Travelling to Italy for work?
Want to make a good impression?
Then this blog is for you!
Here's a quick-fire overview of some key cultural insights that might come in handy.
At the end of each section you will find links for further reading.
Facts & Stats
- The Capital: Rome
- Notable Cities: Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa
- Population: 60+ million
- Major Religion: Italy is a Christian country (some 88% of the population are Catholics)
- Dialling Code: +82
- Domain: .it
- Currency: Euro
- Italian is the official language of Italy.
- It is also an official language in Switzerland, San, Marino, the Vatican City and Istria.
- Globally Italian is spoken by over 85 million people.
- It is a Romance language and its vocabulary is closely related to Latin.
- There are a number of Italian dialects spoken in the different regions.
Etiquette in Italy
- Clothes are important to Italians.
- They are extremely fashion conscious and judge people on their appearance.
- You will be judged on your clothes, shoes, accessories and the way you carry yourself.
- Bella figura is more than dressing well. It extends to the aura your project too - i.e. confidence, style, demeanour, etc.
- When meeting and leaving, Italians (whether friends or strangers) wish each other “good day” or “good evening”.
- Where there is an existing relationship, Italians greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks (kiss the left cheek first).
- Table manners are an important part of Italian culture.
- Wait for your hostess to seat herself before you do and ensure that you don’t begin eating until your hostess has begun.
- Wine is commonly served with meals and it’s likely to be regularly topped up.
- It’s considered rude if you refuse a top up, so if you don’t require more wine, try to keep you glass relatively full!
Read more about Etiquette in Italy.
- Punctuality is expected in Italy, so always try to be on time.
- Shake hands with people when meeting someone for the first time.
- Building close relationships is key to doing business in Italy.
- Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy.
- Take the time to ask questions about your business colleagues family and personal interests.
- Italians tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
- Status and hierarchy are well respected in business, as well as all aspects of Italian society, and a there is also a huge amount of respect given to older people and people in positions of power.
- Avoid organising meetings in August and during Catholic festivities.
- The exchange of business cards is common in Italy and it’s a good idea to have it translated into Italian on the reverse.
- Business might be conducted over a long lunch which could last up to 2-3 hours.
Read more about Business in Italy.
Management Culture in Italy
- Cross cultural management in Italy is more likely to succeed if you understand the level of bureaucracy when attempting to conduct business in Italy.
- When managing in Italy, it is important to keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.
- Italy’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Italy is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
- Italy is a moderate time culture and typically and there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.
- For effective cross cultural management it is important to remember that hierarchy in business is strictly observed.
Read more about Italian Management Culture.