Successful Entertaining in Italy

Before embarking on any important business project, Italians feel the need to really know the people they are going to do business with on a personal level.

The importance placed upon inter-personal relationships obviously leads to a great weight being placed upon business entertaining.

Whoever invites usually settles the bill — although a visiting female business manager may find they have to argue very strongly if they are going to convince their male Italian guests to allow a woman to pay.

Do not be over eager to introduce business topics into the mealtime discussions. Talk may come around to business but is more likely to be about non-commercial issues. Favoured topics of conversation might be food, wine, the regions of Italy (and their specialities) and football.

The main meal of the day tends to be lunch and you are much more likely to be invited out for lunch than dinner. (Dinner often starts very late by the standards of many other cultures — as late as 10pm or 11pm.) Lunch can often be a long and elaborate meal with many courses — a starter, followed by soup, a pasta or rice dish, the main meat or fish dish, and then desert or cheese. The meal will be finished off with a small cup of strong black coffee. Wine will probably be served with the meal although you should not drink too much as inebriation is frowned upon.

Although a service charge of 15% is invariably added to the bill, it is customary to add an extra tip as well — 10%

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Italy

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Despite Italy’s much publicised economic difficulties, following the global banking crisis, it remains a vibrant and attractive economy which not only has an active export base but which is also open to new products and new ideas from abroad. Doing business in Italy has proved highly successful for scores of global companies – and will continue to do so as the country continues to grow at a steady rate.

Italy has a well-educated and discerning consumer base as well as a vibrant manufacturing sector with thousands of SME’s producing a wide range of high-quality goods across a number of sectors. Both the Italian consumer base and SME companies need new products and services and are actively looking to work with international partners who can add value to their lives. If you are not doing business in Italy at the moment, you should start to scan the market for opportunities as soon as possible.

Italy represents an attractive opportunity but that does not mean everything will be plain sailing when you get there. Like all countries, Italy has a distinct and unique business culture. Don’t expect business in Italy to function like things do ‘back home’.

Italian business is very relationship oriented and who you know is incredibly important. How are you going to make those all-important first connections and, when you meet them, how will you make a good impression? Are you speaking to the right person within a prospect organisation? How effectively will you be able to communicate your ideas and what are the ‘hot-buttons’ in Italy? These issues could mean the difference between success and failure.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Italian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips