Cultural achievement is Italy's greatest source of pride.
Inventiveness, imagination, intelligence and education are prized.
Personal relations are scrupulously maintained with loyalty highly
valued, especially in families. The family is the most important
affiliation in Italy.
Meeting and Greeting
- When being introduced during a business or social meeting,
shake hands with everyone present -- men, women and children.
Shake hands again when leaving.
- Ladies should extend their hand first to men.
- Friends may greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks.
Names and Titles
- Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically
invited by your Italian host or colleagues to use their first
- Females almost always use their maiden name, especially in
business and on legal documents. They generally use their married
names or a combination of their married names and maiden names
outside of business.
- Maintain eye contact while talking. Otherwise Italians might
think you are hiding something.
- To beckon a waiter or waitress raise your index finger and
make eye contact.
- Italians are known for using the most body language of all
- Italians take punctuality for business meetings very seriously
and expect that you will do likewise; call with an explanation if
you are delayed. Deliberate lateness in business is viewed as
- Business cards are used only in business, not socially, unless
- Business cards are exchanged only at the first meeting and
should be handed to recipients, not tossed at them. Do not give a
business card to the same person more than once.
- Present a business card to each person attending a meeting.
- When receiving a business card, look at the name and title
carefully, then set it on the table in front of you or in your
- English is quite common in business, but check ahead of time
to find out if an interpreter is necessary.
- Generally, business discussions begin after a few minutes of
- Establish personal relationships with Italians. Italians like
to deal with people they know and trust. They also tend to believe
that work should not be a burden or taken too seriously.
- Relationships must be profitable and mutually beneficial to
gain total cooperation.
- Pragmatism and talent for improvisation are considered keys to
success. Protocol, rules and organization are often ignored.
- Negotiations usually take time and patience. Donít rush them.
Italians may misinterpret this as a weakness.
- Italian companies are fast to identify and exploit a niche
without doing an in-depth study. Strategic plans are rarely
written and are never long term.
- Meeting style is unstructured and informal. Formal
presentations are not common.
- Business decisions are often made and agreed to privately
before meetings. The purpose of a meeting is often to evaluate the
mood, sense support and test water -- not to make decisions.
- Meetings may be staged to exhibit eloquence, personality and
- Decisions that are made and agreed to may never be
- Do not call an Italian business person at home unless it is an
Dining and Entertainment
- Business entertainment is generally done at lunch or dinner in
- Dinner entertainment is more of a social occasion to get to
know people. Business discussions are usually very limited.
- If you invite, you pay for the meal.
- Business may be discussed at a breakfast meeting, but it is
- Cocktails are not common in Italy. Drinking without eating is
rare. Hard drinking is unusual and not appreciated. Even mild
intoxication is considered ill-mannered. Women drink very little
- At formal occasions, women generally do not propose toasts.
- Italians do not use bread plates. Break bread and place it
next to your plate on the table.
- Ask for your check when you are finished eating. It may not be
brought to you until you ask.
- Do not leave the table until everyone is finished.
- Roll pasta with your fork on the sides of your pasta plate.
Donít roll pasta on your spoon.
- Keep both hands above the table during dinner -- never on your
lap. Do not put your elbows on the table.
- Use your knife (not your fingers) to pick up pieces of cheese
to put them on your bread or cracker.
- Eat fruit with a fruit knife and fork, except for grapes and
- When finished eating, place knife and fork (tines up) side by
side on the plate at the 5:25 position. The fork should be on the
left and the knife should be on the right with the blade of the
knife facing the fork.
- Keep your wineglass almost full if you don't want a refill.
- Burping is considered extremely vulgar.
- When invited to a home, guests arrive 15 to 30 minutes after
the stated time.
- Allow hostess to begin eating before guests.
- Wait for hostess to offer second helping.
- Italians are proud of their homes and love to give tours. Feel
free to ask for a tour when invited into someone's home.
- Italy is a major center of European fashion. Italians are
chic. Even people in small towns spend a great deal of money on
their wardrobes and dress well at all times.
- Dress elegantly but conservatively.
- Jackets and ties are required in better restaurants.
- Old, torn, dirty clothing are seldom seen and not appreciated.
- Men and women dress conservatively and formally for business
(men: suits and ties; women: dresses or suits). Women should wear
- Italians are very generous gift givers. You may be very
embarrassed if you give a "cheap" or practical gift.
- Gifts should be beautifully wrapped.
- Gifts are opened in front of the giver when received.
- Gifts are generally not exchanged at initial business
meetings, however, having a gift in your briefcase in case your
Italian hosts give you one is recommended.
- Gifts may be exchanged at the end of negotiations, but not
- High quality liquor, gifts with company logos, desk
accessories, music and books are appreciated.
- When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for
the host or hostess.
- Send flowers or a gift to the host's home the day of or the
day after a party.
- Give chocolates, flowers (an uneven number) and pastries.
- Chrysanthemums are a symbol of death, red roses are symbols of
love or passion.
- Donít give knives or scissors, which are considered bad luck.
- Do not wrap a gift in black with gold ribbon, which symbolizes
- Italians are open, curious and tolerant of othersí uniqueness
and manners. They will tolerate lateness, inefficiency and sincere
mistakes, but dislike arrogance and rudeness.
- Italians enjoy a lot of good humor and can be
- Send a thank you note after being entertained or given a gift.
- Stand when an older person enters the room.
- Give attention to or bring a small gift for children.
- Cover your mouth if you must yawn, but try not to yawn.
- Men should always remove their hats when entering a building.
- Donít remove your shoes in public.
- Refrain from asking personal questions.
Especially for Women
- Foreign women can do business without great difficulty in
Italy. Being a woman may even be considered an advantage in some
- Only 38% of Italian women under 65 are in the labor market --
one of the lowest percentages in Western Europe. Few Italian women
hold managerial positions.
- The Italians are generally not inhibited when interacting with
the opposite sex. Flirtation is part of the spirit of life in
- Do not pour wine if you are a guest. This is considered
"unfeminine" by Italians.