There are around 85 million Italian speakers across the world, including 65 million native speakers within the EU.
Italian is an official language in San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City.
It is a minority language in various countries across the world, including in the United States, Australia, and Malta.
- When McDonald’s opened in 1986 in Rome, food purists outside the restaurant gave away free spaghetti to remind people of their culinary heritage.
- Parmesan cheese originated in the area around Parma, Italy. Italians also created many other cheeses, including gorgonzola, mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta.
- The Italian alphabet only contains 21 letters and like other romance languages i.e. Latin, it also uses Roman characters but lacks the letters j, k, w, x and y. Words containing these letters mean they have been borrowed from another language.
- The standard dialect of Italian is based on the Tuscan dialect. However, there are several regional dialects in Italian, and some of them are so different from each other that they’re not mutually intelligible. In fact, some linguists have proposed that the Sicilian dialect should be classified as its own language.
- The colours of the Italian flag; green, white, and red all have a special meaning. Green represents hope, white represents faith, and red signals charity.
- Italy boasts the eighth largest economy in the world.
- The number 17 is deemed an unlucky number in Italy.
Italy has a similar regulatory framework to the UK and modern intellectual property protection practices. It has an appreciation for British professional services and technologies as well as quality consumer goods.
The strengths of the Italian market include modern infrastructure, internationalisation and entrepreneurship, strong manufacturing and innovation capability and a gateway to Mediterranean and Middle East markets.
Italy also hosts many trade exhibitions with global appeal and has one of the world’s highest rates of household wealth along with being one of the world’s top five tourist destinations. Payment terms in Italy are longer than in the UK and major challenges include a complex bureaucracy and regulations as well as a slow judicial system. There is also an element of unfair competition due to cases of bribery, corruption and tax evasion.
Typical exports from the UK to Italy are crude petroleum, basic chemicals, fertilisers and nitrogen compounds, plastics and synthetic rubber, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products and preparations and natural gas.
The Italian aerospace industry is the third largest in Europe and the seventh worldwide and the leading aerospace clusters are in Piedmont & Lombardy, Lazio & Umbria and Campania & Apulia.
Punctuality is not a priority for Italians, so be prepared for some delays when you start working with a new Italian partner. In particular, do not take a small delay as a lack of respect.
As a general guideline, work plans are often not taken too strictly so some flexibility can be built into a deadline. Where there is a deadline which must be firmly met, ensure to make it very clear to your Italian partner.
The ability to use the right language and the right gestures when communicating is very important, especially in Italy. Hand gestures and personal contact are a feature of Italian conversations and if you move away or keep your distance, this can be considered unfriendly. Italians are often guided by their feelings and trust is very important in establishing a good business relationship. If you try to create a sense of urgency during a meeting, then this can appear as rude or as a weakness. It is always favourable to make small talk and demonstrate your interest in Italian food, art, fashion or sports.
Business tip: Courtesy is a quality that is very much appreciated by the Italians, so ensure your conduct is always polished. There are specific etiquettes and protocols for individual social and business situations but remember that Italian codes of behaviour are less important than consideration.
Here are some basic phrases you should familiarise yourself with:
|Good afternoon||Buon pomeriggio|
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