafood cuisine, and well, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to work in a beautiful Spanish city with sunshine around the clock?!
I’d been to Spain with the family on a few occasions, mainly to the Costa del Sol though. I was thus aware and somewhat accustomed to the Spaniards’ laid back attitude and lax feeling of time. I was curious to see how that would all pan out when working there! Would they really all come in at least 30 minutes late and never before 10 a.m.? Coming from the States, punctuality was key in my business, as was getting to work at 8 a.m. – at the very least you could then leave earlier!!
During my first week at my new job we all decided to go out for lunch together at 1pm and true to Spanish fashion, we were ready to head out at about 1:45! We ended up at a quaint seafood restaurant with a few tables on the sidewalk. Pushing these together so that everyone had room, my colleague Miguel ordered us all a tinto (red wine). Wine for lunch with the colleagues and the big boss? No problem! I can always blame my incoherent speech on my lacking Spanish-speaking skills… I thought this would be just a normal lunch as when us Americans go out to Olive Garden or grab a deli sandwich, but this was a full-fledged sit-down-and-discuss-our-entire-life-histories situation!
First we ordered a round of tapas, then everyone insisted I try the paella valenciana, a traditional Valencian rice dish containing chicken, rabbit, and snails, followed by more tinto, some fruit, and finally a café con leche. I was stuffed!
Throughout the tapas began what made this lunch different from any other lunch I’d ever taken part in and consequently very long: negotiating business. The business venture we’re currently working on apparently went down better with red house wine and manchego cheese! All my colleagues with whom we were sitting and who all had a say in this venture discussed the pros and cons of the partnership, chatted about the partners, their wives and children, and even brought out the contracts to sign!
At first I thought what an odd way to do business! But afterwards back at my desk I couldn’t help but think how much more amiable business meetings and negotiations would be if they were always held in more casual settings – with or without wine!
We sat in that side street for 4½ hours. But I have to say, my Spanish got better and better 😉
Dear Readers: This is the new InterNations blog structure. We decided it would be fun to read little anecdotes of actual expat life. Please let us know what you think in the comment section below! Thank you!
Photographs courtesy of Wikimedia Commons