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Irish Work Culture – Practical Tips for Doing Business in Ireland
18 February, 2020

Ireland, flanked by Canada and Germany, was listed 23rd in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2019. It scored especially well for ‘ease of paying tax’ (4th) and ‘protecting minority investors’ (15th). So it’s no surprise that a trip to Dublin, Cork or Galway remains on the agenda of many business and finance professionals.

To maximize your professional relationships and business success in The Republic, follow these 6 practical tips: 

Tip 1. Mirror their friendly but frank communication style 

Irish people are renowned for offering visitors a warm welcome, and that is also the case in  business. So expect to be greeted like a friend, and for conversation to be informal and familiar. The Irish are ‘real talkers’, so you might find that you’re familiar with someone’s life story, even after only meeting them for five minutes. 

This is part of the social currency in Ireland and essential to forging business relationships. However, don’t be fooled by the smile and the conversational tone – they’re still tough negotiators, and will be frank, direct and forthright in the boardroom.

 Tip 2. Avoid aggressive negotiation 

Based on the friendly and anecdotal communication style outlined above, it’s logical that aggressive and impersonal negotiating tactics are not favored in Ireland. That includes boasting of your success; the Irish have a self-deprecating nature so being self congratulatory won’t be understood as confidence, but arrogance.  

Tip 3. Prepare for delays  

In Ireland, your experience of business processes can vary greatly, depending on where you are working. Dublin is a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city with a business mindset that reflects other European capitals. The rest of the country is a little bit more slow-paced, taking a less frenetic approach to life.

However, the decision making process is typically considered to be slow everywhere. There is a tendency for lots of talking and examination of several options before plans get finalized and contracts get signed. 

The effect of this on business transactions is that flexibility and adaptability are favored over rigid planning, and deadlines are regularly delayed. To maintain a good rapport with clients and colleagues, be patient. When it comes to delivering on projects, always factor in extra time.

Tip 4. Be receptive to their sense of humor 

The Irish appreciate lively banter, even at the office, so participating with the jokes is a great way of establishing rapport with colleagues and clients.

A big part of the Irish sense of humor is teasing and joking insults, locally referred to as ‘slagging’, which means you’re likely to experience a gentle mocking at some point in your business exchanges. It’s not ill-intended, so always respond in good humor. If you have the confidence, reply with a mocking response of your own, alternatively just a smile or laugh will let them know you haven’t taken offense.

Tip 5. Obey the rule of the round 

Unlike their British neighbors, a boozy work lunch isn’t very common in Ireland. However, it’s popular to go home via the pub and occasionally hold meetings there. Instead of everyone buying themselves a drink, one person will buy all the drinks for the group. This is called ‘a round’.

The one golden rule to observe is the rule of the round. If someone buys you a drink, you will be expected to buy them one in return. By not respecting the rule of the round you risk seeming ungenerous and the opposite of a team player.

 Tip 6. Understand the political basics

Ireland (also known as The Republic of Ireland) gained independence from Great Britain in 1922, and the Irish are fiercely proud of this. While you might not be expected to know the ins and outs of Irish-English relations over the last 800 years, you will be expected to know the basics, and Irish not being conflated with the English is rule No.1.

The first language of Ireland is Irish. All street signs will be in both Irish and English so you’ll notice this immediately upon arriving in any Irish town or city. Ireland is an independent country, with its own language, culture, government and sense of identity. Although they speak English, they are not English!

Conversation around Northern Ireland and the role of the UK in Irish politics (including The Troubles) is not necessarily taboo, but if it does arise, approach the topic with sensitivity and neutrality.

Want to impress clients with your business English and cultural acumen?

All our trainers are born in English-speaking countries and have lived English-speaking lifestyles. Throughout your Language Grid program you take lessons with different members of the team; so not only do you get exposure to different accents, but also an insight into the cultural nuance that drives successful business transaction in their native countries. 

Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid

Learn more about how we can help you to prepare for your next business trip to Ireland.

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