Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette
(taken from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/italy-country-profile.html)
Location: Southern Europe, bordering Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican
3.2 km, San Marino 39 km,
Slovenia 232 km,
Switzerland 740 km
Climate: predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far
north; hot, dry in south
Population: 58,057,477 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Italian (includes small clusters of German-,
French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north
and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
Religions: predominately Roman Catholic with mature
Protestant and Jewish communities and a
growing Muslim immigrant community
The Italian Language
is the official language of Italy, and 93% of population are native Italian
speakers. Around 50% of population speak a regional dialect as mother tongue.
Many dialects are mutually unintelligible and thus considered by linguists as
separate languages, but are not officially recognised. Friulian, one of these
dialects, is spoken by 600,000 people in the north east of Italy, which is 1%
of the entire population. Other northern minority languages include Ladin,
Slovene, German, which enjoys equal recognition with Italian in the province of
Alto-Adige, and French, which is legally recognised in the Alpine region of the
Albanian is spoken by 0.2% of the population, mainly in the southern part of
Italy, as too are Croatian and Greek.
is spoken in one city, Alghero, on the island of Sardinia, by around 0.07% of
the population. On the rest of the island, Sardinian is spoken by over 1m,
which comes to 1.7% of the Italian population.
Why not learn some useful Italian
Italian Society & Culture
Italian Family Values
. The family is the centre of the social structure and provides a
stabilizing influence for its members.
. In the north, generally only the nuclear family lives together; while in
the south, the extended family often resides together in one house.
. The family provides both emotional and financial support to its members.
. Appearances matter in Italy.
. The way you dress can indicate your social status, your family's
background, and your education level.
. First impressions are lasting impressions in Italy.
. The concept of 'bella figura' or good image is important to Italians.
. They unconsciously assess another person's age and social standing in
the first few seconds of meeting them, often before any words are exchanged.
. Clothes are important to Italians.
. They are extremely fashion conscious and judge people on their
. You will be judged on your clothes, shoes, accessories and the way you
. Bella figura is more than dressing well. It extends to the aura your
project too - i.e. confidence, style, demeanour, etc.
. The primary religion in Italy is Roman Catholic.
. There are more Catholic churches per capita in Italy than in any other
. Although church attendance is relatively low, the influence of the
church is still high.
. Many office buildings will have a cross or a religious statue in the
. Each day of the year has at least one patron saint associated with it.
. Children are named for a particular saint and celebrate their saint's
day as if it were their own birthday.
. Each trade and profession has a patron saint.
. The church promulgates hierarchy, which can be seen in all Italian
. They respect and defer to those who are older, those who have achieved a
level of business success, and those who come from well-connected families
Etiquette & Customs in Italy
. Greetings are enthusiastic yet rather formal.
. The usual handshake with direct eye contact and a smile suffices between
. Once a relationship develops, air-kissing on both cheeks, starting with
the left is often added as well as a pat on the back between men.
. Wait until invited to move to a first name basis.
. 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.
Gift Giving Etiquette
. Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
. Do not give red flowers as they indicate secrecy.
. Do not give yellow flowers as they indicate jealousy
. If you bring wine, make sure it is a good vintage. Quality, rather than
quantity, is important.
. Do not wrap gifts in black, as is traditionally a mourning colour.
. Do not wrap gifts in purple, as it is a symbol of bad luck.
. Gifts are usually opened when received.
If invited to an Italian house:
. If an invitation says the dress is informal, wear stylish clothes that
are still rather formal, i.e., jacket and tie for men and an elegant dress for
. 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.
. If you are invited to a meal, bring gift-wrapped such as wine or
. If you are invited for dinner and want to send flowers, have them
delivered that day.
. Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a
. Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and
the knife in the right while eating.
. Follow the lead of the hostess - she sits at the table first, starts
eating first, and is the first to get up at the end of the meal.
. The host gives the first toast.
. An honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal.
. Women may offer a toast.
. Always take a small amount at first so you can be cajoled into accepting
a second helping.
. Do not keep your hands in your lap during the meal; however, do not rest
your elbows on the table either.
. It is acceptable to leave a small amount of food on your plate.
. Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
. If you do not want more wine, leave your wineglass nearly full.
Business Etiquette and Protocol in Italy
Relationships & Communication
. 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 colleagues 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.
Business Meeting Etiquette
. 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).
. Many companies are closed in August, and if they are open many Italians
take vacations at this time, so it is best not to try to schedule meetings
. 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. Follow their lead as to when it is appropriate to move from
social to business discussions.
. Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people.
. Hierarchy is the cornerstone of Italian business. Italians respect power
. 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.
. Dressing well is a priority in Italy.
. Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
. Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
. Elegant accessories are equally important for men and women.
. Business cards are exchanged after the formal
. To demonstrate proper respect for the other person, look closely at
their business card before putting it in your card holder.
. It is a good idea to have one side of your business card translated into
. If you have a graduate degree, include it on your business card.
. Make sure your title is on your card. Italians like knowing how you fit
within your organization.
Italy - Information and Resources
* Currency - the currency of Italy is the Euro. Use the
converter to compare to dollars, GBP, etc.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Italy.
* Translation Services - do you need an Italian translation
* News - check out all the latest Google
news on Italy.
* Intercultural Know-how - use the Intercultural
Business Communication tool for tips on doing business in Italy.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code
for Italy is +39.
* Time - Italy is +1 hours GMT.
* Management - for information about being a manager in Italy
visit the free Management
in Italy guide.
* History - read about the long and rich history of
* Hotels - for accomodation see Hotels in Italy.