Travelling to Italy may be due not only to leisure, but also to business. Here you can find some tips about the local business etiquette.
Culture always matters
A large number of successful business people pay great attention to the knowledge of cultural habits of the country from which their associates come from. And this is especially true for Italy, as the Italians, always characterized by an accentuated patriotism, are extremly proud of their origins, which they emphasize in any context more than others. They do care about their culture and traditions, and therefore tend to overlap the social and the business dimensions.
When Italians meet, they love to be represented by a third person. However, hey also like to work with people they know, so it is not uncommon to spend some time talking about personal issues and interests. As they are naturally cheerful and hospitable, it is a common situation to hug each other and pat before the encounter. Shaking hands is always desirable, both on departure and on arrival. In general, greeting is very imporant for every business meeting.
The importance of the title
Friendliness does not mean that formality does not count. Italians call their business partners with a Sir – Signor – or a Lady – Signora – plus the last name. Persons who hold an academic degree are called Dottore or Dottoressa, and all pay attention to statuses, rankings and years of experience. In general, Italians are proud of their titles and use them during the conversation, while using only the first name is permitted only after a long acquaintance.
Italy is a country of great design and thrilling sense of aesthetics. Therefore, on the basis of physical appearance, it happens that they more or less unconsciously assess the financial status, level of education and the origins of the person with whom they cooperate. Just don’t forget to take care of your clothing, as l’occhio vuole la sua parte (the eye wants its part!).
Business lunch as custom
Lunch after successful work has now acquired the status of a business custom and can last up to three hours. Italians are very open to conversation, especially about architecture, art, music, fashion, culture and customs. During the chit-chat with Italian associates, you should be relaxed, but not too much. Topics to avoid are politics, religion, wars and mafia, as locals are very sensitive to this issue.
If you are invited to your Italian business partner’s home, this is a sign of extreme respect. When it comes to presenting a gift, a good choice is certainly foodstuffs, such as quality sweets, chocolates or wine. With the latter you need to be careful, given the centuries-old tradition of wine production in Italy. Flowers are also appreciated, especially since women are still considered the supreme family binding element. Do not give chrysanthemums, because they are reserved for burials. During the conversation you will notice that they are rather noisy, which is by no means a sign of non-professionalism, but simply a cultural way of communication. Italians like to be in contact with other cultures, and generally have no prejudice towards foreigners, other races and nations, at least within the business environment.
Working in a culturally rich country
Italian is the official language of the country, but many people tend to speak regional dialects as their first language. In the biggest cities, most business people speak English, but it would make a great impression on the Italians if, at the first meeting, you show at least some basic knowledge of Italian. In the companies, team members often take lunch together and many employers provide canteens with paid meals. Compared to people in many other countries, Italian team members will probably feel uncomfortable in risky or undefined situations. To avoid a surprisingly blatant escape strategy, ensure that your ideas or suggestions are supported by carefully verified facts, logic and statistics.
In the Italian business culture, hierarchy is highly respected. Thus, managers will often avoid to socialize with other members of the organization. That is why it is very important to build working relationships that are based on confidence from day to day.
Remember the fact that many Italians are not afraid to express their emotions, even at work. It can be common for meetings and negotiations to turn into heated debates. It is important that team members have the time and freedom they need to express their emotions and ideas. This constructive conflict will help them to work effectively and build stronger relationships of trust.
The migration rate in Italy has risen dramatically in recent years, and there are good chances that you will work with a diverse team. So, find time to develop your own cultural and social intelligence.