12 Culture Nuggets for Business Travel in Italy

12 Culture Nuggets for Business Travel in Italy

Being in Italy, exactly in Catona, Calabria, for the first time, gives me a good reason to write about specifics of the south Italian everyday life and hints of thoughts for fellow travelers with formal reasons, such as business. I am in good company with my Italian-born American husband visiting my parents in law and, therefore, experiencing Italian culture as close as it gets in becoming part of an Italian family. Without further ado:

1. Hospitality
Hospitality plays a key role in the Italian culture, also the business culture. Home-made drinks and the delicious home-made food is offered. Invitations are not refused and allow time to know each other better.

2. Narrowing streets
Villages and cities are grown organically over hundreds of years and space are limited. When the streets were built, there were no cars yet, now cars parked left and right. Streets become one-lane-streets (with two-way traffic). When renting a car, get full coverage, it’s worth your peace of mind. When using your US-bought GPS or GPS app be nice to it as it’s working hard to identify and pronouncing the tiny twisty streets with some difficulties in defining left and right.

3. Small cars and micro driving
Narrow streets call for tiny cars, small cars, more an extension of arms and legs. As crazy and rule-ignoring it might seem for Americans or Germans, Italians are good drivers in my opinion. They know how to drive the narrow, one-lane streets and hills and watch for humans, especially kids – as pedestrian walkways often are non-existent. Waving ‘hello’, entering a steep curve or street is done with the horn … How to adapt? Drive with your gut, not with your head, there is more room to a tiny street than you think.

4. The midday siesta
Streets and people are busy until noon or 1 pm, then cities and towns become quiet and empty. It is time for a lunch and the midday rest afterward. People disappear from streets, stores are closing, street fairs get broken down (yes, I saw it!). Only cafes, restaurants, gelaterias and such are open. Quiet time everywhere … until about 4 pm in the afternoon when everything comes back to life (fair boots get built up again).
You can’t do business during those times, best you just do the same. It might feel awkward to not be able to do anything, yet after two days, it seems natural – and actually feels good.

5. Passeggiata and getting together
Walking through the streets at around 6 pm gives a picture quite unknown to Americans. In courts and alleys, people sit together and talk, they stand at street corners and sit on banks in parks and marinas. They talk, they go for walks, and they just lean out of the window and watch people. They just are, aware of the surroundings, ready to be seen. For the time being there, if you haven’t before, just follow one such activity as a routine, and you will watch the meaning of this casual togetherness growing every day and allowing the space for things to happen.

6. Shopping
Shopping is different for there are still much more individual stores: shoe store, clothing store, bags, bakeries, butcher stores, tobacco and news store, pharmacy etc. And for going in a store, attention is individualized and secluded. Even in the smallest town, there is a fine dresses boutique: families are large and marriages and birthdays, communion, etc. are more frequently and elegant robes needed more frequently. Appearance is very important. There is a dress code in business; appearance stands in relation to success and competence. And remember: everything is closed for the midday break, and shut down at 6 to 8 pm, no business on Sunday, Catholic festivities and national holidays.

7. The garbage in the streets
In parts of Italy (usually those regions with less tourism) is lots of garbage. On the beach, across a beautiful house, next to tourism beach bars, in the streets, on picnic sites in the forest – and I mean lots of garbage.
At home, there is a strict recycling separation of garbage, yet the attitude stops behind the door, an attitude that no law can regulate. Sadly, learn to watch away and ignore it. And make sure you don’t add to it.

8. Greetings
Meeting families or friends in the street greet each other with kisses left and right on the cheeks. Older persons and women will always be introduced first. People well known may become a warm embrace, also in business settings. In general and everywhere greet with “Buongiorno” (good morning) and “Buonasera” (good afternoon/evening), it’s a polite manner. Business partners shake hands, always in a standing position, with each individual person (no waving to the group).

9. The Italian language
Hand-gestured, expressively pronounced discussions.
With astonishment, I observed my Italian-born now American husband. When he talks in English or with us in German, he has this down-to-earth, neutral (beautiful) voice. However, observing him talking his favorite topic with his cousins and extended friends, he transforms into that full-body expressive gesturing being with a lively voice whose sound alone speaks (even if you don´t know the language).
Italians use most likely the most of the body language of all European countries. I actually decided to bring some of that expressive character over into my English and German language. How would your speech change with more emotional emphasis and expression? Speaking simultaneous and interrupting – also during business meetings – is part of the Italian communication style.

10. Respect, status, and hierarchy
Status and hierarchy are essential in Italian society, power and age are highly respected, and much attention is also given to children. Building close and trusting relationships is very important in Italian’s business culture. A well-connected person can make the right introduction for you.

11. The food
Food is socializing. Food is, of course, different in the various regions of Italy, food
reflects the various life situations of the people. Often, people were poor and used what they had on pasta and vegetable and fruits and spices out of their gardens. It was not a fancy cuisine as it seems sometimes nowadays. What really stroke me was the fresh pasta: what a difference. It is definitely worth the extra work of making and cleaning up the machine afterward. Even a simple menu starts with antipasti and bread, then there is a pasta dish, after that the meat is served – by itself on the plate or with salad and vegetables – then there is fruits or dessert. Hint: hold yourself back at the delicious antipasti and the pasta dish as you don’t know what’s still coming to the table. Business meetings over lunch can take up to three hours.

12. Coffee Espresso
A small espresso or a lungo espresso are both small – compared to American’s grande or venti size coffees. However, the brewing method and the essential strength of it feels satisfying and enough for the hours to come. Even a little sugar soothes the strength and supports the effectiveness. “Latte” is the Italian word for milk, so no shortcuts in ordering your drink (unless you want indeed milk.

 

Supercharge marketing and draw German visitors your way

My recent project was the translation of a flyer for a local tourist bureau. It was an abstract of the county with essential info “on a glance” for individual travelers and groups, for travel agencies and business travelers. What was so special about?

By itself or on top of other international business outreach, such a flyer is an effective step to initiate outreach activity and communication with foreign tourists, travel agencies and international (local) companies.

The multi-purpose of a beautifully designed, written and translated flyer is countless.

Here are just a view ideas on its multi-use:

  • post it on your website for your foreign website visitors to get an individualized Welcome in their language
  • post it to Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. to show your openness to other cultures
  • send the flyer per email as outreach to foreign language tourist bureaus
  • send the flyer within the response email to received inquiries from visitors of that language (hint: even when they inquire in your language)
  • print flyer and hang it up in the local tourism office or other bureaus/convention centers/chambers of commerce for foreign by-passers
  • send the flyer to international companies who meet with international clients and associations

…get creative and write further ideas in the comments below

 

What is the essential info that best presents your region, county, city, etc. at a glance?

There are view elements that just sums it up far and wide:

  • a simplified (illustrated) map of the city/region/county/state…
  • a few key info of that city, region, etc. – a paragraph fast to read and crap attention
  • a bullet point list of the attractions close by and further away
  • graphics of local photographer(s) with credits
  • a contact person, title, address, website, phone number
  • social media info
  • a list of annual special events
  • a table with neighboring cities and areas, the distances and the driving times

and finally: A call to action – request a kit, a brochure, etc. and a #hashtag for social networks buzz

 

A graphically attractive flyer with useful info is not only business-friendly, it also is cost and time efficient because you can use it year after year after year.

In your favorite graphics tool, such as In-Design, Publisher or Canva (even the comprehensive free version is sufficient), create a template that integrates all your brand elements. After the initial flyer is completed with all info and graphics, in the following year, you only need to update specific info such as events, possibly attractions and graphic artists and such.

Translators are using tools to be efficient with their translation. If you are working with the same translator or agency, you might get fee reductions due to existing translations and recycling of previous translations (more about in a next blog post where I elaborate on the human species “translators” and how to work with them).

It is one step, maybe the first, maybe the only step to reaching out to foreign tourists in their language and make them feel welcome! Imagine the ripples this one gesture can make.

With that, go create this one or two page flyer of your region or property and we can help you translate it into German language.

As always, leave us questions in the comments or join our newly formed FREE Facebook group “Int’l Business Communication Q&A” to get answers to them.

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Just call me at this time, my time.

“So I message a millennial blogger I am working with. I ask her what her Skype is so we can chat and which time zone she is in. She says,’Hey I am in Cali, I have never heard of Tel Aviv and no idea where it is, so just call me at this time, my time.’ ” (Facebook post by Keren Brown)

With guests, customers and colleagues around the world, this answer is no longer acceptable. Yes, it can be challenging sometimes to coordinate meetings and communication with people on the other side of the globe but with a bit of geography and organization, you easily can get a hold of it.

What is a time zone? A time zone is a region where the same standard local time is used.
The local time within a time zone is the difference, the time offset, from the world’s time standard Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This offset is displayed as UTC- or UTC+ plus the number of hours and minutes.
Matters get a little complicated when we have to calculate in the Daylight Savings Time (DST) which is not applied at the same time (or not at all) in the various time zones.

The local time zone names are linked to a geographic landmark of the particular country or region and can be different in various regions of the same time zone. With that, different regions with the same UTC offset can have different names, such as Miami, Florida which is in Eastern Standard Time (EST) and Havana, Cuba, which is also UTC-5, with its local Cuba Standard Time (CST).
To make it more confusing, there are various identical abbreviations, such as IST – India Standard Time (UTC+5:30) vs. IST – Israel Standard Time (UTC+2).

There are also 25 military time zones, they are named after the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…), they are used in aviation, at sea, and in communication.

There are various websites that help you get a hold of this complex topic.
My favorite website is www.timeanddate.com, it has all you need to completely understand this system (I refrain from saying “understanding time”, that would be a different post, if you like) coordinate time differences for meetings and have fun with them.

Click the map to go to the interactive time zone map

Click the map to go to the interactive time zone map

Research your Foreign Brand Name

Today I read an article in the German online newspaper Die Welt on how the dictator Adolf Hitler is idealized in India for his leadership qualities and strength. Most people are not at all aware of his dark past.
Using his famous grim look with the little mustache is even a very effective lead magnet for businesses. A boutique even chose for that very reason Hitler for its brand name (complete with the swastika in the dot of the “i”). Like some other businesses that used the famous name related to German history in their brand, they had to change it after the pressure of Jewish protesters.

Using foreign names in your brand or product can get significant when market to a foreign community. Check out the history related to it and be prepared for conversations about your choices (politic isn’t such a tabu topic in other countries as it is in the US, but that’s for another post).

Often, names are chosen with the intent of giving imagery and foreign flair. Such as the Salon and Spa “Le Belle” or another with “Le Bella”, or a multi-million Dollar housing construction named “Bella Fiore”, not too far from a Florist and Event Specialist with the same name. French and Italian natives shake their heads seeing those grammatical and constructional errors in brand names. And you don’t want to compromise your expertise by such disregarding of local orthography and grammar.

Yes, you can blame it to Google Translate and its linguistic limitations but at the end, it’s your research, your brand, your money.

Fazit: Test your business and product names, check in with natives or get a professional checkup to make sure to not offend possible customers and embarrass yourself.

Learn another language and help boost the tourism industry

“Taxi drivers should learn the basics of one or two other languages in order to be able to communicate with foreign tourists.”

Earlier this year, I had shared a link on Facebook to an article about a speech at a Taxi Association division meeting. It said further “Taxi drivers are among the frontliners in the tourism industry. You should equip yourselves with basic language skills so that you can at least greet tourists and ask where they want to go in their own language.”

I couldn’t forget this article and how right it was in its saying that basics of other languages would also improve quality of their service besides helping to boost the tourism industry. It was so obvious. And I started pondering which other professions are frontliners in the tourism industry. Here is what I came up with:

Hotel Receptionists

Restaurant Waiters/Waitresses

Taxi Drivers

Hotel Concierges

City Bus Drivers

Restaurant Hosts/Hostesses

Tour Guides

Tourism Information Center Staff

I am sure there are more…. Let us know!

Although Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in Washington, we became last year the only state in the US with no statewide tourism office and no money from the state to promote our state to travelers. The Washington Tourism Alliance was formed to coordinate state wide marketing and continue branding efforts and take over existing assets, such as Washington’s fabulous state website. We all have it now in our own hands!

Let’s all do something to help boost tourism!

3 Essential Strategies to Successfully Translate Your Brand Into Another Language

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