Location and population
Italy is located in southern Europe, bordering Austria 430 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, and Switzerland 740km.
Italy consists of a peninsula shaped like a high-heeled boot and several islands, encompassing 116,300 square miles
The capital is Rome.
Population estimated in 2011 (10,675,214). Italy’s population was approximately 57 million in 1998. The population growth rate is .08 percent with a death rate of 10.18 per 1,000 and a birth rate of 9.13 per 1,000. Population growth declined quickly after World War II with the industrialization of the country.
Climate predominantly Mediterranean, Alpine is far north; hot, dry in south.
Language The official language is Italian. Various dialects are spoken, but Italian is taught in school and used in government. Sicilian is a language with Greek, Arabic, Latin, Italian, Norman and French, and other influences and generally is not understood by Italian speakers.
Basic History and Ethnic Relations
It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that Italy as we know it today came to be. Until that time, various city-states occupied the peninsula, each operating as a separate kingdom or republic.
Italy’s history is long and great. France and Spain in particular played and intervened in the Italian affairs. It has had many invasions over the centuries. Italy became part of the Spanish Habsburg inheritance in 1527 when the Spanish king Charles I (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) sent his troops in to take over Rome. Spain established complete control over all the Italian states except Venice.
National Identity -The issue of regionalism has plagued Italy to the present day. The issue as one of the more developed north against the poor south, Italian regions had their own separate histories over fourteen- hundred-year period. Many dialects were spoken, and customs varied from area to area. In the period since the Risorgimento, the Italian unification movement there has been a great deal achieved. There is still a difference between the north, the central region, and the south. However, literacy has made a common language the norm. Television, radio, and newspapers have aided education by fostering a sense of national culture.
Ethnic Relations -Many countries and people have occupied Italy over the centuries. Italians resented each these conquerors. However, they intermarried with them and accepted a number of their customs.
There is a vast difference in wealth between the north and the south. There are also the usual social classes that are found in industrial society. Italy has a high unemployment rate, and differences between rich and poor are noticeable. New immigrants stand out since they come from poorer countries. The government has had a vast social welfare network that has been cut in recent years too fit the requirements of the European Union. These budget cuts have fallen on the poorer strata of society.
Religions and Supernaturalism- ninety percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The other 2 percent is mainly comprised of Jews, along with some Muslims and Orthodox and east Rite Catholics.
The supernatural beliefs are those of the Catholic church are mixed with popular Spanish beliefs and been incorporated into Catholicism. There are also beliefs in the evil eye, charms, spells, message through dreams, and various other types of omens. Many of these beliefs, of course, have yielded to the rationalism of the modern age. Others, however, exist below the surface.
Government- Italy is a republic with twenty regions under the central government. In1861, the Italian states were unified under the monarch. The republic was formed on the 2 June 1946 and on the 1st January 1948. The republic’s constitution was proclaimed. The legal system is a combination of civil and ecclesiastical law. Voters must be 25 years old to vote for senators but only 18 in all other elections.
Family and Gender Roles- traditionally, men went out to work and women took care of the home. However, after World War II, that arrangement changed rapidly. Currently, women participate in every aspect of political, economic, and social life. Women are equal to men under the law and attend universities and work in the labour force in numbers commensurate with their share of the population.
A sign of female independence is Italy’s negative population rates. It is also true however, that women continue to perform many of the same domestic tasks they did in the past while assuming new responsibilities.
In Italian culture, men were given preferential status and treatment. Women were assigned the position of the family. However, Italian women in general always had more power than they were traditionally supposed to have. Currently, Italian women are often considered the most liberated in Europe.
Almost all Italians marry. But there is a custom in many families for a child to remain unmarried to care for aged parents. Divorce was forbidden until recently.
Family is very important in Italy. It is the centre of the social structure and provides a stabilizing influence for its members. Family provides both emotional and financial support to its members. In the north, generally only nuclear family lives together, while in the south, the extended family often resides together in one house.
Food- Food is a means for establishing and maintaining ties among family and friends. No one who enters an Italian home should fail to receive an offering of food and drink.
Dining Etiquette- If invited to an Italian house:
· If an invitation says the dress is informal, wear stylish clothes that are still rather formal/ i.e. jacket and tie for men and an elegant dress for women.
· Punctuality is not mandatory. You may arrive between 15 minutes late if invites to dinner and up to 30 minutes late if invited to a party.
· If you are invited to a meal, bring gift-wrapped such and wine or chocolate.
· If you are invited for dinner and want to send flowers, have them delivered that day.
· Remain standing until invites to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
· Table manners are continental. The fork is held in the left hand and knife in the right while eating.
· Follow the lead of the hostess- she sits at the table first, start eating first, and is the first to get up at the end of the meal.
· The host gives the first toast.
· An Honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal.
· Women may offer a toast.
· Always take a small amount of food at first so you can be cajoled into accepting a second helping.
· Do not keep your hands in your lap during the meal; however, do not rest your elbows on the table either.
· It is acceptable to leave small amount of food on your plate.
· Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
· If you don’t want more wine, leave your wineglass nearly full.
Gift Giving Etiquette
· Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
· Do not give red flowers as they indicate secrecy.
· Do not give yellow flowers as they indicate jealousy.
· If you bring wine, make sure it is good vintage. Quality, rather than quantity, is important.
· Do not wrap gifts in black, as is traditionally a mourning colour.
· Do not wrap gifts in purple, as it is a symbol of bad luck.
· Gifts are usually opened when received.
· Greetings are enthusiastic yet rather formal.
· The usual handshake with direct eye contact and a smile suffices between strangers.
· Once a relationship develops, air-kissing on both cheeks, starting with the left is often added and well as a pat on the back between men.
· Wait until invited to move to a first name basis.
· Italians are guided by first impressions, so it is important that you demonstrate propriety and respect when greeting people, especially when meeting them for the first time.
· Many Italians use calling cards in social situations. These are slightly larger than traditional business cards and include the person’s name, address, title or academic honours, and their telephone numbers.
· If you are staying in Italy for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to have calling cards made. Never give your business card in lieu of a calling card in social situation.
Relations and Communication
· Italians prefer to do business with people they know ad trust.
· A third party introduction will go a long way in providing an initial platform from which to work.
· Italians much prefer face to face contact, so it is important to spend time in Italy developing the relationship.
· Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you.
· Discussions are not reached in meetings. Meetings are meant for free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say.
· Dressing well is a priority in Italy.
· Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suites.
· Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
· Elegant accessories are equally important for men and women.
· An arm’s length distance or a bit less is usually an appropriate amount of personal space during conversations. This space tends to be considerably less between friends and family.
· Italians tend to touch quite a bit during conversations. This is more common with good friends and family than say in business or formal situations.
· It is common to see people hug in public; couples kiss in public, women interlock arms with men while walking in the streets etc. Public physical contact is considered normal within certain limits.
Students (copied from cuturecrossing .net)
- The school year usually starts in mid-September and ends in June or the beginning of July, after exams are finished.
- There are not that many school vacations; two weeks for Christmas and a long weekend for Easter tend to be the norm.
- University students can usually dress however the want, although sometimes style depends on what subject is studied. For example, business students might dress more formally than philosophy or language art students.
- Most grades are based on a scale from 0-30, with thirty being the best. A grade of at least 18 is needed to pass. There are generally 8 exams each year, four after each semester, and one must receive at least 18 on each exam to pass. They do not take the average of tall of the exam scores.
- In low level required course, large lecture style classes are common. Once one has moved up to more specialized courses, small group work and seminars are more common.
- There are no sports teams at most Italian universities, so most of the social scene revolves around house parties or going out to the bars or dance clubs.
- Since student dorms and housing is very rare and extremely hard to come by, most students find apartments to share. Hence parties are common at student apartments. Otherwise, Italians enjoy going out to restaurants, drinking at bars or going out later to discos.
- In university towns, there is generally a night a week designated as student night in the local bars.
- In early 2005, it became illegal to smoke in public places, such as restaurants and bars. There are some smoking areas, but for the most part people smoke out on the terrace or at home.
- When it comes to dating, the guys used to be the ones to the girl out on a date, however, now it is becoming more equal.
- Going out for a drink or to dinner would be a normal first date.
- Drinking is common, but moderately. Italians generally drink for the taste of wine. In the northeast, aperitifs are an important part of socializing - the bars fill up between 7-8 with people drinking a light cocktail or wine before dinner. Spritz (sparkling white wine with mineral water and bittersweet liquor) is the most common aperitif in the Veneto and surrounding areas.
- The biggest problem for most students, Italian or other, is finding a student apartment. Often times, you will be required to share a bedroom and even then, prices are quite high.
- It also helps to know some Italian before you arrive. Certainly once you are there, it's best to make an effort to learn the language.