Americani vs Italiani

On January 21st this year Fiat Italy bought the rest of the shares in Chrysler Motor Corp. and took full control of the Company. They got a bargain price for it but it did mean that one of the Obama bailouts at the start of the financial crisis bought a return for the American tax payer.

Fiat own a large factory in Southern Italy in the town of Melfi on the Puglia Basilicata border and Fiat expect as a result of the merger that it will convert the plant to build the Jeep Renegade for the European market and to do that many Americans will be bought over from Detroit to help train the Italian workers on building what is a very popular four wheeler in the States . How will the Italian workers take to the Americans

Italian worker


As long as they understand the above no problems !

However Fiat have been very worried  that the Italians shouldn’t offend the people from Chrysler some of whom  will spend most of their time working alongside the Italians on the production line.

They therefore turned to Beppe Severgnini the writer, broadcaster and journalist who lives in Roma but spent lots of time in the States and indeed has written several books on Americans. He was asked in June to come to the plant and talk to  the workers about the differences between the two peoples.

Chrysler has always seen itself as a very ” American” company and that it represents the best of American traditions. This is their Super Bowl ad this year

So how are they going to take to Italian workers and vice versa . Well Beppe’s first bit of advice to the male workers in Melfi was drop giving any complements to any American women working at the plant. An Italian lady will laugh, he said, a Michigan girl will sue.

Beppe reckons that Americans are run by the three Cs as he describes them.

Control, not in controlling but being in control by knowing the numbers and statistics of everything. Americans are stat mad and he is right. You only need to look at American Football or any sport and they are run by stats. They cannot start a game unless everyone is aware of the stats of both teams and indeed individual players. Passing yards, rushing yards, completions, touch downs the lists go on and on. Italians don’t really do stats. Detail is boring to them. Control to an American also means control of life. Self help books , how to books, business learning books Americans believe you can’t succeed without effort. Italians believe in luck, family influence and good old fashioned bribery so Beppe asks the workers and managers not to mock the American executive as he decorates his office with shelf  loads of self help books.

Competition is the next C on his list.  Americans thrive on competition . It is the basis on which their Country is founded. Competition makes America great. Better schools come about by competition, better industry by competition, better bars by competition. If you can’t make it against the competition then you go bust and that is how it should be. Italians hate competition. They believe that industries and shops and professions should gang together and agree pricing that stifles competition. They used to believe in and still do really in State run industries and government protection of workers and their “rights”. Tread there with your new American colleagues with caution Beppe warns them.

The third is choreography but it isn’t really as he doesn’t actually talk about that at all. I think he just ran out of Cs to be fair. He does however ask one of those great imponderables about Americans  and that is how do the so called ultra politically conservative ( small C) majority of the Americans embrace feminism while at the same time loving cheerleaders and Sports Illustrated especially the swim suit editions or the one that always bothered me when living there for ten years was they virtually all attend church every Sunday, believe in God (  2 out of 3) and yet endorse the death penalty in most States and the right to bear arms.

He concluded his speech by saying that Americans be they tourists or co workers at Fiat-Chrysler come to Italy expecting to love Italy and the people  but to find the workers unreliable. Surprise them he finishes and you will all get on like a house on fire.

This is the Fiat ad  in the States which is fun don’t you think

Just shows in the end we all get on , sometimes almost too well !

Last year I met in Martina Franca one of the Boeing managers over from Seattle to help train Italian workers at the plant in Grottaglie . He was going home the next day and was having a meal out before leaving. He told me he and his colleagues had expected to be here for three years but were leaving after just 15 months. The Italians were great workers he said, they pick things up so quickly and are so eager to learn . They are better at the job than we are now so we are off home. Boy he concluded are we going to miss being here. Such friendly people and the food oh the food. Can’t wait for a decent hamburger though !

Lets hope the Chrysler Americans stay long enough to get over that !!



About hereinpuglia

Retired to Puglia after some 40 years in the travel industry working for P&O Lines, British Airways, Alamo rent-a-car,Abercrombie&Kent, owner of Quest Tours and Travel and finally with Thomas Cook North America. Married to Geraldine we now have a small house with too much land near the town of Martina Franca in Puglia. Two kids one married and living in Hong Kong and the other single and living in London. No dogs, no cats no animals.
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