Working with people from Italy

Written by Iris Brandsteder November 2013. Posted in Int. Skills, Working with people

Working with people from Italy

The Italian Republic (Repubblica Italia) is a lovely country in the south of Europe. Its neighbours are France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia, all in the North. The rest of the country is surrounded by sea and islands. The main language spoken is Italian and only 29% of the population speaks proper English.

Charm and formal elegance are very important to the Italians. They have difficulty saying “no” directly, because they tend to be very warm, hospital, human and flexible. Except for the language barrier,  Italians generally have a very open attitude toward foreigners and socialising is an important aspect to keep in mind if you want to work successfully with them.

The differences between working in Italy and in the Netherlands include things like the way the hierarchy is structured. Italians do respect meeting agendas, but do not consider them as sacred as the Dutch think they are. If necessary, points that had been settled earlier can be re-discussed. Everybody’s views are respected but attention should be paid to the hierarchy. Since the relationship between the employer and the employee in Italy is warmer than we are used to in the Netherlands, the existing hierarchy could be surprising. There is more loyalty between persons and to the company. Furthermore, certain organisations are like families, where the employees are very connected.

I experienced that sort of connectedness myself when I worked at a big Italian campground. From the moment I arrived, my employer told me that my new family was waiting for me. As being a down-to-earth Dutch girl, I could not imagine what that “family bonding” with my employer and my colleagues would be like, but my boss was telling the truth. From the moment I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the warmth and hospitality of the Italians.

That was not the only difference with working in the Netherlands, however. Initially I experienced working in Italy as being quite chaotic, since there were not as many strict rules and protocols as I was used to. First, I felt that a lot of time was wasted, but later on I adapted to it and  understood that what I thought was “wasted” time was actually useful for other purposes than just doing the job. The time spent waiting or working inefficiently was used to build up the strong “family” bond, which makes working with Italians so special.

Aside from the differences between the Dutch and the Italians, my employer, Miki Barone from Cento, has had some good experiences with working with the Dutch. In his opinion  Dutch people are professional, solid. Just like many other people from northern Europe, they tend to be punctual and well organized. The Dutch are always planning their future, whereas the Italians tend to improvise more. Sometimes the Italians are punctual, but most of the time they prefer to be flexible. The Italian population likes to have fun.

The one thing Miki recommends to the Dutch is: “Be flexible when coming to Italy and try to understand the Italian characteristics.” This is the Italian mindset of working with foreigners and it is really successful. Be open, interested, and do a lot of socialising.