Men in suits shaking hands cartoon

Business etiquette in Italy

Knowing about business etiquette in Italy can make a difference. So, if you aspire to make a business appointment with Italians or expand your knowledge about their culture, this post is for you.

Cordiality is a trait that characterizes most Italians. They are also talkative, expressive, and very attached to the family environment.

Business with Italians: basic manners you should know while doing business with Italians

For Italians, politeness and good manners are fundamental to establishing a friendly or business relationship. A respectful and kind tone is essential for good negotiation or commercial exchange.

Italians are usually very close physically in their dealings. For example, a good handshake is always well received and generates greater confidence.

Two businessmen shaking hands cartoon

You will frequently find companies led by family clans. The leadership of family members is evident and respected. Therefore, many times business reunions will involve speaking to not only partners but family members.

The conversations that take place before the business reunion starts are essential to ensure the success of the meeting. Spontaneity and kindness must be present without losing the respectful tone between parties. Therefore, you will hear the term “Dottore” to address others at the reunion. It is a respectful way to address each other. However, during the conversation, your interlocutor may invite you to use a more personal approach. In this case, using the first name would be ok.

However, it is good to remember that Italians are very effusive. Hand gestures are part of their way of speaking. And the tone of voice is high when they get excited or warm up in a conversation.

The conversation topics can be as diverse as the participants want. You can share your opinions about history, cuisine, art, museums, and sports. It is a no-brainer to avoid sensitive matters. Some common sense would get you on track concerning choosing topics.

Punctuality is not a very characteristic trait of Italians. But for a business meeting, you should arrive on time. It is even common to confirm meetings days in advance.

Dress is a key plus in the business world. For Italians, the outfit you choose is a sign of category and security. It is even considered a sign of success. A modern and elegant suit with a classic touch is a great choice. Dark colors are the most used for formal and business occasions. And women wear modestly cut dresses together with sober and elegant accessories.

Good command of the language is essential when it comes to business. There are many “dialects” in Italy (languages that sprung out from Latin independently from standard Italian). But in a business environment, standard Italian always prevails. Sometimes English is an alternative. But Italians are famous for not being proficient in English. So, do not rely too hard on it.

Italians are negotiators. It seems to be part of their culture. So, be forewarned and not lose control of a proposal. They are skilled at bargaining and can subtly gain an advantage in a business deal. But on the other hand, they like quality products and services.

Negotiations with Italians usually take some time. So, do not expect quick decisions despite how dynamic the meeting may seem. The legal system and bureaucracy often set the pace for negotiations.

Business deals are usually closed while having a meal. Italians are food lovers, so any occasion is ideal for eating outdoors. At the table, it’s ok to refine the details of the business deal.

A very appreciated act of courtesy among Italians is to give a gift almost at the end of the business meeting. Be sure to choose quality when giving a gift.

We hope these brief suggestions help you in your next business meetings. Good command of basic Italian is always a must. So, you may also benefit from checking into our recommended Italian course. You can test drive it for free for 7-days. Click here to read more about it.

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  1. Italy, in my opinion, is the most back-breaking country for doing business. There are so many companies led by family clans. And that makes it hard to get a good deal for your company. Italians are also negotiators. It seems embedded in their culture. And they take pride in haggling down the price of everything. So, for those that are not used to this culture, hold on!

  2. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips when doing business with Italians. My in-laws are Italian, and you have certainly hit the nail on the head. They are very family oriented, they love food, and their discussions can get pretty heated. Plus, they take great pride in getting the best deal! Your tips are helpful to anyone not familiar with Italian culture.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment and for confirming the suggestions given here. All the best to you and your in-laws. 🙂

  3. I was thinking of studying more of the Italian language (I only know a few words) in the event that I do business with them down the line. This guide would be an added touch along the way. You’re doing a great service to many entrepreneurs with your site. So, you also deserve a virtual handshake. Grazie!

  4. Giving a gift at the end of a business meeting seems to be a good idea. But many of us overlook it and even discourage the move.

    So, your post has been helpful. Business etiquette is not always intuitive. And your post has given some perspective on approaching Italian families in business. Thanks a lot!

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