Today I started my third job in Spain. Well, my third professional, legally-paying job.
Up to this point, both in the States and here in Spain, I have always worked in small companies – the biggest being back in the States with around 30 people. For some reason I thought that my new employer, a giant, multinational, sector-leading , 36,000-employee company would be more “American.” The idea of long coffee breaks and perpetual tardiness seemed out of place in the mental picture I had of the shirt-and-tie corporate environment, even here on the Iberian Peninsula. I was wrong.
This morning I waited about 30 minutes for my HR “greeter” to appear. And when I was shown to my desk around 10:30 the office was empty – everyone was out getting coffee. Later at lunch my coworkers complained that yesterday morning the boss had asked them not to take coffee breaks in twelvesomes. Only in Spain.
But not everyone has adopted the “when in Rome” attitude. My bosses told me this morning that they hired me in part out of a particular interest in the “Yankee” mentality of organization and discipline. I, on the other hand, am beginning to think that the corporate environment in Spain has a leg up on its American counterpart. Granted I am talking from the perspective of a lowly worker bee. Certainly the lack of productivity caused by lateness and long coffee breaks is irksome to the higher-ups. And, admittedly, I find the tardiness extremely annoying, but the coffee breaks certainly aren’t bad. And from where I sit, looking at the four new skyscrapers of the Ciudad Deportivo out the window, the 26 paid vacation days, shortened summer work schedule, and paid lunches makes me more than happy to twiddle my thumbs as I wait for a meeting to start 20 minutes late.