In the Netherlands we often laugh a bit about things that affect our national culture. Italians have no problem with that. On the contrary, there it is appreciated if you master the unwritten rules a little and participate in the rituals that are impossible to save from Italian culture.
You will see: you will get compliments in return. As for your attempts to speak Italian, however flawed. Below are a few noteworthy points about Italian culture to keep in mind during your next visit to Italy.
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Italy is the sixth economic power in the world and the third in Europe. If Italian culture was a little more organized, Italy would probably be even higher in this ranking. But then, would it still be Italy? The gross domestic product amounts to 1.200 billion euros.
Small and medium-sized companies (the Italian SMEs) in particular are responsible for the strong economic strength of the country. These companies are often family-owned and family members also run the business.
The current concerns are also so great because of the size of the economy. Italy's problem is the unacceptably high government debt. A country like Italy should not go bankrupt. The rest of Europe would then immediately follow.
In Italy, guests are always greeted first and any strangers are quickly introduced. Usually by shaking hands. Good morning (good day) or good evening (good evening, from about three in the afternoon, because they don't have a real word for 'good afternoon') is the most formal form of greeting. In an informal setting you can safely use 'ciao'.
bere un caffe
The coffee is inextricably linked to Italian culture. So don't you dare not participate fully in one of the at least 150.000 coffee bars in the country.
An Italian is always a bit restless until the fresh cup of 'caffè' is pushed in front of his nose. Only then can the conversation start, but make no mistake, it will be over within 2 minutes because then the coffee will be gone and normal life will start again. A second cup of coffee is something you don't see very often in Italy.
Bubbling (a appetizer) is a real party in Turin and Milan. These cities are known for pub owners going out of their way to offer snacks with drinks in countless shapes and in abundance.
In many places, eating snacks can satisfy the hunger to such an extent that eating afterwards is no longer necessary. This is partly why the aperitif extremely popular with young people.
As we constantly talk about the weather here, that's what Italians always talk about eten. Taking time for food is a basic principle for Italians. You live to eat, not the other way around, something the Dutch certainly often think differently.
A Dutch manager once made a dramatic mistake at her company's Italian branch by organizing a 'working lunch' with sandwiches, milk and coffee.
Something that was absolutely not appreciated. Because you shouldn't be doing anything else while eating. Not reading the newspaper or continuing to work.
To get angry actually not possible in Italy. Sometimes it seems that way, but most of the time it's just a show and has nothing to do with being really angry. It's all about 'fare la bella figura'.
Always remain courteous and friendly and sprinkle some compliments in a way that we sometimes find a bit exaggerated in the low countries. You will see: it really works.
Bella figura culture
Dressing well is important for the Italian and part of the beautiful figure-culture. In order to score, you should therefore not skimp on the suit, the shirt and certainly not the shoes that should be well polished and absolutely not kicked off.
You very rarely see old and dirty clothes. Oddly enough, shoe shiners are virtually impossible to find in centers like Milan and Rome. That means cleaning at home or in the hotel itself.
More and more Italians are realizing that speaking English opens up a world of possibilities for them. In the meantime, Italy is also bursting with language schools.
Although Italy is known as a country where 'no one' speaks English, this is not the case for the younger generations. Since the 80s, everyone has had English at school and should be able to get by with that.
What you do see is that Italy is much less focused on foreign countries than the Netherlands. Also in the agricultural (holiday) regions, command of English lags behind that of the large cities. But then again, why should you if you live in Italy?
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About 30% of the Italian economy takes place under the table. Undeclared work is an integral part of Italy and the reason some have become particularly wealthy.
If everything went by the book in southern Italy (one study showed), the region would be just as rich as the north. Now a lot of money disappears into the hands of, among others, the mafia.
Contracting, selling, lobbying, etc.
Selling products or services in Italy requires following a number of rules that you may not be used to in your own country.
A clear difference when drawing up a sales contract is the payment term. Smooth payment processing is a rarity in Italian business. Hey, wait a minute. We have that in the Netherlands too! Also see: doing business in Italy.
Companies operating in the south of Italy are sometimes confronted by mafiosi who want protection money. If a percentage of the turnover or a fixed amount goes to the protégés, nothing happens. If that doesn't happen, you as a farmer could find your livestock poisoned, not get any customers, or the farm could be damaged, set on fire or something like that.
But apart from a problem of (South) Italy, the mafia also a European problem. The crime organization has its branches in almost all countries. In the Netherlands, grateful use is made of the infrastructure as the gateway to Europe.
Travel and unwritten traffic rules
Italians are crazy about cars and therefore also crazy about it traffic. Speeding on the highway is standard and if you don't turn right in time to let cars pass, high beams will make that clear.
Where in the Netherlands or Belgium there are two lanes and at a traffic light there are also 2 cars in the front row, in Italy there are 3 and sometimes 4. Do you want to experience something exciting? then tear with you rental car through Naples or Palermo!
The managers of the Dutch airline KLM would have been annoyed when they collaborated with the Italian airline Alitalia: the mobile calling behavior of their Italian partners.
The alliance, which should have resulted in a merger, no longer exists (partly because of this?). Cell phones are absolutely sacred in Italy and basically don't go off. Mobile phone ownership and calling minutes are by far the highest across Europe in Italy.
Italy has many national, local and regional Holidays. Offices and shops are often closed. In addition, a large number of Italians go on holiday in August.
Round 'Ferragosto' (August 15) many cities are even 'empty' when the Italians flock to holiday homes by the sea. Offices and shops are therefore closed in many places outside the tourist centers by the sea and lakes.
Also in major cities such as Milan, Turin, Bologna, Verona and Florence, many shops and sometimes even museums are closed.
More about Italian culture
Do you want to know more about Italian culture? Then read the articles about Italian culture about which we write in our Italy blog.
Or delve into the books about Italian culture from this top 40 best books about Italy.