Social Customs Essay, Research Paper
Every country has it’s own social customs and gestures. Ireland has its share of social customs that differ from the United States, but for the most part the countries are relatively similar. Friendliness and hospitality have always been the hallmark of the Irish people. People in Ireland react to strangers very politely, as you would expect in most parts of the United States. The attitude toward foreigners in Ireland is reasonably friendly, and welcoming, as opposed to being hostile. In Ireland people greet each other much like they do in the United States. In a social setting, a handshake is appropriate when greeting another man, when greeting a woman a hug is appropriate.
The manners in Ireland follow the United States almost exclusively. Entering or leaving a room in Ireland is much like entering or leaving a room in the United States. When entering and greeting a person, it is considered good manners to shake a man’s hand, or offer a woman a hug, but beyond that, when exiting a room, there is no bowing or nodding. Do not go overboard, the Irish aren’t physically effusive. “If an Irish person refers to you by your last name, do the same, generally in a social situation they switch quickly to using your first name.”1 Other than this using a name for an introduction follows the usual Mr., or Mrs., when referring to an adult. In a non-formal setting, such as a social atmosphere, referring to someone by his or her first name is completely acceptable.1
In the part of Ireland researched, social customs do not dictate where or when people are expected to sit in a social or business setting; however it would be advised when in a business situation not to be seated until asked. There are no hand gestures, facial expressions, or phrases noted that would be considered rude in Ireland that would not be considered rude in the United States. This also works in the reverse direction, where, such hand gestures, facial expressions, and phrases that would be considered rude in the United States will also be taken as rude in Ireland.
When speaking to a person from Ireland, you would stand just as you would when speaking to an American in the United States. A relaxed manner, and a reasonable distance are the norm.
While in a restaurant in Ireland you would signal a waiter in the same manner that you would in the United States. The customary tip in Ireland is 10 to 15 percent. Many hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill.2 It is not customary to tip in pubs unless you have table service, in which case a small tip is advised. Tipping taxi drivers, porters, hairdressers, etc., is customary, but not obligatory.2
To refuse an invitation is viewed much like it would be in the United States. If it were necessary to decline an invitation, it would not be viewed offensively. When refusing an invitation, you would use a polite manner, as would be expected in any country, usually explaining the reasons for your absence. Eye contact is important when communicating in Ireland, as would be in any country. When conversing with someone it is appropriate to maintain eye contact, not allowing your eyes to wonder, and give the impression of disinterest. When non-verbally communicating, nodding your head is acceptable, where as when disagreeing shaking your head is acceptable.1
When in a social or business setting, there is no information alluding to inappropriate subjects. However, you should most likely exercise your best judgment, and refrain from talking about personal matters or opinions. There is no social hierarchy in the social structure of Ireland. The former colonial power shows no apparent power in present Ireland.
CONCEPTS OF TIME
Time is expressed in Ireland in the same way it is expressed in the United States. There is no deviation. Banks are generally open 10AM-3PM, Monday-Friday (closed for an hour midday). Shops are open from 9AM, or 9:30AM until 5:30PM, or 6PM, Monday-Saturday. Many towns have one weeknight for late shopping, usually Thursday or Friday, when shops remain open until 8PM, or 9PM.2 People in Ireland view business appointments very seriously in Ireland. “Be prompt, but allow your Irish counterpart the leeway to be late.”3 Avoid appointments in June or August (vacations), and around holidays.
CLOTHING and FOOD
Irish clothing is much like that of the United States. Proper business attire consists of a suit and tie while casual clothing is a decision based on one’s personal preference. The color of choice is green, which represents the rolling green pastures of Ireland.4 Men wear kilts on special occasions to recognize the dress of their ancestors.5 These kilts are much like skirts that reach to the knees. They are often made of either wool or cotton, and display a plaid pattern. Most men wear their kilts on St. Patrick’s Day. Attitude towards human body odors is parallel to that of the United States. Irish people eat three meals a day, much like Americans. The food is also much of the same. Contrary to popular belief, corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes are not eaten on a regular basis. However, when you move away from the large cities of Dublin and Galway, the way food is presented is in some ways different. For example, when ordering a tuna salad sandwich, one would anticipate tuna, mayonnaise, and maybe some celery or onions. Actually, what would be served would be some plain tuna on bread with a dinner salad on the side, hence the name Tuna “Salad” Sandwich. Most business is done in the aforementioned major cities. Most business entertainment is done at large hotels or restaurants. Food and drink is usually decided upon by whoever is planning the engagement. At these gatherings it is a large part of the Irish culture. The seat of honor is at the head of the table or, for larger parties, in the front of the room.
The Irish political system is a stable, yet divided one. The current Prime Minister, called the Taoiseach, is Bertie Ahern. His power is much like that of the President of the United States. The Irish Parliamentary System consists of the Houses of the Parliament, also known as the Oireachtas,
The Senate and the House of Representatives. However, political and religious differences between Catholics and Protestants cause severe conflict in Northern Ireland. The Protestants, who were loyal to Britain before Ireland became independent, claim that Protestantism should be the only religion practiced. On the other hand, Catholics continue to fight against the persecution.6 This has been the case for centuries, and although there exists a cease-fire, this conflict is likely to never resolve. This has an adverse effect on business in this area. When violence erupts, foreign institutions are discouraged from opening up a marketplace. Unfortunately, this violence sometimes leads to the loss of innocent lives. Ancient governmental forms in Ireland involved feudal states and the existence of barbarous clans and tribes.7 Under the constitution of 1937, Ireland is a sovereign, independent democratic state.8
It became a republic in 1949 when Commonwealth ties with Britain were severed. The channels used to express political opinions include television, newspaper, and radio all of which are controlled by governmental agencies as well as private institutions. Talking politics in business situations is much the same as in the United States.
The society of Ireland continues to be homogeneous. The population of the country is predominantly of Celtic origin. An Anglo-Irish minority, descended from English ancestors who settled in past centuries, constitutes most of the remainder. There are no other significant ethnic minorities. Almost all the people speak English, and about one-forth also speak Irish, a Gaelic language that is the traditional tongue of Ireland. Irish is spoken as the vernacular by a relatively small number of people, mostly in areas of the west.9
The workforce of Ireland is gradually becoming diverse. The society of the country continues to be very structured. The workforce of Ireland is one that attracts many companies. It is very unique in that- Ireland has the youngest population in Europe with over 40% under the age of 25 years. They are also highly educated and highly motivated. Emigration has declined in recent years and immigration has increased. In 1997, there was a net flow of 15,000 people, the highest such figure since the 1970s.9
RELIGION AND FOLK BELIEF
Roman Catholics are 93 percent of the people of Ireland, and 4 percent of the people are Protestants. Protestants groups include the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution.10 The Catholic Church has played an integral role in Ireland’s cultural and political history. Presently the influence of the Church is diminishing. Only a minority of the population attend Mass regularly. In 1995, Irish citizens voted to lift the ban on divorce. Abortion is still illegal, though hotly debated.11
Family life in Ireland is usually very strong. In rural areas, extended families often live near one another, and family members who have moved to Dublin or overseas in search of work often return for Christmas and other family celebrations. Socializing with friends or family in pubs, clubs, restaurants, and at home is the nation’s most popular social activity.
The National Holiday is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, named after the Patron Saint of Ireland. St. Patrick was a Romanised Celt called Patricius, and the traditional dates for his mission to Ireland have been given as 431AD to 461AD. March 17 was the date of his death. There are two particularly well-known traditions associated with Saint Patrick. The first is the belief that he banished the snakes from Ireland. This seems not to have originated until the 11th century and there are indications that this idea was suggested by the many accounts of how the saint banished the “demons of paganism” from Ireland. The second is the association of the shamrock with him. It is said that Saint Patrick used the symbol of the trefoil stem of the shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Holy Trinity to the people, explaining that just as three leaves can spring from one stem so also are there three persons in one God. The current practice of wearing a shamrock on Saint Patrick’s Day is hardly more than a few centuries old.
Banks and most businesses are closed on New Year’s Day (1 January), Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March), Good Friday and Easter Monday (March), May Bank Holiday (first Monday in May), June Bank Holiday (first Monday in June), August Bank Holiday (first Monday in August), Christmas Day (25 December).11
Economic and Business Institutions
In recent years Ireland has established itself as Europe’s high-growth economy. Between 1993 and 1998 it grew by approximately 51%, almost three times as strongly as the rest of the industrialized world. The Irish economy has been characterized by high growth rates, low inflation, significant balance of payment surpluses and sound public finances. Ireland’s strong economic performance is expected to continue in the medium term, aided by partnership programs between the Government, trade unions and employers on the broad direction of economic and social policy.12
The period from compulsory education is from six to fifteen years of age. Although children are not obliged to start school until the age of six, 51% of four year olds and almost all five year olds are enrolled in infant classes in primary schools. The educational system is directed by the Department of Education and Science. The primary education sector comprises primary schools, special schools and non-aided primary schools. It serves about 500,000 children. The second-level sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. The third level education sector consists of universities, technological colleges and colleges of education. In addition to the courses provided in third level institutions, a wide range of vocational education and training courses are offered within the education sector for students who have completed their secondary schooling. Such programs include a recent initiative to provide the skills required by the international teleservice industry, which is of growing significance in Ireland. Vocational schools are administered by Vocational Education Committees.13
As an international trading economy with small domestic market, Ireland is heavily dependent on foreign trade. Irish exports have grown enormously in the past decade and Ireland is now the third largest source of imports. In 1998 exports of goods and services accounted for about 92% of Irish GDP. The major trading partners of Ireland include the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, France, and Japan. Ireland’s strong export performance is strongly influenced by overseas companies, which produce over half of manufactured output and more than 80% of manufactured exports.
Ireland is one of the most profitable locations for industrial investment in Europe and is especially attractive to US investors. Ireland has a higher proportion of young people in full-time education than the US and most other industrialized countries. One of the attractions for the investor, apart from this young and well-educated English-speaking workforce, is that Ireland has a very low corporation tax rate.14 There are more than 1,000 foreign owned manufacturing/international services companies in Ireland.
The Irish economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and this has reflected a need for more workers. To obtain work in Ireland, it is essential to have a fluent, working knowledge of English. Although Irish people may appear very informal and causal, conduct yourself in a professional manner.
ETHICS, VALUES, and LAWS
The business transactions in Ireland are similar to those in the United States. It is illegal and unethical to give or to receive a gift of money for arranging a business transaction.
Unlike the United States, Ireland focuses more on cooperation than competitiveness. People in Ireland are hard workers. To work hard has always been a part of the Irish culture. The Irish have a good attitude toward work; this is one of the reasons for Ireland being one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
The people in Ireland are very friendly. You can go to see people without having to arrange in advance to meet them. If a visitor comes to your home, late in the evening you would walk to a bar to be with friends. Ireland is like a community center atmosphere. The atmosphere is more relaxed in Ireland than in the United States. People are truly friendlier in Ireland.15 It is important to remember that the way of life, customs, educational methods and standards in Ireland are very different from those in the United States. Some expressions and terms may have different meanings from those in the United States. The laws governing personal and business relationships, trade unions, driving, personal freedom, internal travel, buying and selling and so on can be quite different from what is seen as the norm in the United States.
All postal, telegraph, telephone, and broadcasting services are operated by government agencies. In 1998 Ireland had 435 telephone mainlines for every 1,000 residents.? In 1997 there were 697 radio receivers and 402 television sets in use for every 1,000 inhabitants.?
The national language of Ireland is called the Irish Language. This is considered the first official language. This is because although the Irish language is the national language, it is not the most widely used one. The number of Irish speaking people is decreasing every year. Most people in Ireland speak English. This is the reason the English language is considered the second national language of the country. The constitution provides for both Irish and English as official languages.16
Ireland has long been recognized for providing top class education at all levels. The government of Ireland puts 5.6% of its annual GDP to education.17 That is a substantial amount of money dedicated to one part of the country. The education system is administered by the Department of Education, which provides the bulk of the current and capital funding. In the 1993/94 census, approximately 960,000 people were full-time students throughout the many levels of schools. That is more than a quarter of the entire country population. The schooling in Ireland is broken down into three different levels. The first level is for children up to twelve years of age.17 This is similar to grammar schools in the United States. There are over 3,000 first level schools in Ireland. The second level of schooling is for student’s twelve years of age and older. This is similar to an American high school. There are over 450 secondary schools in Ireland. Finally, the third level of schooling is that of the University level. There are four universities in the country; Dublin University, Trinity University, National University of Ireland (NUI) and the University of Limerick. The first two levels of educational schooling are public, therefore cost-free. However, since 1996, a law was passed making even the university level free. Above all, there is a tradition of respect for education and learning in Ireland.
SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Whether in the cosmopolitan cities, or the unspoilt countryside, sport is central to Irish culture. Some of the most popular sports played in Ireland are: association football (soccer), rugby football, equestrian sports, golf, boxing, and various water sports. Horse racing is a highly popular spectator sport throughout the republic.18 Most of these sports are played not only by the professionals, but also by all ages throughout the country.