Building successful business relationships—Italy
Italy is an extremely diverse country that is divided into twenty distinct regions, each with its own customs, dialects, and traditions. It is important to understand this fact in order to be successful in Italy.
On the Hofstede scale, Italy scored high in Individualism; however, this does not imply that the wellbeing of the individual is placed above that of the group. It is instead a type of individualism that is centered on families. A highly integrated network of close friends and family members is one of its key characteristics. In business, a personal relationship with your colleagues is just as important as it is in collectivist countries, because Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust. All across the country you will find organizations owned by individuals and families. In order to effectively build a relationship with your Italian counterparts, you need to understand that family matters always take priority over work.
A large part of Italian communication is affective. There is little personal space during conversation, with a free flow of emotions, hand gestures, and change in intonation. You may be asked personal questions when getting to know your colleagues, for example, about your family, household, and plans for the future. Establishing a solid relationship that is based on trust is extremely important, and as a result, negotiations are lengthy. Typically, meetings are slow and take place over a long period of time. Be sure to allow for many breaks. Demonstrating a sense of urgency can be taken as a sign of weakness or impatience.
Although the Italian concept of time is relaxed, you should avoid taking personal phone calls during business events. As a foreigner, you are expected to be punctual; however your host may not arrive on time. Make an effort to avoid displaying dissatisfaction if your counterpart is late. Do not rush your colleagues; relationships take time, and so should your business.