ITALY - COMMUNICATION

  • Greetings are enthusiastic yet rather formal.
  • Italians are guided by first impressions, so it is important that you demonstrate propriety and respect when greeting people, especially when meeting them for the first time.
  • Many Italians use calling cards in social situations. These are slightly larger than traditional business cards and include the person’s name, address, title or academic honours, and their telephone number.
  • If you are staying in Italy for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to have calling cards made. Never give your business card in lieu of a calling card in a social situation.
  • Punctuality is not mandatory. You may arrive between 15 minutes late if invited to dinner and up to 30 minutes late if invited to a party.

Business Etiquette and Protocol in Italy:

  • Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust.
  • A third party introduction will go a long way in providing an initial platform from which to work.
  • Italians much prefer face-to-face contact, so it is important to spend time in Italy developing the relationship.
  • Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you.
  • Demeanour is important as Italians judge people on appearances and the first impression you make will be a lasting one.
  • Italians are intuitive. Therefore, make an effort to ensure that your Italians colleagues like and trust you.
  • Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy. Personal contacts allow people to get ahead.
  • Take the time to ask questions about your business colleague’s family and personal interests, as this helps build the relationship.
  • Italians are extremely expressive communicators. They tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
  • Appointments are mandatory and should be made in writing (in Italian) 2 to 3 weeks in advance.
  • Reconfirm the meeting by telephone or fax (again in Italian).
  • In the north, punctuality is viewed as a virtue and your business associates will most likely be on time.
  • The goal of the initial meeting is to develop a sense of respect and trust with your Italian business colleagues.
  • Have all your printed material available in both English and Italian.
  • Hire an interpreter if you are not fluent in Italian.
  • It is common to be interrupted while speaking or for several people to speak at once.
  • People often raise their voice to be heard over other speakers, not because they are angry.
  • Although written agendas are frequently provided, they may not be followed. They serve as a jumping off point for further discussions.
  • Decisions are not reached in meetings. Meetings are meant for a free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say.
  • In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk.
  • In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business.
  • Allow your Italian business colleagues to set the pace for your negotiations.
  • Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people.
  • Hierarchy is the cornerstone of Italian business. Italians respect power and age.
  • Negotiations are often protracted.
  • Never use high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Always adhere to your verbal agreements. Failing to follow through on a commitment will destroy a business relationship.
  • Heated debates and arguments often erupt in meetings. This is simply a function of the free-flow of ideas.
  • Haggling over price and delivery date is common.
  • Decisions are often based more on how you are viewed by the other party than on concrete business objectives.

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