Customs

 

Tipping

Tipping practices in Italy follow those of most other European countries. In other words, a small level of tipping is appropriate, but don’t overdo it. In restaurants, tipping is usually optional and done for good service. Even then, tip only around 10 percent of the final bill. And watch out for service being included in the bill. If it has been, don’t tip; otherwise you’ll be doing it twice.

Baggage porters, concierges, and hotel maids expect a tip, but again, this should be based on the quality of service. A euro per bag is the norm. It’s customary to round up the taxi fare so as to give a 5 to 10 percent tip. Curiously, theatre and cinema ushers also expect a tip of around one euro.

 

Gift Giving

Italians are not big gift givers like, say, the Japanese, but there are a few things you should bear in mind before presenting a gift to a business associate:

 


  • Don’t give someone a gift until you’ve received one.

  • Don’t make a big deal out of giving a gift.

 

While it’s not customary to bring gifts to initial meetings, it is common to present a corporate gift after negotiations have come to a successful conclusion. Corporate gifts of appropriate value are also given during the Christmas holiday season. But make sure your gift is within corporate guidelines.

Small gifts for employees are also very common during the holiday season. A normal gift would be the traditional Christmas cake (panettone) and a bottle of sparkling wine. Refrain from giving gifts of value. In fact, it’s often advisable to check with a legal counsel that your gifts fall within regulations.

 

Family Celebrations

Life in Italy revolves around the family, and Italians will go to considerable lengths to protect and nurture this fundamental social institution. Although the pace of life has quickened considerably over the last few years, Italians still like to socialise with their families whenever possible. This may take the form of a family lunch at the weekend or a meal out at a restaurant with the entire clan. If you’re invited to one of these occasions, consider it an honour and go. You’ll get a chance to witness real Italian life at its most vibrant.

Often, family get-togethers will be centred on a celebration of some kind — and there’s certainly no shortage of these . The period between Christmas and Epiphany — lasting 12 days — is generally full of eating, drinking, and making merry. Birthdays, too, are reasons for much celebration.