Italy is a particularly popular country to visit at the moment. The Mediterranean climate makes it the perfect place to spend a summer and the laid-back culture and friendly atmosphere make it a great place to study and work. However, many young people can be thrown by the culture shock of being somewhere like Italy, where lifestyle and values are very different to the UK.
Below are some tips for those planning on spending some time studying and working in Italy, from how to dress to how to conduct yourself in the world of work.
What to wear
Fashion is a trademark of Italy – it is very important to Italians to look good. Women are often sophisticated, with designer dresses and leather handbags, while men are smart and stylish.
In the world of business if you wear smart clothes, it is a sign of success. Men would be expected to wear high-quality suits, often with a designer tie. Women opt for elegant, understated attire – a skirt suit with designer shoes, for example.
Behaviour and customs
When introduced to somebody, it is polite to say “buon giorno” (good morning) and “buona sera” (good afternoon / evening). You will also be introduced to older members of a group first, and it is polite to do the same when you are introducing people.
Good manners are highly important in Italy. In a formal meeting, you are expected to say “signore” (Mr) or “signora” (Mrs), plus the surname when greeting. Both women and men shake hands upon arriving and departing, but as business relationships develop, it may lead to embraces.
Excessive hand gestures and close personal contact is common in conversations, but don’t be daunted by this – it is how Italians interact, and you will appear rude if you move away or keep a distance.
Working in rural areas
It can be hard to find work in more rural areas of Italy, as the tradition is highly individualistic, so most employees will be family friends or relatives. A good idea is to go through an agency, a work placement or position yourself in a household working as an au pair. This will also guarantee you contacts in the country for the future.
Take a course
If your knowledge of Italian is rather basic, taking a course for a few weeks before you arrive is a good idea in order build on some vocabulary and grammar, as well as gain a better understanding of the culture itself.
Once in Italy, you may decide it’s the place for you. If you’re interested in pursuing a career there, choosing to do a business Italian training in Salerno, for example, will prepare you for the challenges you might face when you start looking for jobs, and it can really stand you in good stead for a future career in Italy.
Studying and living abroad can be an incredible and fulfilling experience, and will make you seem like a much more rounded candidate for any job or university application. Having learnt a language to an advanced level is of course and advantage, as few students do so nowadays.
Many students have a great experience learning a language abroad, and Italy is no exception. With these tips you can prepare yourself ahead of time and also be in good stead for finding work. Be prepared to never want to leave!
Russell Yarwood, http://www.flickr.com/people/yarwood/