Italy is a truly beautiful country and if you have either the opportunity to move there for business, or just visit for a business trip, you should definitely take it. The country has a long and rich history that has heavily influenced the unique Italian culture. This unique culture has spilled over into the business world to create Italy’s own unique business etiquette. It is of course possible to do business in Italy without following this business etiquette, but it will be much easier if you do. Hopefully this guide can help you master Italian business etiquette.
Relationships are extremely important to Italians as they tend not to trust people that they do not know. If you want to get Italians to trust you then it is a good idea to be introduced through a mutual acquaintance. To have a very successful business relationship with Italians, it is also highly recommended that you let them get to know you. Try to divide your time between socialising and business meetings. Inviting them for a meal and then covering the costs is an extremely good way to do this.
Although it is customary to greet Italians with a kiss on both cheeks, this is not so in a business setting. If you are meeting for a business meeting, it is more common to shake hands, even with a woman. If in doubt, wait for a woman to lean in for a kiss before you try to kiss her on the cheek.
If you know anything about Italian’s, then you know that they love to dress well. Naturally, this is represented in their business etiquette. The real key for Italian business meetings is to wear nice expensive clothes. But apart from this rule there are some rules on what kind of clothes you need to wear. Men should wear dark conservative business suits. It is important to pay attention to what shoes you wear as well. If you wear cheap shoes in bad condition, the Italians will notice this. Women should also dress conservatively but stylish. As for accessories, it is best to wear one or two expensive pieces, such as a watch than numerous cheap things.
Punctuality is not a matter of huge importance in Italy. If you are late for a good reason, then your Italian counterparts will usually not mind. However, if you are just late for no reason, then this may be viewed as unprofessional and rude. Overall, it is best to be cautious and aim to be on time, or preferably early.
It is important not to be intimidated by Italian loudness and animated body language. They are a passionate people and this kind of behaviour can sometimes be intimidating to foreigners. Especially as they can be quite up close and in your face, even in business meetings. But you have to remember that they are not actually being threatening, merely expressing themselves.
It is also important to remember that not all Italians speak English. So if you are planning to have business meetings, then unless you speak fluent Italian, you should hire a translator. If you do not, a lot of the true meaning of the meeting may be lost to both parties.
While many of these rules are not that important and are unlikely to cost you a business deal, it is worth remembering them. You’re business trip, or new business, is likely to go a lot smoother if you follow proper Italian business etiquette.