Did you know that a country without culture is like a country without an origin; therefore, it is essential for a nation to know where it comes from to tell where it is headed. Talking of culture, it draws my attention to Italy's cultural elements like its religion, language, social organizations, and customs. All these combined are the causes of some cultural challenges experienced by nations intending to have business negotiation with Italy. Thus, to overcome the barriers, there is a need to scrutinize the cultural characteristics of Italy forming the basis of this study.
Location and Size of Italy
The Italian Republic is located in Southern Europe, and it comprises of two major islands which go by the names Sardinia and Sicily. Sardinia is about 320 km (200mi) North West of Sicily, and it covers 24,090 sq km of land area. Italy is known to have approximately 301, 230 sq km geographical area with its boot-shaped mainland extended into the Mediterranean Sea with a width of 381 km and a length of 1,185 km. Italy is considered to be slightly larger than Arizona estate, and also it is boarded on the North by Austria and Switzerland, on the East by Lonian seas and Adriatic, on the Northwest by France and Northeast Slovenia (Santangelo 11-15). Within the borders of Italy, there is sovereign Vatican City State that covers 44 hectares and the sovereign Republic of San Marino, with a surface area of 61.2 sq km.
Cultural Elements of Italy
Italy comprises of a multicultural population of more than sixty million people, who converse on a various range of dialects. However, the official language in Italy is Italian, and around 85 million people in the entire globe interact using it. Also, it served as one of the main working dialects used by the Council of Europe and considered as a Romance language. Italo-Dalmatian subgroup, the Tuscan vernacular of the Indo-European family language forms the roots of the Italian dialect, and during the 1100s the vernacular was mainly meant for the writers and upper class of the Florentine society. Despite, many courts making the legal decision of identifying Italian as an official language, the constitution does not list it up to date (Toniolo 46-51). Thirty-one is the number of other vernaculars conversed within Italy which are considered by UNESCO to have varying degrees, and they include; Griko for the Griko people, Gardiol of the Occitan language, Vastese for the residents in Vasto town, Toitschu of Alemmanic people and Molise Croatian, a vernacular used by Serbo-Croatian.
The family structure of the Italian usually comprises of smaller families which comes with the advantages like spending a lot of time jointly and gathering to share their meals as one. However, there still several challenges that arise among the family members despite creating new family units which live at distant from the original families, therefore, most tend to join their relatives or parents during festivities such as Easter or Christmas. Also, due to a lack of stability in the economy that is as a result of the difficulty in getting a steady job, most Italians have fear to start a family (Toniolo 16-19). Therefore, on average, the Italian family consists of one or two children, and this depends on different lifestyle cultural concepts for instance; families found in the South have more siblings than the ones in the North of Italy, often over two. Since most families from the North are made up of singles, single-parent, and couples without children.
Young people are expected to treat the elderly with great respect. Italian families have been found to compare with American families since it is common to see sons living with their parents until they marry and also they are those who continue to reside with their parents even after marriage and keep depending on them economically. Despite, the advancement in technology and knowhow level of Italians, the gender roles are still traditionally based. For example, men work hard while women take care of the home and family, Italian men are very strict and territorial on how they treat their wives and children, and these wives are mostly considered to be spoiled. The typical Italian family lifestyle is very much stated by Roman Catholicism, and thus, most Italian women desire to marry a man who is non-Italian because Italian men are not easy to control (Toniolo 21-27). Also, these men contribute very less to childcare and housework and this giving the reason why Italy is currently experiencing a massive decrease in the number of siblings per couple.
Roman Catholic stands out to be the predominant religion in Italy which is accompanied closely by mature Protestants as well as Jewish communities. The immigrant population of Muslim is also significant in the rate it is coming up in the area. Therefore, this portrays that freedom of religion is an unquestionable matter in Italy. The freedom of worship and belief is guaranteed by the Italian constitution, and the government has a complex system maintained which comprises of the legal agreement and negotiated accords with several religious communities. Since 1984, the government has been resolutely secular but offers support for communities that are religiously based on these accords (Bispham 41-43). However, the absence of an agreement makes it impossible for an individual believer in getting the numerous benefits accessible to other people and communities. The value of religious culture is heavily recognized by the Italian Republic; thus, making Italy a Christian nation with around 88 percent of the entire population as followers of the Roman Catholic Church. In reality only a third of these people who considered themselves active in religious terms.
Lack of Formality in Meetings' Contribution
During meetings, the communication style is different from that of American companies; for example, all participants are expected to contribute to the discussion. However, the way they do it is very informal for instance they will interrupt the other person before finishing what he or she is saying. They keep holding side conversations which might be an inconvenience to Americans during the negotiation, and also they keep going out and coming back while the meeting is in session. The other most annoying behavior is mobile speaking without excusing themselves (McFarlin 23). Therefore, this is very different in American company meetings since they tend to embrace formality in its fullest capacity during the meeting sessions.
In Italian, most small and medium enterprises and corporations are owned and controlled by family basis, and they are the decision makers. Thus a negotiation between American and Italian company will be difficult because it will be wastage of time and ineffective to attempt to have an agreement on strategic issues with the Italian company management since decisions are made by the owners who are outside the company. Reaching a deal being the ultimate level of a negotiation is a lacking factor in this meeting since the one to make the decision is not available and his or her decision will be independent based on connections and family ties and not what was discussed during the negotiation (McFarlin 13-14). Therefore, for the talks to work, much of American company's time will be spent trying to network, maintaining and improving the existing relationships with the decision makers who consist of the family which owns the company.
Since most of the people in Italy are known to communicate in Italian as the official language, it will be of the challenge for the American Company people who interact with English as their official language. Thus, understanding each other will be difficult using different vernaculars, and therefore it will cost the American company an extra cost to employ an individual who can converse in both languages to act as their representatives (McFarlin 17). Also, the way the Italians speak will be a bit unpleasing since they tend to use rhetoric while communicating and during conversations, they tend to raise their voice almost theatrical.
Overcoming Cultural Challenges
Learn a Few Key Phrases
Since clear communication is necessary for effective negotiation; thus, the American company's stakeholders who will participate in the talks, studying a few key phrases and greeting of Italian can take the conversation to another better level. In doing so, the language barrier which existed will be reduced to some extent (Ray 33-34). Also, the company can take the initiative of conducting cross-cultural training of employees who will be involved in such negotiations.
Learn Italian Culture
The American should take time to study the Italian culture, and that can aid them to identify some issues that could be unpleasing about the Italian company's stakeholder during a meeting. By conducting research issues like receiving calls during the meeting session without excusing themselves, unnecessary movement, and interruption of the speaker before he or she finishes will be identified, and they will be mentally and physically ready for such things. Therefore, they will be somehow comfortable with such disturbances since they will be expecting them (Ray 27). Also, they will get to know the owner and decision maker of the company and go for a direct negotiation instead of wasting time with indirect ways which will yield nothing.
In overcoming the cultural challenges, accommodating turns out to be the main thing since there is no need for an American company changing its culture or convincing the Italian company to do so (Ray 34-17). Therefore, the best option is to discover common grounds where each party in the negotiation will be satisfied even if it means assuming some unpleasing actions of the Italians like receiving calls during the proceeding of a meeting without excusing themselves and this will show respect and embracement of other people the cultural difference.
In conclusion, it is vividly clear that Italy has several cultural elements that make it unique from other nation. In particular, their family structure which comprises of the small family gives them the advantage of spending time together and also to cope with the instability in the economy. Also, some cultural challenges are evident during a negotiation between American and Italian company. Though, with the discussed overcoming tactics such as accommodation, the negation can be successful.
Bispham, Edward, and Christopher Smith. Religion in archaic and republican Rome and Italy: evidence and experience. Routledge, 2014, content.taylorfrancis.com/books/download?dac=C2006-0-10481-2&isbn=9781135972585&format=googlePreviewPdf
McFarlin, Dean, and Paul D. Sweeney. International management: strategic opportunities & cultural challenges. Routledge, 2014.
Ray, Deepa. "Overcoming cross-cultural barriers." Journal of Enterprise Information Management 27.1 (2014): 45-55, www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JEIM-09-2012-0053
Santangelo, Michele, et al. "Landslide inventory map of the upper Sinni River valley, Southern Italy." Journal of Maps 11.3 (2015): 444-453, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17445647.2014.949313
Toniolo, Gianni. An Economic History of Liberal Italy (Routledge Revivals): 1850-1918. Routledge, 2014, content.taylorfrancis.com/books/download?dac=C2014-0-34225-5&isbn=9781317569541&format=googlePreviewPdf
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