Business in Italy: Learn a Few Choice Phrases
The ethos of Italian business is family-focused. Management structures are usually hierarchical, and most decisions are made at levels above middle management. Take time to find out at an early stage in your business relationship where the real decisions will be made. This is easier to accomplish if you can understand and utilize a few Italian phrases, spoken in their tongue.
Business Dealings in Italy
Traveling to foreign countries to conduct business is often daunting. This is especially true when you don’t speak the language. Italians are warm and accommodating, and they welcome foreigners (stranieri) openly. They will welcome your attempts to speak to them in their native tongue, and business will be conducted more easily if you understand and use a few business phrases in Italian.
Business in Italy – Phrases to Know:
Scusi, un informazione, per favore.
Excuse me; I need some information, please.
In any language, business negotiations must be fully understood by all the parties involved. If you don’t have sufficient information with which to make a decision, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for more.
If you do not have all the facts you need before making a decision, you may end up making an unwise business decision. This would not bode well for your future dealings with your employer.
siete aperti a qualche tipo di contrattazione?
Are you open to negotiation?
This may be used early or later in a negotiation. Sometimes, Italians like to throw a virtual curve ball at the last minute, to test your commitment. It is important to find out ahead of time how open your Italian colleagues are to negotiation.
Può l’ufficio commerciale occuparsi della pubblicità?
Can we have marketing create the ad?
This is a straightforward request, but it will mean more if you speak it in the language of your host.
Ottimo! Salute allora, al nostro nuovo progetto!
Excellent! Cheers then, to our new project!
This is used after the negotiations are complete, and the project is a “go” from both sides. Practice it a bit, so it will sound natural when you use it.
Using the Right Gestures and Language
For Business in Italy, using the proper gestures and language in communication is quite important.
Do not move away from advances; they may consider you unfriendly. Trust is important to establish a good working relationship.
Deals are made slowly, so avoid showing a sense of urgency. This is seen as a weakness in Italy. If your hosts are making small talk, then allow that. Make small talk with them, covering topics like art, food, sports or fashion. Do not introduce Italian politics or religion into the conversations.
Communicating Face to Face
Eye contact is important in Italy. It shows frankness, interest and openness. Looking away should be avoided, since it sends negative signals to your hosts.
English is used most commonly in business, along with Italian and some French and German.
Business in Italy: Meeting Agendas
Agendas in business meetings are quite flexible in Italy. All meeting members may take an active role and interrupt the flow of conversation. There are frequent side conversations, as well. During a meeting, it is not unusual for some delegates to leave while new ones arrive to join into the conversations with gusto. Use the Italian phrases you know well and for other comments, stick to English.
And for the language? Well, this was a big problem for me, and who knows, maybe it is a problem for you? I know I wanted my best to try to solve it and that is when I found this amazing software, and they even have a free trial! I’d check it out if you have time. Italian is such a beautiful language, steeped in the history of Italy.
I remember once I had to travel to Milan to meet a business partner, someone whom I consider a close friend. We were working on a large printout for a brand we both work with. We were sitting in a beautiful cafe outside of the Duomo having an espresso and a croissant, really just chatting about families.
Then someone started walking over, impeccable suit, like cut out of a magazine, and totally embraced my friend like they’ve been friends for 30 years! They started talking in rapid Italian, no way I could catch a single word. It felt like minutes before I was even acknowdlged (which made them feel very bad).
Turns out that this “new” person to our snack was just a friend who happened to be in Milan and had just decided to go out for a walk! But having just a little understanding of Italian customs goes a long way.
Business in Italy can be a lot of fun too and it definitely helps knowing some important phrases!