The language of communication
Business people should not rely on being able to communicate in English whether written or spoken. Major companies do have staff that is fluent in English, but you shouldn’t count on it. English is more widely spoken in the North than further South. Initial correspondence as well as product literature and tender documents should be translated into Italian by a professional and followed by e-mail, fax or by a telephone call.
When meeting people, greetings are enthusiastic and quite formal. You should wait until invited to move to a first name basis. A third party introduction is essential as Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust. Personal contacts have a huge influence in business relationships with partners in Italy.
Italians’ way of communicating
Italians are expressive communicators. They tend to be emotional and demonstrative often using facial and hand gestures in the conversation. It is common to be interrupted while speaking or for several people to speak at once. People in Italy often raise their voice to be heard over other speakers.
In the north of the country people are direct and tend to see time as money so they get down to business after only a brief period of social talk. In the south people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know people with whom they do business. It is important to allow your Italian business colleagues to set the pace for your negotiations. Never use high-pressure sales tactics in Italy. In the south of Italy punctuality is a vague concept above all.
Dressing well is a top priority in Italy. Men should wear dark colored conservative business suits. Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.