Saturday, July 26, 2014

Italian Business and Dining Etiquette

Food and business go hand in hand in Italy, and in "Little Italy."
Congratulations, you’ve just been offered the role of your dreams in an Italian company.

Now for the hard part: adjusting to a new form of business etiquette.

To help you along the way, The Local spoke to Alberto Presutti, a Florence-based Italian etiquette expert who offers courses on anything etiquette-related from doing business to dining.

Throughout his career Presutti – who is also a poet – has made numerous television appearances on RAI and Sky and is often interviewed by the Italian press.

Ever since the Italian writer Monsignor Giovanni Della Casa published his treatise on polite behavior in the 16th century, etiquette has become an important part of Italian society.

Centuries later, Presutti is convinced that etiquette still holds the key to "an effective communication between each one of us".
"Table manners in Italy are formal; rarely do Italians share food from their plates. In a restaurant, be formal and polite with your waiter—no calling across the room for attention. Italians do not have a culture of sipping cocktails or chugging pitchers of beer. Wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks are almost always consumed as part of a meal. Public drunkenness is abhorred. Smoking has been banned in all public establishments, much like in the United States. Wiping your bowl clean with a (small) piece of bread is usually considered a sign of appreciation, not bad manners. Spaghetti should be eaten with a fork only, although a little help from a spoon won't horrify locals the way cutting spaghetti into little pieces might. Order your espresso (Italians don't usually drink cappuccino after breakfast time) after dessert, not with it. Don't ask for a doggy bag. In self-service bars and cafés it's good manners to clean your table before you leave." From Fodors

6 Tips for Italian Business Etiquette:

1. Punctuality. While Presutti accepts that being on time is one of the first rules of global business etiquette he admits that Italy has fallen victim to a “slapdash attitude” towards punctuality, even among professionals. “Meetings begin punctually late: they start late and they finish late,” he says.

2. Watch your language. In Italy it’s very important to use the right language with your superiors, warns Presutti. Above all, you should remember the difference between the polite you (“Lei”) and the informal “Tu”. “There are very precise rules, according to hierarchical relationships, and in business etiquette, the rule of ‘Lei’ applies.” However, he acknowledges that there are moments and situations in business when these rules are relaxed.

3. Kiss or handshake? You may be used to greeting your Italian chums with a traditional peck on both cheeks but in the workplace this kind of behaviour should be strictly avoided. “In terms of business etiquette at a place of work, mawkishness, hugs and kisses are anything but acceptable,” warns Presutti. Business etiquette provides a code of behaviour that recalls the correct rules of an honest and genuine professional relationship." A good old-fashioned handshake will do just fine, he says.
“Dining with a client or a supplier is the best way to make their acquaintance and strike up a fruitful and useful business relationship.” Alberto Presutti

4. It's all about the food. It will probably come as no surprise that food and business go hand in hand in Italy. “Often in Italy the most important business is concluded at table over a glass of wine or good food,” says Presutti. “Dining with a client or a supplier is the best way to make their acquaintance and strike up a fruitful and useful business relationship.”

5. Be spontaneous. While in England, formality and following protocol are paramount, in Italy business meetings are more spontaneous and emotions tend to come to the fore, according to Presutti. “In Italian business meetings, space is also given to improvisation and to ideas that are formed on the spot.”

6. Dress to impress. “L’abito non farebbe il monaco” (The habit doesn’t make the priest), according to an Italian proverb – but this is incorrect, according to Presutti. “Because whoever is equipped with a good knowledge of manners and business etiquette knows that elegance and style are fundamental elements."

From an article originally published in The Local