Italian Mentality

The central European mentality of northern Italians, for example in Genoa, Milan, Turin and Rome, differs markedly from the Mediterranean mentality of southern Italians from Naples and the Sicilians. Reliability and quality awareness are similarly pronounced in the north, while the focus of attention among southern Italians is more on quality of life. Punctuality also decreases from north to south in Italy. The different socioeconomic values are also reflected in the economic performance of the regions. There is a strong north-south divide. An exception in the south is the Ampulia region, which is very well positioned economically.

Italians have strong regional ties. You quickly break the ice with an appreciative remark about their place or region. Beyond technical exchanges, Italians especially appreciate conversations about art, music, design, architecture and film. If you can master these topics, you can score points with Italians.

People’s personalities and relationships matter more to Italians than technical knowledge. Senior executives are valued for their relationships and generalist thinking.

Family is important to Italians. They are warm and spontaneous, even in business matters. Emotions always play a role. Even factual topics can hardly be discussed without emotion. When talking to Italians, the most striking thing is the pronounced facial expressions and gestures with which they accompany their verbal communication. Italians underpin their statements in this way. Communication is more emotional and expressive than communication among Germans. However, typical Italian facial expressions and gestures are not easy to imitate. Italians also exchange many compliments, which are readily accepted. Please do not devalue compliments from Italians. Italians can take it as a rejection. In conversations, Italians are very attentive and like to ask interposed questions. Italians communicate at a short distance from each other and occasionally seek light physical contact with their conversation partners. If you deflect this, it comes across as distant.

Don’t be surprised if Italians address you as “dottore.” In Italy, every academic is addressed by this title. Italians like to distinguish themselves through gallant conversation and stylish dress. Communication in Italy is preferably oral.

Meetings with Italians proceed differently than people from other countries may be accustomed to. While Italians like to have an agenda for meetings, they don’t stick to it much. An agenda merely provides a starting point for meetings. Topics then evolve associatively over the course of meetings. In meetings among Italians, a high turnover of participants is common. Participants are called in on an ad hoc basis while others leave the meeting. Simultaneous discussion of different topics in ad hoc subgroups in the same meeting room is also not uncommon. There is a permanent flow in which solutions develop.

Italians are characterized by their talent for improvisation and creativity. They have a gift for skillfully combining function with design. Unlike concepts and designs in other countries, however, they often lack the last few percent that would lead to precision and perfection. Formal planning and organization are not among the strengths of Italians. In this respect, there are excellent complementary possibilities between Italians and Germans.

In agreements, a certain flexibility is important to Italians. Agreements with a larger scope are drawn up in writing with Italians, but what is important is how they are “lived”.

Even though the tone in Italian companies seems relaxed, they are run in a comparatively hierarchical, authoritarian and patriarchal manner. Decisions are made by the boss. Italians take more time for the personal management of their employees than managers from many other countries. They benefit from their preference for oral communication. Leadership, however, is less about formal target agreements and more about ongoing coordination.

Look also to the British mentality, the Swiss mentality, the Austrian mentality, the Spanish mentality, the Dutch mentality, the Scandinavian mentality, the French mentality, the Turkish mentality, the US-American mentality, the Latin American mentality, the Indian mentality, the Chinese mentality, the Japanese mentality, the Russian mentality, and the Arab mentality.


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