Babel Cultural Newsletter: Ireland

Ireland flag

Each month Babel offers free briefings and expert advice for working with different cultures to its clients, learners and friends in the industry. This month the focus is on Ireland which coincides with 'St Patrick's Day' today (17th March).  Don't forget to enter the quiz for a prize!

Today is St Patrick’s Day - a global celebration of Irish culture, although celebrations will be more muted than normal this year due to COVID-19.  It particularly remembers St Patrick, one of Ireland's patron saints, who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. St Patrick's Day is celebrated in countries with people of Irish descent.

Ireland has been Europe’s fastest growing economy over the last few years and is seen as one of the world’s high tech centres.  This is due to high levels of education, a relatively-young English-speaking population, membership of the EU and a supportive regulatory and tax regime.

Culturally, while most people in Ireland identify as Irish, many also feel strongly connected to their region.  This is especially so during major national sporting events featuring Irish sports such as hurling, camogie and Gaelic football. 

Over half of the population (5.1m) live in urban areas with nearly a third living in the capital city of Dublin. Day-to-day life differs significantly between cosmopolitan Dublin and the more slower-paced rural areas.

Many symbols of Irish national identity come from their association with religion. In the 2016 Census, 78% of the population identified as Catholic, however, weekly mass attendance has declined to 35%.

Another important feature of Irish national identity is the Irish Gaelic language.  It is compulsory for all school children to learn Irish during school and there is Irish-speaking television and radio as well as signposts in Irish.  Whilst there is some negativity about the need to learn Irish, many argue it is because everything that it is to be Irish is built on the language.  For them, to fully understand the music, literary tradition, legal traditions, religious beliefs and pub culture cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the language.

The relaxed warmth, humour and informality of the Irish people is well documented.  The art of conversation and storytelling is an important way to build relationships, trust and rapport. If someone ‘slags’ you (teases or jokingly insults), try to reply with good humour and show you are not concerned by it.

In the workplace, there is an emphasis on egalitarianism and hard-work rather than one’s personal status or wealth.  Within Irish organisations, hierarchy is established for convenience, managers are always accessible and they rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise. Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative.  Excessive praise, boasting or exaggeration is not appreciated – rather competence needs to be shown through actions.

Some 63% of Irish adults believe that having a work-life balance is more important than pay according to a YouGov survey.  Being offered flexible working hours and having the ability to choose when you work was important to 44p% of Irish adults, compared to 42% that believe having the ability to "have nice things" was a top priority.

Interestingly, being on time is not as important to the Irish as other countries, only 41.2% regard it as being ’extremely or very important’ whereas Sweden (67.3%) followed by Germany (66.7%) placed the most emphasis on punctuality.  This is according to Global Attitudes Toward Work Report 2016 which was compiled by Qualtrics, a Global insight platform which has its European headquarters in Dublin.

When meeting someone for the first time, good topics of discussion could include Irish literature, music, history or sports (especially Gaelic games). In business meetings, it is best to speak up and offer your opinion only on a subject if you well informed.  The Irish value facts and evidence therefore an emotional argument would not be valued in a negotiation.  Potentially controversial topics to avoid would include Northern Ireland and the role of the UK in Irish politics.  Do not refer to those from the Republic of Ireland as British or Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. 

Finally, the Irish are the subject of some of the most lasting and clichéd stereotypes.  As with so many cultures, avoid these as there’s a lot more to the Irish than overgeneralized characteristics.

Enter This Month’s Cultural Awareness Quiz

What sort of jewelled Isle is Ireland often called?

Email your answer to

Please write Quiz in the subject title.


Inspired? If you want to learn how you can work more effectively with your Irish colleagues, clients or supplier, contact us for a Working Across Cultures sample course outline.

All training is tailored to suit your needs and delivered at a location of your choice or via a series of live online webinars.

Working for an international company and planning training for 2020?  Contact Sue for a list of courses available.

To read more information, click here.

Babel delivers language training in all major world languages, coaches delegates to be culturally competent in their global roles, briefs expats for starting new jobs overseas and helps create high-performing remote teams.

Babel Language & Cultural Consultants