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The primary means of communication is the telephone, which is preferred over letters or emails, which often receive a response with a significant delay. Face-to-face meetings are preferred, but as a result of the pandemic, video conferences have also become part of the meetings. The first contact is formal and communication in Italian is essential. Good looks, good impression and polite demeanor are key. While the north is more formal and culturally closer to Central Europe, the south is more emotional and personal. Italians speak and act quickly, but time is a relatively flexible quantity.
- Behealthybytomorrow: Overview of Italy, including popular places to visit, UNESCO World Heritage List, climate, geography and travel advice.
Italians are friendly and talkative, but when establishing a new business relationship, a formal approach and addressing by surname, often by title, is expected. Negotiations can gradually move to a personal level, but it is necessary that the negotiator be invited to do so. It is advisable to start the conversation with general topics. Establishing more permanent ties requires respect for the partner’s position and the creation of trust. It is necessary to be flexible, for example in matters of punctuality of local partners. For a foreign partner, punctuality is considered part of his professionalism, as is appropriate clothing. Negotiations can be time-consuming, and initially it may be more important to create bonds than to negotiate specific terms. Face-to-face meetings are preferred, but the pandemic has also made online meetings an acceptable form.
When contacting us for the first time, we recommend that you call first and only then send an email and then, if necessary, verify its receipt by phone after some time. Italians prefer face-to-face meetings and it should be taken into account that many people do not speak English. The potential partner needs to be verified in advance, which is possible for a fee through the Italian commercial register of companies.
The economic section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Italy is available to Czech businessmen, which organizes and coordinates programs to support the economic activities of the Czech Republic in Italy as part of economic diplomacy projects and assists in establishing business relations between Italy and the Czech Republic. The Consulate General operates in Milan.
Assistance services to entrepreneurs are also provided by the foreign office of the PaulTrade Export Support Agency in Milan. It provides consultations in the field of business, establishment of a company, or conducts marketing market research, and can also search for suitable business partners and possibly verify their interest in the offered product. PaulTrade also focuses on economic presentation with state support at selected exhibition events.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic runs the Client Center for Export and prepares a catalog of export services that it provides to Czech companies in all territories under the jurisdiction of Czech embassies. Individual Czech companies can therefore contact the embassy with questions regarding, for example, initial export consultation and preparation of negotiations in the given country, evaluation of the current economic situation in the given territory, assistance in mediating contacts, obtaining information from local state or regional authorities and institutions, and assistance in dealing with them.
Business meetings are an essential part of developing contacts and punctuality is automatically expected from foreigners. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that local partners are often not punctual. Italians prefer dealing with company management. The negotiation process can be lengthy and not completely systematic, the preferred language is Italian. A formal address and demeanor is important for the beginning of the meeting, as is formal clothing. The first local partner should move to informal negotiations. Despite the willingness to negotiate and negotiate, there is a willingness to compromise.
In a business meeting, it pays to let Italian customers do the talking at first, as too much directness of a business conversation can seem austere and terse. This does not correspond to the Italian culture, where openness and relaxation are preferred after creating an atmosphere of trust.
Italy always sets fashion trends, and Italian retailers follow suit. At first glance, you can recognize them by their high-quality and perfectly polished shoes, tie and perfectly fitting suit. They judge a new business partner accordingly. They are known for their intense pressure on low prices, which are among the lowest within the EU countries. An Italian never accepts the first offer. You are expected to leave room for the discount. If you don’t, the Italian will consider you a bad businessman and avoid doing business with you.
Do not underestimate the time spent preparing your marketing materials and website at least in English, ideally in Italian. In Italy, it is necessary to have an accurate, concise, well-crafted and original corporate presentation prepared that will impress. Catalogs and promotional materials must be of good quality, clear and not overloaded with text.
Customs in business social relations in Italy do not differ much from customs in the Czech Republic. Merchants in Italy appreciate a quick response to their inquiries and expect their correspondence to be responded to at least with an acknowledgment of receipt. On the part of the Italian partners, one must expect an occasional delay. Compared to the Czechs, Italians move more quickly to informal addressing by name and to tapping. However, the first contacts are usually formal, with Italians taking care to use academic titles (for university students, the traditional address is “Dottore” in the case of graduates of technical schools, “Ingegnere”) and job functions, which distinguish the hierarchical position of company employees (e.g. Direttore or Presidente).. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about Italy culture and traditions.
Avoid controversial topics such as the political or economic situation. Conversely, Italians will appreciate positive comments about Italian art, culture, style, football, cuisine or music.
The official language of Italy is Italian and knowledge of it is expected and essential for successful negotiations. Italians appreciate it if there is someone in the company with whom they can communicate in their language. Knowledge of English can be found in larger companies with an international reach. German is widely spoken near the borders with Austria and Germany, while French is spoken near the French borders.
Normal working hours in Italy start around 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., followed by a lunch break, and continue from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Due to almost national holidays, large industrial enterprises, offices, department stores and various establishments serving citizens. Many private businesses and smaller shops have limited opening hours.
We recommend getting to know the Italian market in great detail, which is relatively saturated, and the specifics of individual regions. Due to regional differences, it is necessary to consider where the product or offered service can be applied.
It is necessary to highlight the qualities of the offered product. To begin with, it is strategic to use the services of sales representatives who know the local markets and are connected to customers. Sales representatives play a key role in the Italian economy and, according to estimates by the National Federation of Associations of Sales Agents and Representatives (FNAARC), the volume of contracts concluded thanks to the activities of sales representatives reaches up to 70% of GDP. You can search for a suitable sales representative according to the type of product either on the website of one of the largest agencies, Agent 321, or by attending a sales representative fair. More detailed information can be provided to Czech companies by the foreign office of PaulTrade in Milan or the economic section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Rome.
List of public holidays
January 1 – New Year
January 6 – Three Kings
April 25 – Liberation Day
May 1 – Labor Day
June 2 – Founding of the Italian Republic
August 15 – Ascension November 1 – All Saints’ Day
December 8 – Immaculate Conception
December 25 and 26 – Christmas holidays
In individual Italian cities, church holidays dedicated to the patrons of the given city are also celebrated (work activities are limited, offices are closed):
Milan – St. Ambrose – December 7
Florence – St. Jan – June 24
Rome – St. Peter and St. Pavel – June 29
Naples – St. Gennaro – September 19