Culture Shock

El enchufe in Spain, is it wrong?

enchufe-in-spain
Enchufe in Spain…it’s who you know…Photo by Daquella Manera

If you’re not familiar with the term, enchufe, then here’s a definition: the influence or recommendation of someone to get a job, or similar benefit, without the qualifications or merit. It other words, getting work or something of use because of who you know, not what you’ve done.

I’ll give you an example. Imagine the Head of a school has 14 brothers and sisters. Now imagine that all of those brothers and sisters were teachers, and just by chance, they all happened to work for same Head because they got them the job, well, that would be a massive enchufe.

After reading an article this week on El Pais English, titled The Dirty Business of nepotism at Seville University, I wasn’t shocked. After checking what nepotism meant in the dictionary (favouritism to family), I read that Maria Luisa Diaz, a cleaning supervisor, gave 22 cleaning jobs to family and friends. This includes close family, in-laws, neighbours, and it’s even been reported that she gets her dog to run errands for her around the premises.

Does it really matter if the boss of a cleaning company has helped out her relatives? I guess not. What’s wrong in helping people you know? After all, she must have trusted them, and what’s more important than trust in the workplace?

The whole enchufe business is ripe in Seville, and I think Andalucía, but I can’t honestly comment about the rest of Spain (maybe you could below). It’s a phrase I learnt early on. I remember a comment from a student in a business class as we were talking about work ethics. Three of the employees were cousins, and their uncle was the boss.

‘I had to work my balls off to get this job. I had to do oposiciones, which took nearly 3 years of study, but these guys got in by a big fat enchufe.” I had to laugh as the cousins shrugged.

I guess really it comes down to who you know, not what you know, but isn’t that the same in any industry around the world? If you get on with people, then they’ll be more likely help you out.

I think the main issue is that there are loads of enchufes in politics, but there’s no surprise there.

If I could get my nephew a job in the future in the school where I work then I would. If I have some writing contacts in the publishing industry and my daughter decides to become a writer, then I’ll help her out, why wouldn’t I?

The problems come into play when other people miss out. Going back to schools. The system to become a primary and secondary school is extremely complicated. Basically you have to get a degree in teaching, then pass exams and fall in the top 10% before you are given a slight chance of a job, and even then it might not be in the same city, or even region. So, if a director of a school sorted out their relatives a job, but they hadn’t done the necessary exams, then I guess that is unfair as they have done over the ‘system.’

Personally, I’ve only ever benefitted from an enchufe once, and it wasn’t related to work. A student’s father is a lawyer, and helped me with some major issues when buying my property. If he hadn’t been around when we were closing the deal, then we could have lost a lot of money. I offered to pay him, but he wouldn’t accept, so I bought him a lovely bottle of red instead. Can that be considered as an enchufe too? If so, then what’s the problem? People help each other, you look after your own, and so I don’t see the problem.

My wife, however, did get a massive enchufe when she got a job working for Iberia. There were loads of brothers and sisters and cousins working there, but we didn’t complain.

Maybe you know of more incidents of the enchufe? Have you suffered because of it? Leave a comment below.