During my time here I have noticed a few key differences in social norms and communication habits. I especially find it interesting to consider high and low context communication differences between Spain and the United States due to my background. I was born in Spain, and have spent a considerable portion of my life here. However, all my education and professional experience have been solely in Pittsburgh. And though I am very accustomed to how Spaniards communicate on a casual level, it has only been through this program that I have experienced how it is within the professional environment.
Working at an art gallery, I feel like the coworker relationship and the overall environment may be quite different from other sectors of the business world. La Caja is a tight knit company, which I also think undoubtedly affects the ways in which we communicate amongst ourselves. One thing I have noticed is that even in the professional environment, communication remains casual and can be quite personal. I have noticed that coworkers have no problem asking you questions about your personal life and asking for more details in a conversation. Open inquiry seems very normal here, and it is noticeable if you keep to yourself and are not willing to share. From what I can tell this is seen as a really important aspect to building trust between coworkers.
I feel like in my past experiences I have noticed more of a boundary between peoples professional and personal lives. I also feel like a lot of the time in the United States, asking what could be perceived as more personal questions to a coworkers could be seen as an invasion of privacy and inappropriate for the workplace. I personally like that my coworkers have shown interest in getting to know me beyond simply being a coworker. It has made coming to work more enjoyable and I find that working as a team on projects is smoother because of it. I think that my appreciation for this could be from the fact that it’s not completely new to me, at least in a casual context, so I was not too much of a shock when I noticed it in the workplace.
Another thing that I have noticed, that I also believe carries over from casual contexts, is spontaneity and honesty. I found it interesting when I was told in meetings that to truly understand what Spaniards are trying to convey, one must read into unspoken queues and not rely fully on verbal communication. Though I do think this is still true to an extent, I have always found that the communication here is very straight forward. From my experiences people here are not as concerned with “coming off too strong” and will quickly say exactly what they are thinking – regardless of how blunt it might sound. I have noticed this within my professional experience as well, where I have seen very open communication about personal opinions that could be almost jarringly brutal honest for those not used to the culture.
As my time here comes closer to a close, I have gained a more rounded perspective of what working in a country in a different language and communication style is actually like. I have found it very interesting to see the way in which communication manifests in the workplace, and how it differs from my previous experiences. Becoming comfortable in this new type of environment has strengthened my adaptability and has made me more experienced professional in my field.