Quite some time ago I found a list of 10 business dining tips on the web. I can’t remember the website – if anybody knows please contact me – but I took notes and I would like to share the 10 tips with you with my personal comment. Eventually you can find it helpful, especially if you are from the States or another very rational business oriented culture (i.e. the opposite of the Italian culture !).
10 Tips to have a successful business dinner, lunch or drink in Italy
This is what I found on the web
- Dinner is a social affair, business talk is usually limited.
- Organizer pays for dinner, but its best to offer.
- Male guests will insist on paying for women.
- Avoid topics such as the Mafia, religion, the Second World War and politics.
- Cocktails, drinking without eating, hard drinking and women proposing toasts are unusual. Unless you want a refill, keep your wine glass almost full.
- Roll pasta with your fork on the sides of your pasta plate, not on your spoon.
- Keep both hands above the dinner table. Never place your elbows on the table.
- Generally avoid using your fingers to eat, use your cutlery.
- Ask for your check when you are finished eating. Unlike in the US and other places, it may not be brought to you until you ask.
- Do not leave the table until everyone is finished.
Are they true and valuable information?
These tips are quite traditional and not always true – like every other “10 tips list” over there on the Internet, but I found a couple of them very interesting and useful for my clients.
Rule No. 1 – Dinner is a social affair
Never ever forget this rule in Italy. When I am in the States a dinner can easily be more similar to a do-to list than a social event. Both parties exchange very straight offers and food is secondary. Well, it can sound a cliche’ but Italians love to enjoy the food. Rarely negotiations are closed at the table, but an annoying guest at the table rarely close a negotiation – or at least find it quite hard.
I had the luck of dealing with China since 1996, and in the last 7 years quite a few other countries in the area such as India and Thailand. I am always fascinated on how sometimes Italians are more similar to their Asian counterparts than to their Western peers.
Be fun, enjoy the dinner, flatter your guest (but not too much), avoid politics and you will close your deal later, probably at the most unexpected moment. I have seen the acquisition of an hotel in the center of Rome signed in the morning, at the bar, in front of a espresso coffee cup after 2 months of useless negotiation.
Prepare to be very (very very) patient. Sometimes you want to find out about your multimillion dollar deal but every body else seems interested in finding what the chief has used to make such a tasty sauce. Don’t push the business, relax, it’s a test. They are observing you to decide if you can be a good partner, even when you don’t know, even when THEY don’t know either.
More Italian Business Rules
… soon. In the meantime, I would love to know what’s your experience.
Image source: Italymag.co.uk