By: Ng Scherly Hansopaheluwakan, S.E, MIB
Cross cultural awareness should improve the potential of having business relations in Italy.
Before starting doing business in Italy, it could be very important to look at the way in which meetings are conducted and Italian negotiation styles.
The ability to use the right language and the right gestures when communicating is very important, especially in Italy. Hand gestures and personal contacts are a feature of Italian conversations. If you move away or keep your distance, this can be considered unfriendly. Italians are often guided by their feelings and trust is very important in establishing a good business relationship. During a meeting, try not to create a sense of urgency since this can appear rude or a weakness. You should make small talk and demonstrate your interest in Italian food, art, fashion or sports.
According to a popular joke, to stop an Italian talking just block his/her hands. Italians, in fact, tend to gesture to emphasize their speech.They are also very tactile: upon meeting and leaving, embraces and “kisses” are common between close friends and relatives.
Eye contact is vital because it is considered to be a sign of interest, openness and frankness. On the other hand, looking away is not appropriate and would send negative signals.
Business cards can be exchanged at any time during a meeting. Italian business cards normally contain all important business information including: contact details, business position, education degree and/or professional titles.
Sometimes, such titles are crossed out when the card is handed over. This is to indicate that a less formal relationship has been established and the formal title is not required when addressing your Italian partner.
Personal relationships. Italians, generally establish relaxed personal relationships, often from the very first acquaintance. They also tend to be eloquent and curious. Questions about you, your family and your personal interests are all possible topics of conversation. Be aware, however, that this does not necessarily mean that you and your business have gained their trust. In fact, during the earlier contacts, the establishment of trust in a business relationship is as relevant as the presentation of a business project.
Management structure and style. Italian companies tend to have a pyramidal hierarchy; final decisions are centralised and taken by the persons positioned in the upper levels of the pyramid. Employees also have a great respect for their bosses and they tend to look for consensus with their colleagues.
Meetings are one of the best ways to get a deeper and common understanding of an issue rather than being the conclusive part of a decision making process. In this sense, meetings are more analysis-oriented than decision-oriented.
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