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Business etiquette, language & culture

Italian society & culture

Language
Knowledge of English is reasonably extensive in Italian business, but do not rely on being able to communicate in English. As a common courtesy, as a UK business wishing to succeed in Italy you will find that understanding and speaking a little Italian – although possibly not essential – does indicate that you are serious about doing business there, and shows that you are keen to understand and appreciate their local culture.

Emails
Be careful with emails. Write in Italian whenever possible using good, simple, concise and direct language. Never rely on internet translation sites as they are often inaccurate – always use an Italian or official translator. For more information on transalation services visit AST Language Services.

 

Etiquette & customs

Greeting
Shake hands individually with everyone at both introductions and departures, and always greet older people and women first (this may include grasping the arm with the other hand). Be aware it is not unusual for Italians to greet people they know with a warm embrace.

Say "Buongiorno" (good morning) or "Buonasera" (good afternoon/evening). You should use "Signor(e)" (Mr) or "Signora" (Mrs), plus the surname, when introduced, using last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited to use first names.

Dining
Business is sometimes conducted over a long lunch, which can last a few hours, or often dinner at a restaurant. Do not refuse an invitation as this can be taken as an insult.

At social gatherings it is considered rude to ask someone you have just met about their profession, but typical topics of conversation can include Italian culture, art, food, wine, family etc.

 

Business protocol

Meetings
To arrange a meeting write first (in Italian), and follow-up with a phone call or e-mail. Large businesses usually work from 8.30 or 9am until about 6 or 6.30pm Monday to Friday with an hour or two for lunch, but the best time for meetings is between 10 and 11am or after 3pm. Avoid August, Catholic festivals and national holidays, as many businesses will be closed (see below for list of holidays).

Punctuality is not a priority, but as a courtesy you should be on time. However, be prepared to possibly wait a while for your Italian counterparts to arrive.

Ensure all your hand-outs are well-designed and aesthetically pleasing – appearance is often considered more important than content.

Do not be surprised if during business meetings your Italian colleagues speak at the same time or interrupt one another – this is not unusual and it is common to express open disagreement and constructive conflict. Do not move away or keep your distance as this may be interpreted as unfriendly. Italians prefer very little personal space.

Although negotiations can be slow, do not show impatience as this can appear rude or a sign of weakness.

Dress code
Dress code is hugely important amongst Italians. How you dress will be perceived as a reflection of your social standing and success in business. A belief in status permeates all aspects of Italian society, with a very great respect for power and age – ideally you should try to find a well-connected person to establish good introductions for you.

 

Public holidays 

2016

Date:

Weekday:

Holiday name:

Holiday type:

1 January

Friday

New Year's Day

National holiday

6 January

Wednesday

Epiphany

National holiday

25 March

Friday

Good Friday

Observance

27 March

Sunday

Easter Day

National holiday

28 March

Monday

Easter Monday

National holiday

25 April 

Monday

Liberation Day

National holiday

25 April

Monday

The Feast of St Mark (Venice)

Local holiday

1 May

Sunday

Labour Day / May Day

National holiday

2 June

Thursday

Republic Day

National holiday

24 June

Friday

The Feast of St. John (Florence, Genoa, Turin)

Local holiday

29 June

Wednesday

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (Rome)

Local holiday

15 August

Monday

Assumption of Mary / Ferragosto

National holiday

19 September

Monday

The Feast of St. Januarius (Naples)

Local holiday

4 October

Tuesday

The Feast of St. Petronius (Bologna)

Local holiday

1 November

Tuesday

All Saints' Day

National holiday

3 November

Thursday

The Feast of St. Giusto (Trieste)

Local holiday

7 December

Wednesday

The Feast of St. Ambrose (Milan)  

Local holiday

8 December

Thursday

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

National holiday

25 December

Sunday

Christmas Day

National holiday

26 December

Monday

St. Stephen's Day

National holiday

31 December

Saturday

New Year's Eve

Observance

 

2017

Date:

Weekday:

Holiday name:

Holiday type:   

1 January

Sunday

New Year’s Day

National holiday

6 January

Friday

Epiphany

National holiday

14 April

Friday

Good Friday

Observance

16 April

Sunday

Easter Sunday

National holiday

17 April

Monday

Easter Monday

National holiday

25 April

Tuesday

Liberation Day

National holiday

25 April

Tuesday

The Feast of St Mark (Venice)

Local holiday

1 May

Monday

Labour Day / May Day

National holiday

2 June

Friday

Republic Day

National holiday

24 June

Saturday

The Feast of St. John (Florence, Genoa, Turin)

Local holiday

29 June

Thursday

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (Rome)

Local holiday

15 August

Tuesday

Assumption of Mary / Ferragosto

National holiday

19 September

Tuesday

The Feast of St. Januarius (Naples)

Local holiday

4 October

Wednesday

The Feast of St. Petronius (Bologna)

Local holiday

1 November

Wednesday

All Saints' Day

National holiday

3 November

Friday

The Feast of St. Giusto (Trieste)

Local holiday

7 December

Thursday

The Feast of St. Ambrose (Milan)  

Local holiday

8 December

Friday

The Feast of theImmaculate Conception

National holiday

25 December

Monday

Christmas Day

National holiday

26 December

Tuesday

St Stephen's Day

National holiday

31 December

Sunday

New Year’s Eve

Observance

 


 

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