Southern Europe

The Southern European countries studied by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project are: Croatia, Cyprus, Macedonia (FYROM), Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

European Business Culture map

Business Culture in Slovenia Business Culture in Croatia Business Culture in Cyprus Business Culture in Turkey Business Culture in FYROM Business Culture in Greece Business Culture in Malta Business Culture in Italy Business Culture in Spain Business Culture in Portugal

Similarities in Southern European business culture

The Southern region of Europe has a fascinating blend of cultures. The similarities in geography and climate influence the region’s culture and in particular the way in which people here communicate and do business. The countries in this region have many common aspects when it comes to communication and appropriate business etiquette.

Understanding the importance of developing personal relationships with business counterparts, contacting the right people within the company, and maintaining strong bonds with business partners are all ingredients that are considered essential to a successful business environment. Therefore, being trustworthy, respectful, and loyal will certainly facilitate business operations. People are generally warm and open to dealing with foreign nationals in business.

The culture in this region is family-oriented, people enjoy leisure activities and have a strong regard for traditions. Businesses tend to have a traditional and hierarchical structure and so personal networks can help to  open doors and foster connections with the right people.

People in the Southern European region understand the importance of social media and actively use it to communicate, but SMEs are yet to become fully aware of its potential. However, interest within the business sector is growing and social media is becoming a bigger part of future communication strategy.

Differences in Southern European business culture  

In today’s fast paced world, the importance of social media continues to grow in fostering and  maintaining business relationships with both current and potential clients and partners, but the way in which it is used varies  from country to country.

Facebook is by far the most well known social media platform and is commonly used both for private and professional purposes. Other local social networks such as Tuenti in Spain, Hi5 and Orkut in Portugal, Italylink and Fubles in Italy have many users and followers. Turkey on the other hand is witnessing an explosion in online social media networks it is the 4th largest in global usage of Facebook and 8th largest for for the use of Twitter.

People in the Southern European region both understand the value of and actively use social media to communicate, but SMEs in this region are yet to fully understand and capitalise on its potential. However, interest is growing as is the understanding that it is now an essential part of their communication strategy.

Punctuality is an important aspect of business meetings, but not every country has the same perception of time. In Spain, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus being late is usually not considered impolite, whilst in Croatia, Malta, Slovenia, FYROM and Turkey people value punctuality and expect international business partners to do the same.

The use of gestures is common in all of these countries, but certain gestures and body language have different meanings varying from rude to insulting and offensive. For example, in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, avoid making the ‘”OK’” sign with your hand or pointing at someone with your finger.

In summary, knowing and understanding the different cultural aspects of business etiquette is of paramount importance in helping to build personal and professional relationships in Southern Europe.

Explore the following pages, which contain more information on each of these Southern European countries: