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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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Italy. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Italy and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

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