Italian culture - any hints?

  • I'm going to Italy in a couple of weeks and wonder if anybody could give me a shortlist of the do's and don'ts when going there.

    07 Jun 2007, 04:59 Michelle
Diese Foren sind nicht mehr aktiv. Um eine neue Diskussion zu veröffentlichen, besuchen Sie bitte unser Italien Forum.


  • Italian culture

    Hi Michelle!

    This should give you a start:

    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.

    Italian Style

    • 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 appearance.
    • You will be judged on your clothes, shoes, accessories and the way you carry yourself.
    • 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 country.
    • 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 lobby.
    • 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 relationships.
    • 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
    Meeting Etiquette

    • Greetings are enthusiastic yet rather formal.
    • The usual handshake with direct eye contact and a smile suffices between strangers.
    • 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.

    Dining Etiquette

    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 women.
    • 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 chocolates.
    • If you are invited for dinner and want to send flowers, have them delivered that day.

    Table manners

    • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
    • 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 then.
    • 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.

    Business Negotiation

    • 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 and age.
    • 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.

    Dress Etiquette

    • 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

    • Business cards are exchanged after the formal introduction.
    • 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 Italian.
    • 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.

    Peggy 07 Jun 2007, 04:59 - Verstoß melden
  • Italian culture & business etiquette

    These points should also help you get going:

    When selecting your negotiating team, be aware that Italians generally prefer to do business with only the most important people in any organization.

    The use of business cards is common and you should have your card translated into Italian on the reverse side. Moreover, ensure that any advanced educational degrees and your full title or position are featured on both sides of your business card. Italian businesspeople will want to know that they are dealing with an important person.

    You will probably notice that very senior Italian businesspeople usually have less information on their business cards.

    In Italian culture, people are traditionally expected to behave with a sense of decorum and formality at all times. This concept is known as "bella figura" ("beautiful figure"blunk and is often used in reference to the ability to put on a good performance or simply to present oneself well. What other people think is considered extremely important, and your actions must always at least appear to be the "right" thing to do. Moreover, there is a belief that behaving appropriately, especially out of loyalty to family members, friends, and neighbours, contributes to the beauty and sense of order in the world. You will find that the belief in "bella figura" becomes quite pronounced the further south in Italy you travel.

    The initial meeting is usually conducted in the office, where your Italian counterparts will make an assessment of you, your proposal and company. It will be in your best interests to present a warm, dignified demeanor during the meeting.

    The goal, at least for the initial meeting, should be to cultivate feelings of respect and trust between yourself and your Italian colleagues. Do everything you can to show how your proposal enhances their "bella figura." These measures become increasingly important as you further south in Italy.

    Whether you are worth knowing and doing business with may be more important than the actual details of your proposal. Still, it's important that you bring a carefully planned, logically organized proposal to the meeting.

    All presentation materials and packaging should be aesthetically pleasing. In this culture, it’s essential that things (as well as people) look good: appearance is frequently considered more important than "what’s inside."

    Italians are generally receptive to new ideas and concepts, although you’ll perceive little change in the opinions of the participants.

    Hierarchy is key, especially in larger traditional Italian businesses where the importance of the "cordata" (chain of command) cannot be underestimated. Moreover, a belief in status and hierarchy permeates all aspects of Italian society.

    There is tremendous respect for power, as well as age.

    There are not large numbers of women at the highest levels of business and government in Italy. Women may be treated with particular respect by Italian men, but not necessarily to the point of attaining equal recognition or authority in business settings.

    In business settings, the individual with authority rarely has to raise his or her voice. In most cases, however, Italians speak loudly, animatedly, and interruptions are to be expected.

    Italian communication styles tend to be eloquent, wordy, demonstrative, and emotional.

    Italians tend to be guided by their feelings. Consequently, make an effort to ensure that the Italians you do business with decide that they like and trust you.

    Italian businesspeople will often base their decisions on what has worked for others in similar situations--even when the two situations may not be directly related to each other. Consequently, if an idea does not correspond with an individual’s subjective experience or opinion, it is often rejected.

    Italians will look at the particulars of each situation rather than seek guidance from a law or policy to solve a problem.

    The Roman Catholic Church remains a strong influence in all areas of life.

    In Italian business culture, most decisions are made in “closed quarters” by various people, not just the highest figure in authority. There are, however, a large proportion of family-owned businesses here; in these organizations, the head of the family usually makes the final decision.

    Final decisions are slow and protracted, usually taking several months to a year.

    Be patient, since rushing or putting pressure on the decision-making process will be only an affront to Italian business protocol.

    Italians will sometimes make sudden, unexpected demands as a way of unsettling the other side. The use of this strategy does not automatically mean the negotiations will collapse.

    The relationships between families, friends, and neighbours are of crucial importance, especially in the south of Italy.

    Honour and personal pride are critical in this culture. Consequently, never insult the honour or personal pride of the Italians, their families, their towns, or their friends.

    Employees provide what their bosses expect of them, and the preparation of reports and plans can be time-consuming and even complicated. Compiling the information required in order to do what your boss expects from you, or creating consensus among your colleagues in order to accomplish a particular goal, can take a considerable amount of time. All of this occurs in a formal and sometimes very rigid hierarchical structure. Consequently, deadlines and efficiency are usually secondary to considerations such as attention to detail and logic.

    Complimenting and rewarding employees publicly is not done.

    The Italians, generally, can be receptive to criticism, as long as it is constructive. Try, however, not to be too blunt.

    In Italy, office and washroom doors often remain closed, so ensure that you knock before making an entrance. And when leaving a room, always close the door behind you.

    Dressing well is a priority here. Your clothing will be perceived as a reflection of your social standing and relative success.

    Generally, dress tends to be on the formal side for both men and women, whether in business or social situations. Do your best to make clothing choices that are both tasteful and stylish.

    While you should make every effort to look your best, you'll probably find it difficult to "out style" the Italians, especially the Milanese. Moreover, many consider Milan to be the very center of the fashion and design world.

    Men should wear expensive, sophisticated ties and well-cut dark suits.

    Men often wear accessories such as cuff links, tie clips, and stylish watches.

    Choose only quality fabrics, such as light-weight wools and silks.

    Women are advised to dress simply and with elegance. Accessorizing, which adds flair to even very simple outfits, is also widely practiced here.

    The most commonly worn colours are darker, subdued shades. Brighter colours should be reserved for accessories.

    Italian businesswomen sometimes wear more makeup and jewellery than American women.

    It is fashionable, especially in the summer, for women not to wear stockings.

    Perfumes and colognes are frequently used by both men and women.

    When you receive an invitation stating "informal" dress, don't assume that you'll be welcome arriving in a t-shirt and sweatpants. For a social gathering, informal more often than not means tastefully coordinated clothes, sometimes including a jacket and tie for men.

    An invitation stating "formal" dress usually means formal evening wear, which is very dressy by American standards.

    Shorts are unacceptable in public. Moreover, you may not be admitted into a church wearing shorts or even a sleeveless top.

    On the street, jeans and sneakers can be acceptable leisure wear, although this kind of clothing is often reserved for the gym or the beach.

    Summer and winter are the two main seasons in Italy. Summers can be hot and humid, especially in the south, while winters are damp and cool, particularly in the north. With the exception of the mountain regions, however, there is little snow.

    Follow Italian business protocol by waiting until you are invited before using first names.

    Especially between executives and subordinates, first names are not used in Italian business culture.

    You are expected to use "Signore" (Mr.) and "Signora" (Mrs.), plus the family name, when introduced to strangers.

    "Signorina" (Miss) is rarely used in Italy today, and is best avoided, unless a woman appears relatively young and you are unsure of her marital status.

    In situations where a title is known or used, the honorific plus the title is typically employed, with or without the name.

    A male university graduate is given the title of "Dottore", while the female equivalent is "Dottoressa." Even if you're only assuming a person is a graduate, it's usually appreciated if you use this title, as it confers respect.

    Italian business etiquette requires that personal and professional titles be used constantly, whether in casual conversation or formal writing. Consequently, ensure that you learn and use the titles of everyone you expect to encounter.

    If you have to summon a server or clerk, you may use the phrase "senta", which means, generally, "please come here."

    Klaus 07 Jun 2007, 05:03 - Verstoß melden
  • Italian culture & dress code

    In a country where police uniforms are designed by Armani, it isn't surprising that the women take dressing very seriously. When I moved to Italy, I desperately wanted to look like I fit in. If you're planning a trip to Italy soon, and don't want to be pegged as a tourist, there is one important thing to remember. The objective is not to blend in. Italian women take great pride in putting themselves together - the bella figura. To show off one's best features is the idea, so to blend in you must strive to stand out. Once you get your mind around this you can get on with it, but where do you begin to acquire that Italian flavor? In a nutshell, there are three key ingredients:

    1. Shoes- Nothing makes or breaks a look like footwear. Leave the tennis shoes for tennis and the walking shoes for the park. Spice comes from style not comfort. The hottest design this season conveniently incorporates pointed toes and high heels in the same shoe for maximum discomfort.

    When shoe designers were creating this spring's offering, it is doubtful they concerned themselves with practicality. If they had, they would not have manufactured four-inch heels for streets paved with cobbles. Credit goes to the women promenading in these shoes: not wincing, not complaining and not watching where they step. It is a wonder that they never seem to look down and never get their heels caught between the stones.

    When I asked Simona, who runs a pensione with her family, about shoes, a huge smile crossed her face. She proudly showed me one of her favorite pairs, which just happened to have pointed toes and high heels. I asked if they were comfortable and she immediately shook her head and the smile disappeared. When asked how she walks in them, she replied, "S-l-o-w-l-y."

    2. Denim. Jeans have been a wardrobe staple for years, but do you have the "new-aged" ones? "New" meaning trendy and "aged" meaning they have gone through some kind of ageing process - perhaps being chaffed with a cheese grater or sandblasted. They might also have been seasoned with a dash of bleach or a teaspoon of glitter.

    To modify your old jeans, go to your nearest piazza and scoot around on the steps for a related effect. Wait! When it comes to jeans, you can'tt forget the fit. The leg should start out a bit wide and taper near the calf. The jeans must actually become part of the body from there on up.

    Denim jackets and skirts are important too. The key is for the fabric to appear as if it has more years on it than you do.

    3. Crystal nose stud. What once was bizarre is now considered mainstream. This garnish is not what you would see in small-town America maybe; but, this is Rome, not Little Rock. Hip mommies have them. Simona has one and remarked that having it done did not hurt at all.

    Despite having these three basics, you still risk being taken as a tourist if you cling to certain routines from home. Painted fingernails mark you as a foreigner given that nail polish is only applied for very special occasions. Sunhats or baseball caps are dead give-aways, as is showing too much skin.

    "Italian women love to look sexy and it is very important for men to notice them on the street," says Simona. But this doesn't mean overt nakedness. Italian women infer a more subtle sexiness by keeping their bodies fit and wearing slim-cut clothing. Brassiere straps are a look that tries not to be one. The idea is to let your bra strap show but not look like you're trying. It can't be a dingy, elasticated, old-fashioned bra strap either. Care must be taken to purchase a new bra with transparent plastic straps. Yes, transparent, because you don't want what is supposed to show to show too much.

    Trends are fleeting and new ones will be sprouting up by the time you read this. So how, you may be wondering, do Italian women afford new wardrobes each season? Cristina, an Italian friend, explained that "it isn't necessary anymore to buy the expensive, designer brands." In fact, she said it is considered hip to wear "knock offs." She even heard a celebrity claiming on television that she had purchased counterfeit designs. Cristina added, "A lot of women work but still live at home, allowing them extra discretionary income"

    Babsy 07 Jun 2007, 05:04 - Verstoß melden
  • Oh Boy, please don't scare Michelle off!

    Peggy, where did you copy this never ending list before pasting it in here?
    Your description of the italian culture is nothing but 95% of the description of the european culture.
    From Holland, where I live for 10 years now, I watch a British (and I say British, not Italian, or French whatsoever) television program called, guess what, ta daaa: "Keeping up appearences".
    Let's be fair, I believe Michele was just afraid of her possibly first trip outside her home country, I don't think she asked for an advice because she heard that in Italy they kick people if they put their elbows on the dining table blunk
    So for you Michelle, please just be yourself and the italians will love you as you are, especialy if you have a french accent.

    Domenico 13 Mär 2008, 11:18 - Verstoß melden
  • Italian

    اكل خرة

    Franco 18 Jun 2008, 09:02 - Verstoß melden
  • Italian culture - making friends

    Just say you like the food and you'll be alright.
    At the dinner table say,
    "Hmmm, si mangia bene in Italia!" with enthusiasm and you will win many friends and strike up a lively conversation.

    Mark 29 Jun 2008, 10:03 - Verstoß melden
  • 4 Domenico... and Michelle

    > Oh Boy, please don't scare Michelle off!

    You're right... 100% right!

    Ale from Italy 21 Jul 2008, 05:48 - Verstoß melden
Diese Foren sind nicht mehr aktiv. Um eine neue Diskussion zu veröffentlichen, besuchen Sie bitte unser Italien Forum.