Italy – first impressions matter
Italy is a country in southern Europe bordered by Austria, France, Slovenia and Switzerland. Due to its shape, it is often referred to as lo Stivale (the Boot). The country has a population of around 61 million, and welcomes nearly 50 million tourists a year. The tourism industry provides over 60% of Italy’s national income.
The capital city is Rome (also known as the Eternal City) and is famed for its history, architecture and food. It is almost 3,000 years old and is home to the Dome of St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, and the famous Trevi Fountain. Rome has a museum dedicated to pasta – the National Museum of Pasta spans 11 rooms and two floors!
For centuries, Italy was the leading political, cultural and religious centre of western civilisation. Nowadays, the country is well known for its creative and innovative business, a large and competitive agricultural sector (Italy is the world’s largest wine producer), and for its influential and high-quality automobile, machinery, food, design and fashion industries.
Italians respect and defer to those who are older, who have achieved a level of business success and those who come from well-connected families. Italians judge people on appearances and the first impression you make will be a lasting one. Italians are intuitive so try to ensure that your Italian colleagues like and trust you. Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy – personal contacts allow people to get ahead.
A third-party introduction will assist in gaining an appointment. Appointments should be made in writing (in Italian) 2 to 3 weeks in advance, then re-confirmed. 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.
Written agendas may not be followed – they serve as a starting point for further discussions. Meetings are meant for a free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say. Remember that haggling over price and delivery date is common and that decisions are often based more on how you are viewed by the other party than on concrete business objectives.
Share your Italian business experiences
Sources: Wikipedia, Kwintessential