Ireland flagIrish business culture

Did you know about business culture in Ireland? Watch this video animation to find out some interesting facts.

Irish business culture is characterised by business communicationbusiness etiquettebusiness meeting etiquetteinternship and student placementscost of livingwork-life-balance and social media guide.

Ireland enjoys a strategic location on one of the major sea and air routes between northern Europe and North America. Ireland, whose Gaelic name is Eire, occupies five-sixths of the island of Ireland which is to the west of Great Britain. The country is divided into four provinces – Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster and 26 counties. Dublin is the capital of Ireland.

The Irish identify themselves more with their counties than with the cities from which they come. Inevitably, there are a number of stereotypes between the Irish concerning the characteristics of people coming from a particular county. The counties are subdivisions of the ancient Provinces of Ireland that were historically based on the traditional geographical areas. Today, the division of the country into counties is still important and has been adopted by cultural and sporting organisations that organise their activities along county lines.

The history of the country dates back to 600-150 B.C. when Celtic tribes arrived on the island. A significant point in  Irish history is the English invasion, which started in the 12th century, beginning more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by violent rebellions and harsh repressions. In 1921, 26 southern counties gained independence from the UK and the Irish Free State was created. In 1948, Ireland extracted itself from the British Commonwealth and in 1973 joined the European Community.

The division of the island into Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic  was primarily based on the religious orientation of the people. Northern Ireland is characterised by a strong protestant community whereas in the Irish Republic, catholic orientation is prevalent. This religion-based division and issues stemming from it has been the biggest issue in Ireland’s history in  the 20th century. In Ireland there still exist various opinions as to whether the two countries should unite or stay separate. In the past, the tension between the groups advocating different views has caused several conflicts. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, was finally approved in 1998 and is being implemented, albeit with some difficulties.

The official languages are English and Irish. Irish is still a spoken language in Gaeltacht areas,  which include the Aran Islands together with areas located mainly along the western and south-western seaboard

Ireland is in the Greenwich Mean Time zone. However, during the summertime (March to October) the clock is moved forward by one hour to accommodate Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Irish weather is notoriously rainy. The humid climate is particularly favourable for local flora. Ireland is famous for its beautiful scenery and, indeed, is often poetically called the “emerald island”.

In the past, following its succession to the EU in 1973, Ireland was regarded as one of the poorest EU member countries. However, since the early 1990’s, the country has experienced an economic boom and today represents one of the most progressive European countries with a goal to move forward as a knowledge economy. As a result, Ireland is now perceived as a magnet for inward investment in terms of both finance and people.

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Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Ireland

The Irish are a very sociable nation and place great value on the individual. They are proud of their identity and do not expect visitors to treat them as anything other than the modern Europeans they are. The Irish are naturally polite, go out of their way to welcome visitors to their country and make every effort not to offend anyone. As a result, some foreigners may find them rather indirect and superficial. .  In Ireland, life seems to be more relaxed than in Western Europe. The Irish enjoy spending time with their friends and families which are closely-knit and very important to their quality of life. The Irish often perceive work as a “necessary evil”. There is a saying “don’t rush the Irish” that seems to be still valid. In the afternoons, local pubs are full of people who come to have a chat over a cup of tea or to enjoy the traditional Irish drink – Guinness stout beer.

Irish people are considered flexible and are great at improvising. Their planning and strategies however, are usually short term. This is particularly important to keep in mind when doing business with an Irish counterpart, as  a knowledge of their preferences may help you to focus on their specific needs.

In an Irish business meeting it is best to only give your opinion about a subject if you are well informed. The Irish do not appreciate cheap and boastful talk. They value facts and empirical evidence. Emotions do not play an important part is business negotiations. Irish people can be quite tough and skilful negotiators who are able to find out a large amount of information about strangers while revealing little themselves. The best strategy for persuasion is to use as many facts as possible.

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International business in Ireland

When conducting business in a foreign country it is crucial to be prepared to deal with issues that might be culturally sensitive.  Even a small amount of study of the local culture can do wonders in aiding successful communication with business counterparts. Without putting in the time to prepare and plan properly, you may find yourself affected by so called “culture shock” which may negatively impact the outcome of your business dealings. As a business traveller, you will probably be confronted with the need to attend a business meeting perhaps shortly after your arrival. This section of the document provides an insight into the most relevant cultural issues as well as suggestions for overcoming them.  It provides an introduction to Ireland’s general business environment and examines traditional values and attitudes of the Irish and how these impact on the business world. It also explains how to deal with the issue of business ethics and highlights areas in business culture that may be perceived as particularly distinctive in different cultures. The final part of the section discusses the nature of education in Ireland with a particular focus on issues that are business-related.

General education

Ireland enjoys a long and respected tradition in education. Adult literacy is about 98% nationwide. Due to high levels of education, the natural use of the English language together with membership of  the European Union, over  the last decade, Ireland has been Europe’s fastest growing economy and is seen as one of the world’s high tech centres. Education and training are vital components within Ireland’s economy, which is very much knowledge-based, and are  a priority under the National Development Plan (NDP). Importance is also attached to the partnership between the education and industry sectors in order to address immediate education and skills needs. One of the main skills fostered amongst Irish students is computer literacy. The country, in general, has a very good computer literacy profile, particularly amongst the younger generation. For managers of all age groups it is expected that they will have developed ICT skills, as the use of information technology is wide-spread within the Irish business environment.

In Ireland education is mostly free and is compulsory from age six to fifteen. The Irish Education System is traditionally separated into 3 levels: Primary (lasting 8 years), Secondary (lasting 5 or 6 years) and tertiary , which offers a wide spectrum of opportunities from post­ secondary courses, to technical and vocational training, to university degrees as well as post-graduate degrees. Over  recent years, an emphasis has been placed on the idea of lifelong learning and the education system has expanded to include education at almost every stage of an individual’s development.

As a result of a continual investment in education, Ireland can now boast a participation rate that is one of the highest in the world. 81 per cent of Irish students complete secondary education and about 60 per cent pursue their studies into higher education. Ireland was amongst the first of the European countries to understand the important role education plays in the success of the economy, and studies indicate that the up-skilling of the labour force has added almost 1% per annum to national output. The proportion of 25-34 year olds who have gained tertiary education now stands at 37%, compared to an EU average of 27% and a US average of 40%.  As a consequence, the highly educated population of Ireland has been a major attraction for international companies wishing to hire graduates for top positions.

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Educational Standards

In order to be better prepared for your business meeting, it is advisable to have at least a partial knowledge of the language and an understanding of the computer competency of business people in the host country. This helps you to  decide whether to bring over an interpreter or whether you can rely on local managers to speak a foreign language. Furthermore, with the knowledge of your counterpart’s computer literacy you can incorporate an appropriate level of  information technology into your business activities. The following sections describe the main trends in the areas of general education, cultural awareness and foreign language competence.

Other issues such as transport infrastructure

To make sure you get off on the right foot, it is essential to use the correct denominations when referring to the national identity of your Irish counterparts. Keep in mind that Ireland is an independent country distinct from the United Kingdom. Green, white and orange are the national colours of Ireland and can be seen at many social events.

Ireland’s most significant international airports are Cork, Dublin, and Shannon. All of them provide flights to Europe, the UK, and North America. The country’s national airline, Aer Lingus, and budget airline Ryanair are headquartered in Dublin.

There are also several smaller, regional airports situated at Galway, Kerry, Knock, Sligo and Waterford, which are mainly used for domestic flights and flights to the United Kingdom.

When driving around Ireland, motorists must drive on the left. Unfortunately, driving on the wrong side of the road still accounts for many accidents. There is an extensive road network across Ireland.

Ferry services operate between Dublin and Holyhead in Wales (UK) and alsobetween Rosslare, Fishguard and Pembroke (UK). It is also possible to sail from Cork to St Malo, Cherbourg and Le Harve in northern France.

Due to the geography of Ireland in extreme weather, flights and ferry sailings are sometimes cancelled. If travelling in the winter months, it is advisable to check that the method of transport you are planning to use is operating normally before setting out on your journey. It is rare for flights to be cancelled, but ferry crossings do get cancelled, often at short notice, in the winter months.

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Cultural taboos

If a subject that is inappropriate is introduced, your Irish counterpart will be quick to point this out.  As a golden rule, it is essential to keep in mind that Ireland and Northern Ireland are two completely separate countries and political entities, since many conversational issues arise from this difference. Although under certain circumstances it may be acceptable, the topic of Anglo-Irish relations should be avoided in business conversations. Despite the approval of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the notion of the Anglo-Irish struggle still lives on in Irish society. By discussing it, the speakers put themselves  on very thin ice and may endanger otherwise harmonious relationships.

Other controversial topics in Ireland include the English, immigrants, the Catholic Church, crime and sexual identity. It is also sensible to avoid asking personal questions about a person’s background, religion, age, previous or current relationships, children, appearance or weight, earnings and occupation – unless these topics are raised by the host. Behaviours that should be avoided are, for instance, greeting strangers with a kiss and spitting in public.
The Irish are generally a “politically correct” nation, where it is best not to make assumptions about people based on appearances.

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