Understanding work culture in Rome

young professional
Updated 2023-04-20 20:32

Working in Rome is an opportunity for many expatriates. Still, before starting this new adventure, it is useful to know the established work culture and the norms so that employers and new colleagues have a positive image of you right away.

Adopting the work culture in Rome

Working in Rome with Italians has its advantages. Relationships are generally more friendly and spontaneous than in northern Europe. Colleagues in the workplace greet each other, shake hands and joke around – an Italian way of making any situation seem less dramatic and more natural. Indeed, the work culture is based on easy human relations and Roman colleagues, as in life in general, are very welcoming and easy to talk to. So don't hesitate to strike up a conversation and return their friendly smiles.

Lunches are often taken outside than in the office and will always be convivial. Romans, like all Italians, love to chat and eat, and it is rare for an employee to eat a sandwich alone at the office. As in Milan, networking and professional relationships are important in Rome. It is not uncommon to see Romans taking generous lunch breaks in order to 'look after' their address book. In addition, hierarchy and honorific titles are important. Italians call a person with a university degree and a managerial position a "Dottore" (literally Doctor) with deference.

Although the protocol is important, Romans like to "talk it out", usually over coffee, to lighten the mood and make the working relationship more informal. It is common to go down to the nearest bar for a quick espresso at the counter.

There are some differences in Rome, however. There is a certain disorganization or, rather, a chaotic organization with its own rules, although hard work and the will to achieve results remain paramount.

Good to know:

Family and children are very important in Italy, so if you have children, everything is done to ensure that you are available in case they are ill, for example, or if you have to take them to school in the morning and pick them up in the evening. For the family in general, in the case of a parent's illness or death, the company will not give you any trouble and will even encourage you to be absent.

Punctuality is not a primary principle in Rome (although it depends on the sector and company you work in). So if you are attending a meeting, be patient, as some of your colleagues may be late. This is not to be taken as disrespectful, so try to be flexible; it is usually appreciated.

The job market in Rome

As the capital, Rome is home to a large number of national and international institutions and embassies. Many expatriates who speak foreign languages usually find employment with the latter two or in the tourism sector. Many people also work in marketing and communication. In the latter case, however, a good command of Italian is essential, as English is less common in Rome than in Milan. The economy mainly comprises the service sector, high technology sectors such as IT and telecommunications, and tourism. Our article on the labor market in Rome will give you more information on this subject.

Working hours in Rome

In a typical office, a working day in Rome should last eight hours, with 40 hours per week. Working hours are usually from Monday to Friday, between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm, with a lunch break around 1.00 pm and two 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon. However, each company has its own timetable, so the day might start at 8.30 a.m. for some and at 9.30 a.m. for others, depending on the type of service or activity. Some companies, agencies and firms are more flexible and allow employees to arrive between 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning and leave in the evening accordingly.

If you work in a shop, in the restaurant industry, in the hotel industry, or in some call centers, the working hours are very often different and are called turni in Italian, meaning shift. You may never start at the same time or on the same day of the week.

Dress code in Rome

As in the rest of Italy, fashion is very important in the Roman workplace. Romans like quality clothing and fabrics, so you will see a certain amount of care in how a man or a woman wears it. Details are essential, for example, a nice wool suit (or linen and cotton in summer) with a scarf for the gentlemen or a nice pair of shoes with a leather bag for the ladies. However, in most companies in Rome, especially among young people, the dress code is a bit more casual than in Milan, with a certain amount of restraint, unless you work for an institution where formal and elegant attire is required.

Summers are very hot in Rome, so women are allowed to wear sandals and dresses and skirts, within reason. Italian fashion is rich in outfits for all seasons, so in the summer, shops offer clothes that are suitable for the heat but still elegant and designed for city life. If you are in contact with clients in the course of your work, it is advisable to dress in a formal style.

On average, Romans, like all Italians, attach great importance to their dress. Having said that, every company has, of course, internal regulations, which it is advisable to read before starting in order to know all the rules, as well as any specific dress code.

Useful link:

Professional etiquette in Italy

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