Doing business in Ireland

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Ireland is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Irish Sea to the east, and the Celtic Sea to the south. It shares a land border with Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. The country's capital and largest city is Dublin, a bustling metropolis situated on the east coast.

Manufacturing, software engineering, aerospace, medical devices, and renewable energy are all thriving industries. 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.

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 slower-paced rural areas.

Culturally, while most people identify as Irish, many feel strongly connected to their region. This is especially so during national sporting events such as hurling, camogie and Gaelic football. Many symbols of Irish national identity come from their association with religion. In the 2022 Census, the proportion of the population who identified as Roman Catholic was 69% although weekly mass attendance has declined.

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, love of drinking and talking 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.

When encountering someone for the first time in Ireland, a friendly handshake is a customary greeting. Establish eye contact and share a warm smile to convey openness and friendliness. In terms of addressing individuals, using courtesy titles like "Mr" or "Ms" followed by their last name is a polite and respectful approach. The Irish appreciate a personal and amiable demeanour in social interactions, fostering a welcoming atmosphere.

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.

Business meetings in Ireland typically follow a structured and formal format, often commencing with a well-defined agenda and clear objectives. Participants are expected to come well-prepared and actively contribute to the discussions. Decision-making can be a thoughtful and meticulous process, involving in-depth analyses and thorough discussions to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the matter at hand.

In Ireland, communication styles may initially lean towards indirectness, gradually transitioning to a more direct and, at times, straightforward approach once a level of trust is established. At this point, individuals may express their emotions openly and confidently decline requests or proposals if they have reservations.

Irish business presentations uphold a level of formality. Colleagues value comprehensive presentations, emphasising the need for thorough exploration of facts, figures, and supporting data. Anticipate in-depth questions and discussions, as the Irish value a thorough understanding of the topic to ensure a robust exploration of the subject matter.

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 44% of Irish adults, compared to 42% that believe having the ability to "have nice things" was a top priority.

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 are 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 the United Kingdom.

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