Quick insights into Italy
Last summer, we had a young (18 years old) intern, Hana Nefzaoui, joined us for a few weeks. Despite having no experience in research or culturalisation/internationalisation, she grasped the concept of what it means and involves pretty quick and well.
We sat down talking through the work we did at Beyō Global for our clients. With her going through some of the output and deliverables we created for our clients, she passionately wanted to write an article that provides insights into her home country, Italy, based on her local knowledge and some desk research.
Here is what she has written! Kudos to Hana. Hope you find it insightful one way or another.
by Hana Nefzaoui
Italy is divided into 20 regions. Each region is further divided into provinces. There are 110 provinces in Italy. Each province is then divided into multiple municipalities (in total 8101).
Unlike the UK, Italy has only become one unified nation in 1861. Prior to that, it was divided into many reigns and republics. Each has its own administration, currency, language and many traditions. This is part of the reasons why even today, traditions, uses, food, wine, dialects and accents and architectural landscapes vary greatly from region to region. This means, the behaviour, habit, expectations and needs of your Italian customers could vary, either in a small or big scale.
Language and Dialects
Although Italian is the official language in Italy, many different dialects were spoken in different areas of the countries, such as Milanese and Florentine (most standard Italian dialect). Italian dialects differ from each other by overall sound, intonation, words used and/or how they are pronounced, in some cases by syntax too.
In Italy, Last Names are normally written after First Names. However, in administrative usage or in official documents, Last Name comes before First Name (e.g. when you apply for a job). In formal settings, people are identified by their Last name. For example, in school, teachers would call their students by their Last Names, and the same applies to how the students greet their teachers.
Italian prefix is 39. You can differentiate a landline number from a mobile phone number easily - the former starts with 0 and the latter starts with 3. Both are composed of 10 numbers.
The first part of an Italian landline number is different in every province. For example, in Mantua (a city in northern Italy), its landline starts with 0376 while it is 0371 in Lodi (another city in northern Italy) or 02 in Milan.
Number and Currency
In Italy, commas are used to indicate decimal places and a period to indicate thousands. For example, 2.220,99€ (Euro) instead of £2,220.99.
Date, Time and Language
24 hours format is used in Italy with date formatting set as DD/MM/YYYY.
Italian addresses are being written in this order: Street name, number, town, province. For instance, Avenue Rimembranze n 23 Rodigo, MN (Mantua’s acronym).
Cultural values (Family)
Family is one of the most important aspects of an Italian's life. In fact, it is very common for children to live with their family (parents) until they are 30 years old. Grandparents are important. They often pick their grandchildren up from school and look after them until the parents finish work. It is, therefore, not common for Italians to pay for a babysitter or childminder.
Italians spend a lot of time with their family especially on Sundays where they would spend the afternoon having lunch at their parents’ or grandparents’ house.
The most popular websites in Italy include Zalando, Amazon, Aliexpress, Wish and eBay. These are the websites people use to buy anything from daily grocery to clothes to cars.
There are slight differences between the buying behaviours in the North and the South. People in the northern part of Italy shop much more than in the South. This might due to the fact that South Italy is not as modernised and developed as in the north. South Italy still has an agricultural economy, while there are a lot more modern cities in North Italy.
CartaSi is a MasterCard or Visa co-branded credit card issued in Italy. It is one of the most frequently used credit cards in Italy (alongside with MasterCard and VISA), especially for online purchases. Paypal and cash on delivery are also available but not as popular as cards payment.
Southern Italy’s economy is going slower than the North. This includes having lower wages on average. They prefer and still use cash more than credit cards for different types of payment. Southern Italians are not as digital as the North. For instance, they prefer to shop and buy in brick-and-mortar stores and markets than online.
There are a lot of bus operators and companies in Italy. Each province has a company that runs within the province. For example, there is APAM for Mantova or Mantua (a province in the north of Italy) and STAR for the province of Lodi.
All bus companies offer both urban and long-distance routes. For APAM which operates in Mantua province, the buses on the urban lines which only operates within the city centre are distinguished by their orange colour, whereas blue buses are for longer-distance travel.
In Italy, a Tabacchi is where you can go to buy local a bus ticket (a ‘bigletti’). It is also possible to buy the tickets at a news vendor's kiosk or at a Biglietteria, such as outside a train station. It is now becoming more common for bus companies in Italy to offer phone apps for tickets buying. It costs more to pay on the bus. It is not possible to pay with a credit card on the bus. Only cash is accepted.
There are several train companies in Italy which only make short distance journeys, traveling within a specific region (e.g. Trenord). On the other hand, there are more nationwide, high-speed train operators available (e.g. Frecciargento, Frecciarossa, Frecciabanca, Italo).
If a train has a delay for 30 minutes and over, passengers are eligible a compensation. When your train is delayed, once you get out the train, you could go straight to the nearest train station to have a 25% discount voucher of the total ticket price which can be used within 12 months.
Popular holiday websites in Italy include Trivago, booking.com and Airbnb. Italians preferred to book their holiday online than to book via a travel agency.
Italians use low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair mostly to travel abroad, while using Alitalia to travel around Italy.
In Italy, the most popular telecommunication companies are Wind, Tim, Vodafone and Tre. Most telecom operators also own an Internet company. For example, Tim owns Telecom (an Internet company); Wind owns Infostrada and Alice. For this reason, telco companies often offer integrated mobile, fixed telephony and Internet services.
The most used social networks are WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.
WhatsApp is most popular among young and old generation for making calls, sending and receiving (text, audio and image) messages from/to all over the world.
Snapchat was heavily used by the young generation two years ago. However, since Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, the use of Snapchat declines significantly. This is because Instagram offers two services in one app: Photos and stories sharing, which most young Italians like.
For Italians between 35-60 years old, Facebook is still the most popular social network.
Italian often shop in big malls where they have access to many different stores in a single place. These malls often have names that remind you of something big: Gigante which means giant, Leone means lion or La Grande Mela means the big apple.
Shops in Italy close around 8 - 9pm, which enable Italians to shop outside normal working hours. Unlike in most Asian countries, a full refund or an exchange is possible in Italy.
Note: Hana is an Italian of Tunisian descent. She has also shared some interesting insights into Tunisia, if you’re interested.