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Getting Smart in Ireland

Winding road through Ireland countryside

By: Dean Foster
Dean Foster Global Cultures, & Executive Strategic Consultant
Dwellworks Intercultural


As Graebel expands its business relationships in Ireland, we want to remember that our cultural footing is important for the success of our team members and partners in our new office in Dundalk. With the help of Dean Foster, an intercultural and mobility expert, we’ve pulled together some scenarios that go beyond understanding the exchange rate for euros. Test yourself with these scenarios about Ireland and see how you do.


Q: While presenting a new strategy to the Director of Marketing in the Irish branch of your company, you are contested throughout your whole presentation because of your plan to incorporate American ideas to revamp the advertising department. Your director is visibly annoyed and refuses to discuss these ideas. After you’ve tried to plead your case by continuing to compare Ireland to the US, you say: “This is why Ireland will never become a superpower. You are stuck in the past and never take risks.” Why weren’t you effective?

A: Bad start! Besides insulting a whole country, you’ve managed to alienate your Director of Marketing. The Irish do not like to be compared to other countries, especially if it’s not positive in nature. Further, Ireland is an egalitarian culture in which everyone feels they have a say in the decision-making process, even if they are not the final decision maker. Be prepared for employees to be vocal about their ideas, even challenging and confronting. Be open to hearing ideas from your colleagues.


Q: You are late for lunch with friends and are in a rush to meet them. Although you know Ireland has fluid time tendencies, you still do not want to keep your friends waiting. You are constantly being honked at as you drive to meet your friends. Why is this happening?

A: You are probably driving on the right side of the road or you forgot to close your boot (trunk). Remember, in Ireland you must drive on the left side.


Q: After a long and tiring business meeting without any signs of a prosperous outcome any time soon, you decide to ask your potential client to a game of football. Was this wise?

A: Absolutely! Many successful business contracts and deals are made over a connection on the pitch. In many relationship-based cultures, the pre-negotiation process is crucial. Building trust is essential prior to entering into the actual negotiations, so take the time to get to know the people you’ll be kicking it with.


Q: When taking a picture with a group of your friends after touring around Dublin, you put up the two-finger “peace sign” in an effort to be friendly and show unity. After looking at the picture your friends become annoyed with you. What’s wrong with them?

A: Your friends aren’t warmongers. In Ireland the hand gesture we know as a peace sign is considered vulgar and should be avoided.


Thanks for testing yourself! If you want to read more intercultural-related articles, please visit my blog on Medium.

About the Author

Dean is the founder of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions; and former Worldwide Director of Berlitz Cross-Cultural; and currently Executive Strategic Consultant for Dwellworks Intercultural. Based in New York City, Dean has played a central role in the development of the field of cross-cultural training and consulting. Dean has worked with most major Fortune 500 companies, national governments and NGOs (the United Nations and World Trade Institutes, among others), and as guest lecturer and faculty for premier educational institutions, including Harvard Business School, Columbia University School of Business, New York University, and Darden Business School. His work has taken him to more than 100 countries. Dean has written many articles and published five books, including Bargaining Across Borders, voted as one of the top ten business books of the year by the American Library Association. As a contributing editor with National Geographic, he wrote the monthly “CultureWise” column appearing in National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Dean is on the faculty of American University's Intercultural Management Institute in Washington, DC. He received his Master’s degree in Sociology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, NYC.

Profile Photo of Dean Foster