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5 Cultural Faux Pas to Avoid When Doing Business in Ireland


Working with the Irish?

Then it’s important you make a good impression!

An easy way to get you off to a good start is to avoid making any cultural faux pas.

Although Ireland is a relaxed and welcoming country, as with anywhere else on earth, they have their own rules around what is acceptable, or not.

Irish culture has its own values and therefore has taboos to match!

In this blog, we’re focusing on 5 cultural faux pas every foreign professional needs to be aware of before doing business in Ireland or with the Irish.


1: Don’t confuse your borders

A common mistake made by many a foreigner is to confuse the Irelands.

The Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK and neither is the Republic of Ireland part of Northern Ireland.

The island of Ireland is composed of the Republic of Ireland (26 counties in total) and Northern Ireland (6 counties in total). The Republic of Ireland is part of the EU and Northern Ireland is part of the UK, which is no longer a member of the EU.

Confusing your Irelands can quickly identify you as someone with little understanding of their country, history and culture.

2: Avoid religion and nationalism

Starting in 1968 and lasting over three decades, ‘The Troubles’ was a period of great sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

In a nutshell, this period was rooted in conflict between the minority Protestant Christian unionists (also known as loyalists), who were striving to remain part of the UK and the majority Roman Catholics (also known as nationalists), who were striving to incorporate Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland.

Although with younger generations it’s changing, it’s really important that you avoid all talk of religion and nationalism when doing business in Ireland.

The Troubles have left a deep mark on the Irish and many individuals were affected, often in profound ways.

River in Dublin at night

Did you know that Ireland has one of the easiest business cultures in the world?

The Business Culture Complexity Index™ ranks it 14th from the top 50.

Photo by Caterina Begliorgio on Unsplash

3: Don’t ignore pub etiquette

A drink at the pub is a common way for the Irish to socialise after work.

As such, it’s important that you are aware of pub etiquette. Firstly, there’s a culture of ‘buying rounds’ amongst groups of people.

If you’re part of a group, then you should buy a drink for everyone in your group – not just for yourself. If you buy for yourself only and don’t offer to buy for others, you risk being seen as ‘tight’ or ‘stingy’.

Secondly, be aware that Irish people generally don’t drink themselves into oblivion. People use drink as a way of enjoying each other’s company; they certainly don’t try to compete to be the person who can drink the most.

Manage your drink – have a good time, but don’t drink to the point at which you lose control. This won’t be viewed well.

4: Avoid shows of arrogance

Whether you’re in the business place, or out socially, Irish culture tends to be very egalitarian.

This means that people tend to treat each other equally and, in turn, expect to be treated equally.

In the business place, you’ll find that people are listened to regardless of their role or seniority. You’ll also find that managers are more likely to ask team members for their opinions.

With this in mind, it won’t go down well if you try and ‘pull rank’ on people or speak to them rudely because they are junior or serving you in some way.

Likewise, if you’re in a meeting and somebody junior or with little experience wants to contribute to a discussion then it’s important to show them that their opinion is welcome.

Whether you’re speaking to the cleaning team or the CEO, you should give people equal respect.

A pub in Dublin

The pub plays an important part in social & business life in Ireland.

Click here to read more about the Management Culture in Ireland

Photo by Leonhard Niederwimmer on Unsplash

5: Don’t be unfriendly!

Camaraderie is an important part of Irish culture.

As such, it’s important that you are friendly with people. If people smile at you, then smile back. If they say hello, then say hello back. If you fail to reciprocate, then you risk being viewed as arrogant or unfriendly.

In the workplace be friendly with everyone, regardless of their role or rank. Clearly, this doesn’t mean that you have to start a conversation with everyone that you see, but you should at the very least greet people and smile.

As a show of camaraderie, when working in Ireland, you’ll soon become familiar with the expression, ‘What’s the craic?’ which equates to, ‘What’s happening/going down?’. It’s used to initiate small talk and warm-up conversation.

Small talk is important in Ireland, so during meetings, be prepared for small talk before diving into business.

Learning Summary

So, in answer to the question, "What faux pas should I avoid in Ireland?", you know now that...

  1. It's crucial to know the geography of the island of Ireland
  2. It's wise to avoid the topic of The Troubles
  3. It's good etiquette to buy a round of drinks
  4. It's important to avoid being too flashy
  5. It's essential to be smiley and friendly

Learn more about Working with the Irish

Commisceo culture webinarsIf want some expert guidance on working with the Irish, then have a look at our Ireland cultural training webinars.

Tailored to meet your unique challenges, our Ireland experts will help you to understand the culture and make the best impression possible.

Our training will also help you to maximise your business outputs and build positive relationships.

Main photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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