Podcast
Working with Italians
Italy
February 14, 2023
66 Min

Working with Italians with Maura Di Mauro.

This is something rooted in our history, because, of course, we have the renaissance, so we have the concept of beauty which was transferred in graphic design, interior design, and fashion of course, so it's part of our cultural heritage.
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Working with Italians

What is the first thing that comes to mind when discussing Italy? Amazing food, art, culture, fast cars, the pope, Romans, and so much more. Italy is a country with an impressive history, and this has made its people very unique.

You might know some second-generation Italians, but do you know the real native Italian?

In this podcast episode, I speak with native Italian intercultural trainer and consultant Maura di Mauro about working with Italians.

We dive deeper into the Italian culture and mentality and what makes hiring, working with or having Italians in your remote team can bring value to your business or your workday.

Show Notes

Meet Maura Di Mauro, a distinguished lecturer in Intercultural Management at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and other prestigious universities, where she teaches Bachelor, Master, and PhD courses.

Maura conducts international research on her interests. She also actively participates in teachers' intercultural training programmes to promote intercultural education and internationalise higher education.

International and multicultural work is her passion. She is an expert at helping people and organisations develop intercultural and global sustainable leadership skills.

Maura excels at co-designing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategies to make a difference. She uses her creativity to create customised training programmes with games, videos, and MOOCs.

Maura supports the hybrid working model and values workplace flexibility. However, she still values experiential, in-person training groups. She believes genuine intercultural encounters can provide valuable learning opportunities in these settings.

Maura co-wrote "Feeling Italian" and leads its project. The idea came from a global photo contest that explored what it means to be Italian today. Maura created intercultural and global skills training programmes based on the book. These include "Feeling Italian" instructional video. Multicultural citizens."

She believes a strong theoretical framework, dedicated research, and continuous learning can transform her field. Her many books, articles, research reports, and training toolkits on intercultural training, diversity, and inclusion support this belief.

Maura lives in Milan, Italy, an international hub and speaks Italian, English, and Spanish. Her educational and professional journey has taken her to the Netherlands, UK, Spain, Malta, Kuwait, and USA.

Resources

Connect with Maura di Mauro

Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn.

Email: Maura.dimauro@libero.it

The Feeling Italian book

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From the episode

Bella figura

Key Episode Insights

Intercultural Diversity and Inclusion

🌍 Maura di Mauro is a passionate trainer and consultant in intercultural diversity and inclusion, emphasizing the importance of embracing intercultural educational practices and developing global sustainable leadership skills.
📚 She believes that a strong theoretical framework, research, and continuous learning approach are crucial in making a difference in the field of intercultural training and diversity and inclusion.
😊 Maura di Mauro expresses gratitude for the invitation and is pleased to be a part of the conversation.
🧠 Intercultural competence, which includes soft skills and attitudes, is crucial for effectively transferring knowledge and relating to individuals with different cultural backgrounds.
🌍 "To work successfully with Italians, it is important to be open-minded, avoid being judgmental, and not impose your own way of doing things as the best way."
🌍 The beauty of traveling and living in different places is that it allows you to open your eyes, see things in a different light, and reflect on it.

Cultural Differences in Italy

🌍 Milan has the potential to become one of the big international hubs in the world, especially in Europe, due to its multicultural and international nature.
🍕 Italy is known for its food culture.
🏰 Italy can be divided into two distinct cultures, with the north influenced by French and Austrian-Hungarian domination, while the south was under Spanish rule for a long time, resulting in different cultural approaches to life.
💬 Communication styles also vary, with the north using a more pragmatic and action-oriented approach, while the south tends to use longer, more objective and circular sentences to create harmony and a good feeling among people.
🌍 The cultural differences between the north and south of Italy are often overlooked in intercultural management research, leading to a limited understanding of the country as a whole.
🎨 "Bella Figura" is a significant aspect of Italian culture, emphasizing the importance of appearance and how people judge and perceive others based on their looks.

Work and Career in Italy

🌍 Italians seek companies that align with their values, particularly those that prioritize diversity, inclusion, and demonstrate consistency between their declared values and organizational behavior.
⏰ Hard work and dedication are key factors in advancing one's career in Italy.
💯 Italians have a strong eye for quality and precision, making them detail-oriented and accurate in their work, which can be a valuable asset to a team.
🤝 Recognizing and understanding the needs and differences of individuals, as well as enjoying the cultural learning process, are crucial for successful team management and achieving desired results.Maura di Mauro is a passionate Intercultural, Diversity & Inclusion and Sustainability Trainer and Consultant. She is a GDEIB Assessor and Practitioner and one of the Intercultural Cities Network’s expert consultants. 

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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
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Full Transcript

Paul Arnesen: Welcome. You lived everywhere, and now you live in Milan, which I also do. And I yeah, well, welcome very, very much. How are you today?

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah, thank you so much, Paul, for the invitation. A pleasure to be with you and feeling good. Yes, thank you. Thank you. 

Paul Arnesen: And so just to kick things off here. This is something we all do all over the world. So which is also a difference. What did you have for breakfast?

Maura Di Mauro: Well, definitely, coffee. I cannot miss coffee, which is my masters Italian. I love coffee, a double cup of coffee, and then some bread with jam. That's my most of the time. Breakfast. Yes, and that's the Italian breakfast. I don't know how many. Actually, I think, in Milan Most of the people have cappuccino and croissants. I think this is the most typical, but I cannot eat the croissant because i'm not. I do not digest them so. Luckily, when I smell it, it's not something that really attract me.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, it's. This is something that I found fascinating when I came to Italy is that the breakfast culture is so different. They are different all over the world in many senses, you know. And I remember the first time I saw someone dipping their croissant in the cappuccino and eating it like that was breakfast, and you know. So it I think it's and I'm always trying to understand why these cultural things invent themselves, because, you know, in the Uk. It's a very different breakfast, the habit in the Us. And everywhere and..

Maura Di Mauro: well in Milan, as you probably know we had several influences from the Cross Borders country, one of which was French, that for several times along the history we're dominating Milan and croissant. Of course, it's something they left.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and also the cappuccino you know, which I think comes from Austria. If i'm not mistaken, 

Maura Di Mauro: I had to be honest with you. This is history of the cappuccino. I don't know, but i'm going to discover it. I'm going to check some information as soon as we end our conversation. Because you give me the click of the why, Why do we have? I never ask. I always took for granted that was from our culture. I never went through who let the cappuccino.

Paul Arnesen: No, no, no, no, it's actually an interesting little quirk in terms of culture. What we sort of prefer to give us energy in the morning. Right? That's sort of the breakfast. And then, before you go off to your work day. You need something to give it a little energy kick, I guess, and we all need something different.Also it's. It's interesting that you live in Milan I want to mention. I I want to touch up on one thing you actually said in your introduction that you consider Milan as an international hub, and I must say I completely agree with you, and I think it's kind of an interesting thing that I discovered in the moving here is that Milan is not a city that is necessarily mentioned among the other power cities of the world like New York, London, Paris, Berlin. I think Milan has such a big potential in terms of becoming or is already one of the big international hubs in the world.

Maura Di Mauro: Definitely, it is in Europe. It's you in Europe is considered one international hub. There is an economic geographic area which is called the banana of Europe and Milan is one of the countries within this area. So it's one of the cities very much cultural, very international, and for this reason also very connected with other similar cities, particularly in Europe, but not only in Europe.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, no, no, it's a fascinating city and a lot of, the sort of the also in Italy, the biggest, most wealthy city, with all the big industries and everything is up in the North, and I mean is the capital of all that. So, yeah, it's a great city to live in I must really say. Okay, so let us go over to the topic of this podcast. So for the listeners and those that are viewing, I want to just, I mean, if you never heard about Italy. I don't know if you maybe been born under a rock, but Italy obviously is a. As a country. I think that most of us know something about. You have obviously the food, culture, and everything that comes from Italy. But I just want to sort of just for the sake of putting Italy on the map, for those that might not be 100 % sure where it is. So basically, if you look at the map of Europe and you look to the south, a bit to the west. There is a little thing that sticks down into the Mediterranean and looks like a boot. So that's Italy. Its borders are in the north only so they have no borders to the south, except for water borders. But in the north it borders to France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and inside of Italy; the Vatican and San Marino. It currently inhabits around 60 million people. If i'm not mistaken. Which makes it the third. About 60 million? Right? Yeah, that makes it the third most populous country in Europe. So it's a massive country, with a lot of people. And yeah, so it's actually something that for me, was a surprise. I didn't know how massive it was. I'm from a small country I am Norwegian.  I'm from a country with 5.4 million people. It's like a city in Italy. Italy, is obviously best known for its fantastic food, but also it's landscape. It's so beautiful. Here you have the alps in the north. You have the islands in the South, Sicily. You have the coastline that goes down from both sides basically.There's so much beautiful beauty in Italy, and it's also widely known, obviously, for it's a contribution to art, culture, history. And yeah, and It's obviously something that that most of us has some some sort of relationship with. If it's just to maybe through family or food, or art or culture, you have something Italian that you touched upon in your life. I can guarantee it. Another thing I wanted to also start with, which is gonna lead over to the first question is that it was interesting for me when I came here I read the book about Italy, and so I actually didn't know that Italy was only unified as the nation we today know as Italy in 1861; meaning that before 1861, the notion of Italy was, like many Provinces you know, there was provinces around Italy. And, when I sort of read this and I that it's sort of dawned on me that this is one of the reasons why, if you are in Italy, and you, Maura, who lives here and is born here. Italy is so diverse - inside of Italy. There's a big difference from the people in the North to the people in the South. And I think that, and here come my questions to you, for someone who is looking at sort of working with Italian. So comes come to Italy with your company or something. And what would you say is sort of from your perspective, the biggest, maybe difference that they and, maybe this is a difficult question to answer straightforward, but, like the people in the North and the people in the South, what sort of the big differences in your opinion or in your experience about their sort of way of living.

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah. So first of all, before 1 861 is what was not. Italy was not made up by provinces, but actually was made up by kingdoms. So what you said there were provinces actually. They became after the unification they became provinces well after during the Second World War, more or less as a period; but before they were really kingdoms which makes in terms of culture. It means that the feeling of belonging to a certain area it was stronger because they we're belonging to a proper kingdom as very some of them smaller, some of them larger. But it was a very feeling of attachment on the local area, and this is something that is brought even up today, as a cultural heritage, in terms of not something material, but something intangible that's still shape how people feel how people behave. what they sense of cultural identity as well. So it's very possible that people, when you ask where you come from, like myself and other people will tell you, not from Italy, but from the city where we come from. So i'm from Milano, I'm Milanese first. And that's something we connect with, probably the phenomenon, the historical phenomenon you just describe. And then that's true. If you consider Italy, you can at least split it into the big culture, because Milano area and the north area was dominated a different point, a different stage in history. It was dominated by the French by the Spanish, but the Spanish for a just a short period, let's say the North was an alternation between the French domination and the Austrian, Austria-Hungary Emperial domination. While the south of Italy for very long time, was belonging to the Spanish to the Bourbon kingdom, so totally different culture, a totally different approach towards many aspects of life. And this is true still now a day. And, how? What's the manifestation of those main differences? I would say definitely in terms of first of all communication style. Like in the North people, especially in the Milan area we tend to use not only be more pragmatic, but the language we use, the communication style we use tend to be based on a more pragmatic sentence construction. So more verbs more speaking, in order to make action together in order to do activities together, while in the South they normally use more objectives and long sentences with a more circular a communication style. And the languages most use it for rhetoric or for creating Harmoney and a good feeling among people. And so this is impact on communication style, and on the other very huge aspect is time conception. Of course, language. It goes together with how we perceive the words and what are our purpose, so definitely. Another very big aspect of difference is the time conception. What's our meaning of time? What do we do with our time? How we spend our time and the other one. Probably that goes together with these differences is the importance to our tasks or goals or achievements. And versus the importance of relationship and managing relationship. So those are the big 2 differences, and there are also some. Probably you are familiar with some cultural tools. When you look at the maps that have been created by some particularly cross-cultural managers. Indeed, you can see Italy is always splitted in 2 colors, which represents almost 2 cultural differences.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And I think that actually I read the book, or, i'm reading a book at the moment where it talks about a lot of the cultural research, work cultural research done by Hofstadt and Lewis and stuff like that. They probably use most of the data from the north of Italy when they did surveys and not the South and it can, in some sense, if you think about it, this is could be like a philosophical question to think about, or even for educational purposes, that a lot of the books about intercultural management, looking at Italy might actually just talk about one aspect of Italy. As you say, the northern part, because it didn't really take into account that everything you mentioned now about how the importance of how they develop. Yeah. 

Maura Di Mauro: And the different aspects. Well, here, actually, you tackle one of my first one on my first point when we talk about cultural diversity, because, of course, I do believe, even though we goes toward a globalized world. And I do believe that there is a small percentage of the work which are very global people, which means they travel a lot. They speak more languages. They used to have a frequent interaction with people from all over the world which makes creating and somehow global culture among those people. So it's very possible that wherever you come from, you have something more in common with these global people. If you, if you have this kind of cultural background as well, which means you share those practices, you share those out products of culture as well. So in somehow, there is this global phenomenon, the globalization. But on the other side we're still talking about a small percentage of people which is growing, but it's still an elite group of people, because the majority of the people, because the world population is also increasing. So it's true that the global people are increasing, but in terms of absolute percentage, actually they are more or less the same. So the majority of the people still are very local, which means they do not move for all their life. They have very few possibility to move and to have interaction with the international people. So even though there is this global movement, and somehow there are still the majority of people, the stays in the local country and they are still very connected with the local culture. So I think it's very important to be aware of those phenomena and to become cultural competence. But still I also think that is, there is a, you call it philosophical, I think it's more like what's your concept of culture? It's very difficult to talk about who are the Italians, or who are the Norwegian, or who are the French, or whatever? Because, of course, there is. When you talk about like a group of people. As you correctly said the Italians, there are so many culture within culture variety that of course, you you need to consider that you are generalizing. So even when you train people, it's very important, of course, to give them a a cultural understanding. I think it's absolutely important, and you need everyone manager particularly. They need to keep it in the background. But then they need to, I think, is more important to develop inter cultural skills or global mindset, so that they are able wherever they go, they are able to transfer work they learn. Wiith, their experience within a cultural, a different cultural context, they can transfer some of the competence in different cultural contexts, or when they relate with people with the different cultural background. So I think at the end that's the competence and particularly intercultural competence, which are sub-skill and the mindset, which means aptitudes, values. How you relate with people. It's even more important than the knowledge of a certain country. Well, or at least I think that without the global mindset, even though you have the knowledge, it's not sufficient.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, not absolutely. And I think that today we have a, as you said, and more people especially, I think in Italy also the people that have experienced more of the world as well, like repatriates, you know they come back from living abroad. They come into the, the world is growing,it's getting more globalized. And you have a bigger pool of people that have a more international mindset. But they are still like these sort of the inbred culture, the one that is sort of you know, that you're born and raised with, I think it's always like the basis of a lot of thinking. But I think it's just interesting. Also, one of the things that I would go to, the next question is like talk about the typical Italian right? Because that's sort of where this for me, came up this idea of talking to someone who is native, because when a company is considering, say, an expansion into Italy, what they will read is a lot of things that you can be seen as okay stereotyping generalising. They might sometimes be completely of the target. Because, as you say, this is not true, but it's actually interesting to see what would be something that is like, okay, this is the typical Italian. So yeah, that's my question to you. How would you sort of define, maybe think about in a work setting someone who is working, and as an Italia born and raised in Italy. Maybe someone who has a little bit of an international knowledge, because we have to maybe assume that they have at least some level of you know, English or not. The language could be doesn't have to be English, but they can that kind of work in an international context.

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah. Well, it's difficult to generalize, but definitely something that most of the Italian might share, and you probably perceive it immediately. Especially coming in a city like Milan is the attention to what is called, and what you can read in the book, which is the “Bella Figura”. It's the good shape for the nice looking. So how you look like how people will judge you, and somehow perceive you because of your looking. It's something quite important. And again, this is something rooted in our history, because, of course, we have the renaissance, so we have the concept of beauty which was transferred in graphic design, interior design, and fashion of course, so it's part of our cultural heritage. But it's also a relationship concept. So how do you manage? Relationship needs to be shaped, or need to consider a good manner to managing relationship. Taking in consideration, for instance, face, the art of hospitality, something else, probably as a foreigner you noted Italians are very hospital, so they really care about you how you're feeling, if they can help you. And this is still part, I, I think, is a very, It's something very connected with what we call “Bella Figura”. So it's part of an aesthetic concept of managing relationship.

Maura di Mauro: This is, I think, is really it's something that probably you can note, and you can note in the North and in the South even more in the South, probably, but it's part of our heritage. I also note that when I work with expats they are always astonished about how their subordinates want to help them, or that the or the fact that they colleagues, invite them over for dinner, or, I don't know they need to go to Ikea and the colleagues, they say, well don't worry. We'll go together on the weekend to Ikea. I will bring you to Ikea, I will come with you, and they are surprised because they dedicate, for them, so much of the time, so much of the attention. But this is part of the Bella figure, I I think.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, but, just a on the “Bella Figura”, because it's actually something obviously as a yeah. I had this conception also before meeting my girlfriend, obviously, and then moving to Milan. I see I'm changing a little bit myself, especially if I go outside. It's really important. You know how I.

Maura di Mauro: You need to dress up a little bit exactly, you know. 

Paul Arnesen: But I'm Norwegian. So like i'm coming from a very, you know, traditional culture where we go up in the mountains, and we sleep outside in the wooden cabins, you know. So it's like you could definitely see sometimes, if i'm walking the street that I not Italian. But I was thinking, if this is actually something I like, I do. So I work with a lot of companies that do you know hybrid work and remote work? So I was asking, the question, is, is this sort of this notion of the “Bella Figura” something that is shaped to sort of the sense of personality for an Italian, because you can imagine someone who is working only behind a laptop all day that don't have to go to an office anymore, that you know they are staying at home. They don't have to show to anyone or like dress up for anyone.

Maura di Mauro: That's still. You can see, for instance, I Well, i'm not completely dressed up, but I use my lipstick, for instance and well, there are some details you pay attention to even you don't know what you can see below. Of course, my chest you cannot see below, but at least what you'll see in the video. It has a nice looking. There is some some attention on it, and the other thing is again going back to Graphic. So what is important? It's important also the layout. how you package something? Yeah. Small details. You pay attention to small details. I think this is even virtually something you can observe at the end.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And is this something that I, in an office setting, it's important as well from sort of the because obviously this is not some like. If you want to, motivate, let this talk about motivation in that sense like, is it important that also the managers, you know they dress the part, and they do the same thing for the people working there to feel valued and motivated. Is that also important?

Maura de Mauro: Not necessarily to motivate. But you express your characters like you - the way you decide to dress up is also part of your character, and on the daily footprint at the end you live in the relationship context.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. So it has a little bit to do with respect. In some sense, then is it? Would someone who doesn't dress up nicely have respect..

Maura Di Mauro: It is respect, and it's also a self-determination of who you are. And then this is also related with something that is a little bit subtle like You talk about this 60 million of people. Of course we are within Europe. We are part of a democracy, we need to have a certain economic level, and so on. Of course, if you come to Italy, it's not a country where you see many this equality, or at least you don't see it at first size. But then, if you look at carefully also from these aspects, you can note the difference between different levels, and of course, especially top managers, is a certain level. They also show in somehow rank, status, class. Of course, other groups they might belong to by using certain accessories as well, or how they dress up. So those are small elements of culture that if you pay attention, you cannot, and you can observe, and from those elements you can also understand the cultural variability, because when we talk about cultural diversity, of course, especially if we consider the global work. We immediately think about different countries, but even within every country there are different cultural groups, and actually you become expert of a certain country or culture when you are able to recognize the internal cultural viability, which is made up by different layers, let's say of cultural identity.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, well, just as a as a that that sort of for for me, that was something that I it has been confirmed that you know the way we dress in Italy is important. But are there any misconceptions that you have heard in sort of an international context about Italians? That is, that you find either frustrating, or you try to explain to them. I have one that I I can. I can say one that I've heard.

Maura Di Mauro: Ok, you start and then I tell you, I can tell you I can share also, because as I said I work a lot with expats, training them, and sometimes I have the opportunity to follow up after they arrival. So when they start to collect some experience into the Italian context, and so I can share some of the anecdotes, or what they say. But you go first, please. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, no, no. Because when I told someone who at home that I had an Italian girlfriend, they said, well, isn't isn't she super aggressive, like very, you know you know that.. 

Maura di Mauro: Communication style you mean the communication expressive. 

Paul Arnesen: They didn't say expressive, because I said, Well, she's passionate. They're passionate as a passion, right? So if they talk and do like this, it's more of a, it's an expressive way of talking, but it's just it's not aggression. So that's what I tried to explain. So that was sort of the one thing that. I didn't have that. But that's something I heard that I had to say. Don't know it's not that they're not like more aggressive than anyone else in in my experience at least.

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah, it's. It would be interesting to know who told you. Probably they were not Spanish or Portuguese, I suppose. 

Paul Arnesen: No they were Norwegian.

Maura di Mauro: Okay, indeed, because, of course, the perception, it depends always from your experience now, and I suppose with the at least with Spanish or Portuguese, we share more this expression, style, or communication, expression of our emotion. Yes. no, actually, there are some other. There are some other elements, especially as you said, I also work with several well, with different managers from different nations, but most of the time, especially when there are cases of merger acquisition. Yes, the Americans, or the Germans, or some time English, are the most, the majority of the expats I work with. So in that case, what they do complain, or what they find a little bit difficult or so, or I recently, had a case of a Dutch general manager, for instance, what are the main problems? They face communication style. So communication style is one of the biggest subtle difficulty that you might encounter, especially if you're not completely aware of it, and the impact that it can have on trust. For instance, from building trust within a group of people and sometimes they comes, and of course, especially if they are in top of in top position. They want to lead cultural, organizational cultural changes because they want to see the results of their role. And they come and they immediately start criticizing or say, well, we should do that, we should do that so changing what has been always be done. And this is a cultural shock for both, because, of course, the Expat with this intention, with the best intention, they are not able to create the right connection with the locals and the locals. They feel criticized and they perceive the changing that the top managers would like. It's a drastic change, and they are not looking for it, because also another difference is the aptitude to work changes. So Italians tend to be in general a little bit more resistant, and of course they always did something, and they will carry on doing what they always did. And so it's difficult to start a productive, a synergetic relationship by listening some critic, and by being requesting somehow to change what they always did. So this is definitely one element. And the other elements is connected with autonomy and with, let's say, subordinates and superior relationship. So many of the managers top managers I work with. They expect they subordinates particularly second-line, to be more entrepreneurs, so to be more independent in how they take decision. And but this is not what the Italian second-lines expect, because they respect a little bit more hierarchy, and they expect they both to take the final decision to supervise or to take as I said, the final decision, or to agree on what they have to do. And so the level of autonomy or self-entrepreneurship it can be another issues, especially if you come from abroad. If you expect your direct report to be more independent and you expect them to lead the change you would like. This is a process that needs to be oiled and needs adjustments in terms of communication and relationship management. So I think this is another.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, because the, I had the not gonna talk about this in detail. But I, when we we spoke about my culture, Norwegian, we have something called with freedom comes responsibility in our culture. So it's very typical for the northern part of Europe, where we are actually giving a lot of, we have to sort of take that independence on up on ourself when it from very, very young. And it sort of shapes a little bit how we, you know, approach life in general. 

Maura Di Mauro: This is it doesn't mean that people are not able to be independent, but especially in organizational context, where your career is related, it depends from your superiors. The Italians tend to respect, the superior in terms of who is taking the decision, who needs to approve what I had to do. So there is a relationship, recognition of ranks and of roles which is not expected, and, for instance, in Norwegian, or even in the US, or in the Uk, where the manager doesn't, supervise or doesn't, enter so much into the detail it the decision making of the subordinates, because they want more independence, and they are more goals or results-oriented.

Paul Arnesen: So just then we can move over to the next question I have. How do you, then? If you have Italians on your on your staff, if you're not an Italian manager, how do you keep them motivated, engaged and happy at the workplace?

Maura Di Mauro: Well, this is, It's difficult question, because, first of all, every person is different, and might have different motivation for..

Paul Arnesen: You can generalise.

Maura de Mauro: And secondly, this is 1 million question, because, as you know, I mean Italian companies, they have this huge problem of attracting and retaining, especially the millenniums. But this is a very global phenomenon nowadays. So it's very difficult to answer. What I can tell you what I thought to share with you, is something that one of the Italian company I work with. Well, I had this guest, that we were 2 representative of an Italian company I work with, very Italian in the industry, and they also have branches in Europe, particularly in Germany. But they are an Italian company, and they are facing this problem of attracting and retaining, especially the young generation. They have a lack of skills. They are shortage skills, particularly technical skills, and for them is a problem. As for many other companies so I had them as a guest at my the my class in the university in an international course, and they wanted to ask to my students this question: what doesn't motivate you? What would you like in the first company? You start to work with? And I can tell you what my students, which were 40 students coming from a little bit from all over the world. There were some trends, I mean, the majority of them answered. I want money. So money, salary. It's still very important, and, as you probably know, the average salary in Italy is lower than many other European country. So this is one of the reason specially educated young, they tend to go abroad instead of remain in the country. So salary. The second, elements they wanted, work a life balance, so they are not. They don't want to sacrifice this self. They don't want to be work alcoholics. They want to do something else. And remote working it's part it doesn't mean they have to work daily, remotely, but they need to know that they can have some flexibility in where they work. And then they want companies with values like diversity, like inclusion, and particularly that they are integrated with the values they declare. So they don't want political relationships within the working environments, but they want a currency between the value declared on the websites and the organizational behavior. So the management behaviors. So I think those are. are, are very important elements on the salary base of course this is a a systemic big change. This is all the political industrial relationship to change in this sense. Or maybe companies, they can find their own way to reward and to increase the compensation. While on the other 2 aspects for a work life, balance and possibility to work remotely and and something else is many Italian companies, especially Italian, I mean, I'm not talking about multinationals, which represents still a very small percentage in the Italian market but particularly the Italian companies many times they do not have clear career paths or a career opportunity, paths, it's not very clear. So when people, when, fresh graduated start to work for them. They don't know they where they would be, and which kind of development opportunity do they have in 3, 5 years time and this is something that they motivate them as well because they don't know what what to put the effort.

Paul Arnesen: Actually, I have a couple of questions, this is very interesting. So, one of the reasons why I always ask about this, and it's like what makes someone engaged and happy at the workplace is that it? It's a little bit of a generalization that's sort of the idea of thinking about this, because, as you said, everybody is different. So for some of the typical one from my culture would say, okay, if you, if i'm gonna work for you, you have to give me independence. That's gonna make me happy. If you're gonna micromanage me you know i'm not gonna be happy. I'm gonna leave. So like independence - and for some cultures, maybe status is important, so that because we mentioned that a little bit earlier with the “Bella Figura” - is status, or like the like, because then we can talk about career paths. Right? Is that important for the Italian, and also one thing that on that topic like the that the potential to go grow in status is that important? And also is there a difference between male and female when it comes to this in Italian workpace, from the Italian viewpoint, this kind of status, and..

Maura Di Mauro: Well like in in general, I mean men are more oriented to status than women. Then, again, it depends from women to women, and it's also cultural in this sense that when we talk about even accessories, or what are your clothes possibilities. Of course it's related in somehow with status. It's a that subtle cultural elements. I think that, like a young Italian. whatever is his sex or gender. I mean, if they know that in a shorter amount of time in another European country, or even outside overseas they will have a career opportunity in a shorter amount of time they will go for it. Why shouldn't they go? And if they know that if they go to live in France, for instance, they know that they have a 30% plus of salary, on average. For the same role they are covering. Of course they, if they know French, if they have some relationship, of course they will go for it. And in such a global markets, and where mobility today, especially for this generation, is taken for granted. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, I think also one of the reasons why this is may be interesting to consider is that when, so I studied also, I did my masters in Portugal, and with a lot of Portuguese students, obviously Portugal, Italy, south of Europe, in some sense share a lot of cultural heritage. And we had this question, I remember, in one of the classes: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” And I remember 90% of the Portuguese said, in 5 years I'm. Married, I'm. Settled down. That was sort of their career path. This was in 2000 - it's 10 years ago. Is that the same in Italy is that sort of a notion that you want to, that the this is life, but also career can will impact on your life.

Maura Di Mauro: Absolutely, I will say here I was astonished. You made me remember, about an event actually of a student he was coming from, not from Milan. Originally he came to study in Milan, but he was from a small village of the Bergamo province, so a different culture in somehow. And I was astonished because at 20 years old, or something he was doing, his internship after ITS which is something in between university and a professional school. It's something that is part of our education system. It's a little bit shorter than university. But, however. And he told me, well, in a 2, 3 years time I want to be married, and I wanted to settle down and I was looking at him, thinking, oh, my God, I will never think something similar in my mind. So I think also really, from which part of Italy you come from. If you have this more urban or outside urban area and culture can really impact a lot on your wish and your expectation in terms of lifestyle. So I that so what I what I want to synthesize that probably people who lives in Milan probably they do not have this clarity in the family vision, probably. Or less than people coming from other areas where they used to more routine and more predictable lifestyle, you know.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, yeah, yeah, because I think it's something that it's something that I can observe. You know, coming from the outside that family - extended family. The bonds are different 

Maura di Mauro: To the time you spend. How much with the frequency you relate with your family members definitely something which impact. But I was also astonished by other students coming from more urban area from Rome or from Milan.That they were moving somewhere else with their partners. So from the partners, was not like the husband, or was not the wife, but they were expats somewhere, and the companies of the partner allowed them to move with a partner which was not formalised. So probably is also the case of you and your partner and they took this opportunity for them was really an opportunity to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend moving somewhere, and they could enjoy the same opportunity being together. So this is a socially different lifestyle. It's not like wishing to marriage necessarily, but you have, you are with someone with a very global lifestyle and you want to fall that kind of more nomads lifestyle so very different in terms of expectation, even though you see, like the tight of a relationship, is very important, because, Of course, if you are a partner, you have the opportunity because of your partners, not necessarily because of your husband or your wife.

Paul Arnesen: No, no, I obviously. I I think it's these things is something that you'll be highly dependent on where you are from how you've been raised, and everything. And just on this sort of the topic of work life balance because it's it's something that I think a lot of a lot of the companies that I work with when they are asking me, okay, where should I hire this person from? Can be anyone, they say, okay, let's look at Italy. They always ask me. So what do I need to give in benefits. And you know, like these things, that how do they? How do - typically in Italy? How does they sort of a - I know, obviously because I I live with an Italian. But what they say normal sort of workday, worklife. When you think about from they finish university, they start working. They work normally - in my experience they start typical office, start at 9, 8, 9, ends at 6, 5, 6, and then this is very different from some other cultures where, just as an example, my culture people work from 8 to 4, and then, after 4, you have dinner at 5, and then you go to sports, or activities, and then you spend time with the family.

Maura de Mauro: This is a dream life.

Paul Arnesen: No, I don't know if it's dream life. But for me the dream life is more of a having the you know, the social aspect that I find in Italy which is different from my culture. But the thinking here is that companies that don't work with Italians in general they want to work with Italians. What can they? What should they know about this way? What would an Italian in general expect from a work day like or before after? Maybe not before, but at least after.

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah, what I again it. I cannot completely generalize the people I know who had a high career, so that they could make their career in a certain amount of time are very hard workers, which means that work is the priority, career is the priority or achieving something is the priority which means they will sacrifice. It doesn't mean they do not have a social life, but the social life will be minimal considering the efforts and the time they put in work or in developing in a professional field. And they are able to sacrifice. It was 2 days ago I was with a Russian, very top manager, and he was telling me about his experience with his previous Italian boss. He said his Italian previous Italian boss, was a woman, and he was astonished by the amount of time she was spending and working and in the accuracy in details, and trying to do everything perfect. And he said she was a workaholic, and very demanding, with very high expectation and for him was something very astonish. But I can understand the point; and indeed, I was explaining him. If she was a woman she wanted to have a career she was investing. She was really putting all her effort in it and tried to double or triple work in order to achieve that position. And still I mean what I see people in a certain position in Italian society are those kind of people. Then, of course, the new generation, they might not. I also have experienced, I worked recently, in the last few years, I had experience working in a multi-generational team, so all Italians, but different generation. And I was also a little bit surprised, because younger people than I, so at the beginning of the career. In my view they were not putting enough effort so they could do much more. But of course this was my standard of expectation probably was not them, and probably they didn't have any intention to put all these extra efforts in the and the work they wanted to do something else as well.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And I think the discussion about the generational outlooks on work and life is something that I think, it's merging more across cultures as well, because we are such a globalized society. And even though everybody is sort of living in the fast paced environment where everything is on the phone. Everything is readily available immediately. So I think it's. It's difficult to generalize on what's gonna happen with the younger generation. It's easier to see what is what's already been done in the older generation, because we have so much data on that, and the new data that is coming out, it is going to be very interesting for sure. Okay, actually, we are getting really close to one hour here. So I want to just go over one question that also I think it's I think you already mentioned it many times. But if someone like, say i'm working in recruitment, and I have they come to me as I really would like to hire someone from Italy? Why? And I have to answer, Why would you recommend me to hire an Italian to work on my project - could be. Is there anything particular that comes to mind on your side that could be like - you say that if I could choose for that person, they come, say, should I hire this person from the US, hire them from the Netherlands or Italy? And I say, let's go for Italy.  What would be something that you would say is the benefit of hiring someone from Italy.

Maura Di Mauro: Well, again, here i'm generalizing. But what I can say is that the education approach is different, even though we tend to globalize also the educational practice to where Anglo Saxon, let's say, model. I think, in Italy, at the University level you tend to gain a deeper and a more extensive knowledge especially in certain career paths, I would say. Especially in the technical one. I think so. The deepness of knowledge and deepness of knowledge it goes together with the ability to analyze problems at the end. I think if they are Italian, and they see an international opportunity some of them they might struggle for it, so they can this is, can represent a big motivation or rewarding because they know that in an international environment they can have something that they won't have in the local environment. So i'm sure they would put efforts for it and especially in terms of salary and in term of a lifestyle in general. And yeah, so probably they are available to give, their passion and to make. They also Italians are also very accurate. They can be very accurate, and detail-oriented so very precise, so the level of accuracy of something can be very detailed. So this is something else probably Italians can bring on the table differently from some others.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And I have an anecdotal experience in the same thing, obviously because i'm with an Italian, and for my experience the most of the Italians I have met are very - they have an eye for quality. And I think that goes back to “Bella Figura.”

Maura di Mauro: Yeah, absolutely.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. So, for example, when we went to we`ve been to restaurants and the services bad, outside of Italy, or even in Italy - it's something that you comment on because service like this is bad quality if the service is bad, the kitchen is bad like it goes like this. So they will look for this, so I think that it may be in my head having an Italian on the team could be like someone who should have the - you can ask them: what do you think about this? Are we doing a great job in terms of providing quality and service and aesthetic, you know, in some sense. If that make sense?

Maura Di Mauro: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I agree with you. I could add, and of course others can add their viewpoint, which can be very useful. So I think the combination between a different background. It can be - if you are able to manage it. And if you're able to integrate in a synaptic way, it can be the best you can have. Definitely.

Paul Arnesen: Okay? Well, I don't really have any other questions now, I don't know if you have anything else you would like to add or discuss. I mean if you - one of the things I always ask is that if you have any stories that or anything that you would like to mention, maybe on cultural misunderstanding, so misconception that is like a they. You always read them in the textbooks like this story, was like really good you already told some. Do you have anything else you want to add?

Maura Di Mauro: Well, I think I share with several critical cases, particularly of the expats I work with, and what they tell me without the difficulties. I can also say, as you mentioned at the beginning. I also work in between, like 50% of my work, and time is with Italians, but 50% of my time is with international contacts, so i'm not i'm also not the pure 100% Italian. And I can say one of my difficulties in navigating across this cultural diversity is with timing and planning. Because for me it's very difficult, like I have few Italian companies I work with and they always give me the dates of the work we will do for me last minutes or not enough in anticipation and they do not give me the possibility to plan or to make them as a priority. Considering other context I work with, because, like especially in the international level, the planning or the scheduling at something that comes in advance, or is more predictable. With Italian we do not have the same a way of planning and timing. And so this is a it's a little bit difficult. Also, when you have to work with different contexts, because it's it's difficult to put the agenda. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, We are currently doing a refurbishment project here in Italy. So I know all about trying to get dates settled in the calendar, for when? 

Maura di Mauro: And I can tell you in the South is even worse.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, no, yeah, that's like the biggest - You have the biggest difference in me coming from a very structural kind of a different society where Norwegians, an Germans and everything has a way of looking at, not saying is better, but the saying that's the way. And i'm my brain is not wired to change the way of thinking. I want to have the same thinking. But yeah, this is something I think is super interesting. Okay? Well, thank you very much for your time. I think that, what is interesting now, and you can tell me and the listeners - what would you recommend them to do if they want to learn more about - you mentioned - I mentioned in the introduction about you about like the real life interactions is what brings people together. But sometimes that's difficult, especially prior to moving to a country, or even if you're working remotely. So, what would you recommend people to do to learn more about working with Italians working in Italy? Do you have any suggestions? 

Maura Di Mauro: Well, first of all, to be open like, try to do not be too much judgmental and try to avoid to think well, my way is the best way you we need to use my way because it's definitely a better than yours. I think this approach is something that's a global manager or international manager definitely should avoid. And the other is try to merge in the local culture like, try to spend time, some working time, but also outside in order to be able to observe what other Italians do, and try, and somehow to to do something similar. It doesn't mean that you need to change who you are. You know there is always this quote that say, when you are in Rome, do as the Roman do, but not necessarily. If you are an expats, which means, I mean, try to adopt what is functional, what you see towards better, but not necessarily because there are things you want to be done in your own way, or you want to like when we talk about group management or team management at the end the team leader impose or try to give a style to the small group culture as well. So, of course, you need to consider the cultural diversity, but you won't also. Want to find the way to change something about people a bit. So it's a it's a little bit like a dance between try to emulate what others are doing, but try to change also the way of doing things. If you need more efficiency. If you want to bring some changing or transformation, or, if you want to innovate. So you need to find your own way. But respecting people. I think recognition is always very important at the end. This is a human needs, not only cultural, but I think all people want to be recognized and spending time with people trying to understand what they want. What's the difference with the peculiarity, what they will live, what they won't leave and yeah, and trying to enjoy the process also. Something else, many managers are stressed out because they want to see the results. The process they are using is not the right, the right one, and they are stressed because of what they would like, and they are not able to achieve. I think, like trying to enjoy also the cultural learning. It's something very important, because if you do not enjoy, it's very difficult that you are able to achieve what you want.

Paul Arnesen:  Yeah, absolutely. I agree with 100%, 

Maura Di Mauro: Even though I also agree that I mean, I am aware that when it comes with time, with money, with putting efforts, it's also difficult not to be stressed, so everyone needs to find his own way.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, no, I completely agree. I'm in the process as well, you know. I'm here, and i'm trying to, you know. See? See every part of it as a as a new learning experience, because that's that's the that's the beauty of of traveling the world, and living in different places, that you can open your eyes. You see things in a different light, and you reflect on it, and that's, I think it's important as well. Any resources you have either made or projects, or how can people reach you if they want to talk to you?

Maura Di Mauro: Well, on my social media i'm present on LinkedIn on Facebook and on Twitter. But I mostly use Linkedin and Facebook. And my email now “Libero” is working again is Maura, My name dot, di Mauro, my surname, so easy to remember, but do not mix up my surname with my name. So Maura.dimauro@libero.it, Or I also use my gmail account. So Maura.dimauro@gmail.com, and happy to enter ib contact, and I also suggest you to read your “Feeling Italia” book, of course.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, I that's a that's my to buy list. I will. I will read that one, and I think you also do training and courses for businesses? Correct?

Maura Di Mauro: Yes, absolutely. I work with many expats who are coming in Italy or are living Italy. And with companies who want to develop their cultural understanding or cultural diversity understanding and want to develop a global mindset and intercultural skills for their managers and to create an intercultural culture within the corporate culture

Paul Arnesen: Perfect. So all the details, all the links to Mauras socials and website and everything. I will share that on the website for this podcast on the “Working With Us” website. So you will find all the links there, even the emails. So yeah, any final words, any things you want to say?

Maura Di Mauro: Well, thank you so much for the opportunity of having me with you, Paul. Was a pleasure also to meeting you. It would be interesting for me to have a follow-up with you in 6 months time, 9 months time to see how it's going. Hopefully. We will meet also in person, which are because we are not so far away and good luck with everyone. Of course it's also companies, they some to, especially if they they are multinational. They want short course to change managers habits. It doesn't work. It would be great if will work in this way, but it's not even developing intercultural competence is a lifelong process. Is a life long-term skill. So you need time, and it's not possible to do it in a 2 hours course or half a day course it would be great, but I don't think it works in this way.

Paul Arnesen: No, no, no, this is something that takes time and well, thank you again very, very much. This was super interesting for me. I love talking about culture, and I love learning more about Italy and being here, it definitely helps me, you know, understand better what I sort of have to face in the coming years, because I plan to live here for many, many years, and I hope the listeners and those that saw this video on Youtube also got some learning out of this. And yeah, thank you very, very much. And thank you all. Have a good day.

Maura di Mauro: Thank you so much bye, bye.