Six Tips for Business Etiquette in Italy


Business etiquette provides a code of behavior that recalls the correct rules of an honest and genuine professional relationship. I have been to Italy nine times for both business and leisure. From servicing the Italian dance market, attending trade shows, and aligning manufacturers to cycling from Rome to Florence and hiking Mount Etna. I have experienced all that Italy has to offer.

Six tips for business etiquette in Italy that I have experienced with the help of local business man, Presutti:

Tip #1: Punctuality 

While Presutti accepts that being on time is one of the first rules of global business etiquette he admits that Italy has fallen victim to a “slapdash attitude” towards punctuality, even among professionals. “Meetings begin punctually late: they start late and they finish late”.

Tip #2: Watch Your Language

It is important to use the right language with your superiors. Above all, you should remember the difference between the formal “you”, “lei”, and the informal “you”, “tu”. “There are very precise rules, according to hierarchical relationships, and in business etiquette, the rule of ‘lei’ apply.” However, Presutti acknowledges that there are situations in business when these rules are relaxed.

Tip #3: Kiss or Handshake? 

You may be used to greeting your Italian friends with a traditional peck on both cheeks, but in the workplace, this kind of behaviour should be strictly avoided. Presutti told me that “In terms of business etiquette, mawkishness, hugs, and kisses are anything but acceptable. A good old-fashioned handshake will do just fine” he says.

Tip #4: It's all About the Food

It probably comes as no surprise that food and business go hand in hand in Italy. “Often in Italy the most important business is concluded at table over a glass of wine or good food,” says Presutti. “Dining with a client or a supplier is the best way to make their acquaintance and strike up a fruitful and useful business relationship”.

Tip #5: Be Spontaneous

In Italy business meetings are more spontaneous and emotions tend to come to the fore, according to Presutti. “In Italian business meetings, space is also given for improvisation and ideas that are formed on the spot”.

Tip #6: Dress to Impress

“L’abito non farebbe il monaco”; the habit doesn’t make the priest. According to an Italian proverb – but this is incorrect, according to Presutti. “Whoever is equipped with knowledge of manners and business etiquette knows that elegance and style are fundamental elements".

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