Geographically, Italy lies south of Germany and directly below Austria. Most Germans travel to Italy at least once in their lives for a holiday, and Rome and the islands of Sicily and Capri, are all popular holiday destinations. The cultures of both countries share much in common, but there are also important differences.
Loud joie de vivre versus quietness
Germans enjoy the quiet and to give just one example, it is the courts that decide when and for how long a dog is allowed to bark. In contrast, in Italy people live with noise coming from every direction as a matter of course. As soon as you arrive at your Italian destination, you will notice people greeting each other loudly and passionately, and children enjoy the freedom to play loudly without fear of being reprimanded.
In Italy, similar rules apply to road traffic as they do in Germany, but these rules are not always followed so conscientiously. According to a survey, Italians even describe themselves as road hogs. A forward-looking driving style is therefore quite advantageous in Italy if you want to arrive without a fender bender.
The daily rythm of life is different between the two countries. In Italy, people usually don't meet for lunch until around 2 p.m. and eating dinner before 8 p.m. is rather rare. Children continue to play in the evening until after 11 p.m., whereas in Germany children are expected to be quiet after 10 p.m..
The Italians are more relaxed about punctuality than the Germans and in Italy, a five to ten minutes delay for an appointment or to meet up with someone is not frowned upon. In fact, the further south you go in the country, the more relaxed people are about delays.
Noodles and coffee
It is not only meal times that are different in Italy, but the individual courses that are served as well. Whereas in Germany there is a starter, a main course and a dessert, and people like to have soup as a starter, in Italy they serve pasta as a first course, followed by meat or fish as a second and last course.
In Germany, people enjoy drinking coffee throughout the day however they like it. In Italy, they drink cappuccino in the morning and serve it with a sweet pastry, and after 10 o'clock they generally order an espresso.
Paying the bill at a restaurant
If you go out to eat in Germany, everyone pays for what they have ordered and eaten themselves. In Italy, the total bill for the table is divided by the number of participants. Tipping is unusual in Italy, because a service charge has usually already been added to the bill – with the designation "coperto".
"La Dolce Vita" only applies to business to a limited degree.
As in many southern European countries, business customs in Italy are more relaxed than they are in Germany. Nevertheless, there are a few clear rules. Academic titles are just as important to Italians as they are to Germans and great importance is attached to making a good first impression. Well-groomed, classic clothes, freshly polished shoes and high-quality accessories are welcome. However, in Italy, people deal with punctuality in a business setting in a completely different way to Germany. While Germans prefer to arrive 15 minutes early for a meeting, Italians see it as a bit inflexible to arrive so early. Punctuality is important in business in Italy though and people are rarely more than one or two minutes late.
In Italy people shake hands when they greet each other as they do in Germany, but the Italians will then make time for small talk on topics such as football, the family and food. This small talk can take a while and can be frustrating to the Germans, who want to get on with discussing business.
In Italy, it is usually not the person holding the meeting who will make any decision that has to be made and so the outcome of a meeting will only be known afterwards. If you are invited to dinner, you should never refuse, as this is seen as impolite.
FAQ on cultural differences between Germany and Italy
In Germany, the informal greeting "Ciao" is usually only used to say goodbye. In Italy, it is used to say hello and goodbye equally. The word originates from Latin and, like "servus", has its roots in "your servant/slave".
Cars, car parts, machines and chemical products are the most important goods that are traded between Germany and Italy, along with food. Italian wines and, of course, pasta are particularly popular in Germany, while dairy products from Germany are popular in Italy.
At 301,340 square kilometres, Italy ranks 7th on the list of the largest countries in Europe and Germany, at 357,022 square kilometres, ranks 4th.
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