Ireland Business Etiquette

Posted by Sophia Barnhart

Céad Mile Fálte! (“A hundred thousand welcomes" in Gaelic)

Ireland is home to rugged, romantic landscapes rich with traditional music, folklore, and beer. On top of that, it was named the second most globalized country in 2012, making it a hotspot for global business. With its prime location and population of over 4.5 million people, those looking to conduct business in Western Europe and Great Britain should absolutely keep Ireland in mind as a target market. The Irish are courteous, witty, welcoming, and prefer a more relaxed lifestyle (so don’t rush the Irish!). They also place a great value on the individual and are proud of their identity and education. As values revolve around family, humor, and tradition, one should brush up on these tips to better understand the professional etiquette before initiating business in Ireland.

The Lowdown

  • Irish, or Gaelic, is the national language of Ireland and an official language of the European Union. That being said, it is now mostly reserved for a smaller minority of the native-speaking population, and English is widely used in Irish business.
  • Always keep in mind that Ireland and Northern Ireland are two completely separate countries and political entities—you don’t want to start any issues by making a controversial comment!
  • While the church does not have as prominent a voice in societal decisions, religion is prominent in Irish culture and daily life; 87% of the Irish identify as Roman Catholics, but there lingers a generational divide between the older, more observant generation and the younger, less religious population.
  • The corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement has recently gained momentum in Ireland; more businesses are placing an emphasis on developing policies and guidelines to foster strong, honest, and conscientious work environment and practices.
  • Proper planning and preparation in advance ensures that the facilities you will need for your meeting will be available for use.

Dressing Sharp

  • Though business dress tends to be slightly less formal than in Western Europe, be sure to look smart and conservative.
  • Formal suits with ties are generally acceptable, but don’t sport any flash colors or styles. Traditional fabrics include tweeds and wool.
  • Women, on the other hand, should try to wear smart-looking suits or dresses with blazers; trousers are still not widely common.
  • ALWAYS bring a raincoat!

Make or Break Meetings

  • While the Irish are not necessarily punctual and may be a little late to meetings, it’s best for foreigners to arrive on time as not to appear impolite or inconsiderate.
  • Shake the hands of all parties—men, women, and children—upon entering and leaving the meeting. Keep your handshake firm and maintain eye contact to denote trust.
  • Being loud and disruptive is frowned upon, as well as any sense of bureaucracy or superiority (modesty is highly valued).
  • After the initial greeting, business cards are exchanged but without formal ritual.
  • As the Irish tend to be somewhat reserved with new faces, it’s essential that you start the conversation with small talk in order to build trust. After breaking the ice, Irish businesspeople are generally friendlier and more casual than in other European countries. Do avoid, however, discussing or joking about politics or religion.
  • Knowing a mutual third-party can be hugely beneficial; the more connected you are, the better opportunities you’ll have.

Dining Decorum

  • Given that the Irish tend to be warmer and more laid-back, meetings can often be held in informal environments like restaurants.
  • Once friendly relations are established, business meetings can be considered social occasions. To deepen existing bonds, it can be common for more established acquaintances to hold meetings at the golf course or a traditional local pub.
  • You might also simply head to the pub after the meeting is held. Your Irish hosts will likely be generous, but don’t forget to take your turn to buy a round of drinks for your colleagues.
  • Table manners are generally the same as in England, although slightly more relaxed.
  • Don’t drink? Be careful—refusing a drink can be considered offensive to the Irish.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • In general, gift giving is not expected in a business setting. The best time to give a gift, if at all, would be at thesuccessful conclusion of negotiations.
  • Should you be invited to someone’s home, however, a small gift for the hostess would be appreciated. Flowers (though avoid red flowers, white flowers, and lilies), chocolates, wine, or continental cheeses would make fine gifts—if travelling from afar, your host might enjoy a book or food item from your home region.
  • Thoughtfulness is valued much higher than how expensive the gift is! Thank you notes are also welcomed after receiving a gift or being hosted as a guest.

Down to Business

  • Be patient: negotiation at meetings can be held at great length. Even when difficulty arises, the Irish will stay relatively calm and are willing to improvise if a plan goes awry.
  • Though the Irish are known for their friendly and easygoing personalities, don’t be fooled; Irish businesspeople can be quite astute and tenacious during negotiations. They also will appreciate directness, so be straightforward in your negotiation.
  • As mentioned earlier, do not rush the Irish; Irish businesspeople do not like being pressured, so try to avoid coming off as overly aggressive in your presentation.
  • When formulating your negotiations, keep in mind that Irish business focuses on short term profits done “their way”.
  • A telephone call to follow up a short time after the meeting is always appreciated.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Ireland, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

Slán go fóill! (“Goodbye for now!” in Irish Gaelic)