I've just moved to Madrid and am trying to understand the way Spaniards use tú versus usted. My first hypothesis was that they are simply more inclined to tú than much of Latin America (even in work situations), but I'm coming to a different conclusion.
As a journalist (in my 40s), I met an older gentleman, a retired banker and well-connected aristocrat, and naturally used "usted" with him, and he "tú" with me. Fine. He is the senior figure. He then introduced me via e-mail to another useful contact (a middle-aged woman who runs an NGO), using "tú" with both of us.
This is where I get confused: she "tú"s me in her first mail saying "I'd love to meet". I "tú" her in reply. She then "usted"s me in the next e-mail reply ("cuando prefiere", etc). So I, wondering if I've screwed up, "usted" her back after that. Only then she "tú"s me again in the latest round! All of this is in an e-mail thread, so if she cared to, she could at any point have checked to remind herself what we'd done in the last round of the conversation.
My new tentative conclusion about Spain: they just don't care much about the distinction. Sure, use "usted" in highly formal situations beyond doubt (meeting the prime minister), but in sort of mixed-age, semi-formal work situations, fluidity is natural and the cost of "screwing up" is fairly low.
Is there anything I'm missing? Do Spaniards normally switch back and forth?