Many of us identify Italy with spaghetti and the film Godfather. To Filipino businessmen, however, Italy is more than these things. Let me share with you some interesting tidbit information about Italy. I am sure our businessmen who are doing business or who intend to do business with Italy will find the information useful:
- Italians dress conservatively but fashionable. Milan which is found in northern Italy is considered by many as the fashion capital of Europe, if not the world. In other words, Italy is fashion-conscious and boosts of the latest fashion trends;
- Italy is one of the world’s largest wine producers. Italians also consider wine as a food to be sipped. Until the host drinks, the visitors should refrain from drinking. Customarily, women should not pour wine. Unknown to many, Italy produces more brands of wine – at least 4,000, than anywhere else in the world;
- The family, like in the Philippines, is Italy’s most solid institution. The country has a low rate of divorce compared with other European countries;
- The month of August is the worst time to go on a business trip to Italy. Practically the whole country is on a holiday. Government and private offices and factories are closed – the Italians are vacationing in the seaside and in the mountainside. Also, like in our country, there are a thousand local fiestas and festivals including lively market days in the villages;
- Despite the hectic business activities, the Italians have preserved the “la passeggiata” a before supper evening stroll – which provides an opportunity for the family to dress in their best and walk through the main streets and squares to see and be seen;
- School attendance is compulsory for ages 6 to 14. Classes are from Monday to Saturday. The over-all literacy rate is 98%. The oldest university in Europe was founded in Bologna in the 12th century;
- When eating spaghetti, it is bad manner to eat it or twirl it against a spoon. Rather, twirl the spaghetti against the side of the dish;
- Italians put a premium on trust. They prefer to do business with people they know well. Businessmen doing business with Italians should find ways to gain the trust of Italians before talking business;
- Italians are not strict with punctuality;
- Italians love coffee. It is often said that Italians have expresso coffee throughout the day;
- Italians normally socialize after business. It is common in these social occasions for the Italians to be taking about their families with pride;
- Italy is a major producer of cheese. The Italians enjoy eating the hundreds of different cheeses they produce including mozzarella and parmesan;
- Soccer is the most popular sport. Italy’s national soccer team has won three times already the World Cup Competition;
- Italians are fond of cultural shows. They are a race that is proud of their cultural and artistic heritages;
- When eating with guests, a meal may last one to four hours. Usual topics of conversation include soccer, family matters and local events;
- Italian family ties are close. Like Filipinos, Italian parents help their children buy a house or pay for the rent of an apartment;
- Italians are impressed with educational degrees in the sciences as well as career achievements;
- Italian business meetings are usually casual. The “soft sell” rather than the “hard sell” appeals to Italians. Business presentations with identification to local applications and conditions are preferred;
- Shaking hands is a common greeting among men and women. Normally, the men wait for the women to extend their hands first when they are introduced to one another. Italians shake hands when meeting and departing. Intimate friends, including Italian male friends and relatives embrace or hug one another or kiss the other on both cheeks as a sign of close friendship. There are also instances when the Italians slap one another on the back as a sign of intimacy;
- Believe it or not, there is a dictionary of Italian non-verbal gestures as gestures are so numerous already;
- The Italians are warm like the Filipinos. They are also demonstrative and may get emotional to the point of gesticulating wildly during negotiation or during a stimulating conversation. Italians also love to argue;
- In Italy, barbers and hairdressers are closed all day Monday but are open all day Saturday;
- In central and southern Italy business hours Monday to Friday are from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. then 4:30 or 5 to 7:30 or 8 p.m.; on Saturdays it is 8:30 to 12:45 p.m. In Northern Italy, business hours are usually 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 3 to 6:30 p.m.
- Formality is still practiced – thus, last names are used unless asked to do otherwise;
Again, like Filipinos, Italians are generally superstitious.
Hopefully, the above information will be useful to our businessmen.
Have a joyful day!
(For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected])