Spanish word of the day: ‘Enchufe’

Spanish word of the day: 'Enchufe'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr
Beyond its most literal meaning, this word describes something Spaniards hate but often take full advantage of.

Why do I need to know this word?

“Enchufe” means socket or power outlet and it can also refer to the plug from the electrical device itself which you plug in.

But this word has a much more powerful meaning in Spanish, referring to a whole concept, one which is prevalent in Spanish work culture.

To have “enchufe” means to have friends in high places, when you get a job because of a friend or family member you know who recommends you or straight up puts you in the position.

It’s also the act of using the influence you have over an organisation or person to gain favours, so “enchufe” can also mean you get free tickets for a concert or for who you know or picked for the football team because your dad is the coach.

The practice can be described in a colloquial way as “enchufismo” and the person who benefits from it based on his or her network is “enchufado” (plugged in its most literal sense, but in this case meaning set up in a job or favoured).

Headline in La Sexta reads “Ciudadanos Party proposes an “anti-favouritism” law to prevent “setting up friends in jobs” in Spanish politics. 

It’s an important word to know if you’re part of a Spanish work environment but also because it describes how things go when it comes to employment in Spain.

According to a 2019 report, there are 1.1 million family businesses in Spain, representing 89 percent of the country’s total.

Whereas it may make some sense to keep work in the family if a company is small and local, you don’t have to look far to find reports of “enchufismo” in huge Spanish businesses such as supermarket chain Mercadona and departments stores El Corte Inglés.

Spain’s notoriously dire employment market and the fact that extra qualifications don’t necessarily lead to a job, means that meritocracy is often second to “enchufe”.

Who can I use this word with?

Perhaps everyone except your boss. It’s colloquial and often has a negative connotation but it’s widely used in work environments and elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean that if you remind someone they got a job due to “enchufe” that they’ll appreciate it.

They’re more likely to prefer it if you call them a “trepa” (an upstart) or “buscavidas” (self-starter), even if it’s not true.

Can you give me some examples?


Ha conseguido el puesto de trabajo por enchufe. El jefe es su tío.

He got the job because of connections. His uncle is the boss.


El enchufismo está muy extendido en la política y el sector financiero español.

String-pulling/Nepotism is rife in Spain’s political and financial systems.


Es una enchufada. No tiene ni idea de derecho internacional.

She’s a well-connected person. She doesn’t have a clue about international law. 

 

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