At first glance, Italy may seem like two separate countries. Some say that comparing northern and southern Italy is like comparing “New York and backwoods Mississippi.”
It’s important to do research on a country before you land for business negotiations. But what if that one country, Italy for example, has two very exclusive cultures?
Italian History in Under 50 Words
Italy has been occupied by many countries in the past.
Germans, Byzantines, Spaniards, Greeks, Arabs and the Romans have all influenced regions of Italy in one way or another.
These cultural footprints still linger today.
Italy’s unique location plays a role in the nation’s division.
Everything above Rome is considered to be “northern Italy.” It’s the industrial workhorse, producing over 90% of Italy’s exports, and is the wealthiest of the two regions.
Northern Italy is bordered by countries like France, Switzerland and Austria, which heavily influenced their culture. Travel far enough north in Italy and you may find people wearing German lederhosen.
Travel far enough north in Italy and you may find people wearing German lederhosen.
Southern Italy is much more traditional than its northern counterpart. Although it has no land borders, it’s heavily influenced by the surrounding sea. Many say that southern Italy is similar to Greece and Spain, two countries that also border the Mediterranean Sea. This could be an advantage for your business in southern Italy if you have experience negotiating in Spain or Greece.
Many say that southern Italy is similar to Greece and Spain, two countries that also border the Mediterranean Sea.
Southern Italy’s isolation has benefited the art and history buffs of the world, as many Italian heritage sites remain untouched to this day.
The middle region of Italy is interesting for foreign visitors, and even for Italians from the north or the south. This is because a central-Italian city like Florence is surprisingly “in the middle.” There’s a strong focus on tradition like you’d see in southern Italy, but there’s plenty of tourists and foreigners like you would see in northern Italy
Three Regional Differences That Can Affect Your Business
Here are three differences that your business should pay attention to when doing business in Italy.
Time to eat!
Northerners usually eat dinner at around 7 p.m., while Southerners eat between 8 and 9 p.m. Daylight plays a large role in this as well, depending on whether you live in eastern or western Italy.
“How about this weather?”
One traveler mentioned the following general rule for southern Italy: “Even if your wife is in labor, stop in the middle of the street for 20 minutes and talk with your father’s friend.”
On the flip side, this can be considered rude in northern Italy, where people assume everyone is busy and don’t want to inconvenience them with small talk.
“You’re not friends with them…right?”
If you’re trying to finalize negotiations in northern Italy, you probably shouldn’t compliment southern Italy and vice-versa. You shouldn’t be rude about it, but if your northern-Italy business partner is insulting Southerners, try and change the subject.
The political party Lega Norda (or Northern League) actually wants to separate northern Italy from its southern half.
The national conflict goes something like this:
Northerner: “You Southerners are taking our resources and money!”
Southerner: “We need those resources to fix all the problems that you Northerners have caused!”
They really don’t like each other.
The good news: northern and southern Italy both offer excellent opportunities for your business.
If you want a conservative, well-developed country for your business to invest in, you may find that Italy’s northern region is very similar to France and Germany. If you’re used to dealing with European countries, business negotiations could be much easier for you.
However, Italy’s south provides an investment opportunity that might be too hard to pass on. The Italian government has focused on improving southern Italy’s economy and infrastructure, and is willing to offer international businesses tax cuts to boost foreign investment.
Whether you do business in southern Italy or northern Italy (or both), Veem can help. We’re a connected payments platform built with you in mind. Send and receive payments at double the speed, and half the cost, of the average bank. Plus, with the ability to track payments, sending your hard-earned money overseas is risk-free.
Whether you do business in southern Italy or northern Italy (or both), Veem can help. We're a connected payments platform built with you in mind.
You can learn more in our comprehensive guide for doing business in Italy here.