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How to Do Business in Ireland

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The People

Boxty imageThe Irish are interested in people and place great value on the individual. They are naturally courteous, quick-witted and will go out of their way to welcome visitors to their country. Don’t rush the Irish. Although they work very hard, the Irish are dedicated to a less stressful lifestyle that allows time for friends and family, a visit to the pub, a cup of tea, or just a bit of a chat on the corner. Families are closely-knit and very important to the Irish.

Meeting and Greeting

  • Shake hands with everyone present–men, women and children–at a business or social gathering. Shake hands again when leaving.
  • A firm handshake with eye contact is expected.

Body Language

  • The Irish are not very physically demonstrative and are not comfortable with public displays of affection.
  • The Irish are uncomfortable with loud, aggressive, and arrogant behavior.
  • A “Reverse V for victory” gesture is considered obscene.

Corporate Culture

  • Business is best initiated through a well-connected third party. Who you know may be vital to your business success.
  • The Irish are not very time conscious and may not be punctual for business and social meetings. They have a relaxed sense of time and may be a little late for meetings. However, a foreigner should be on time for business meetings.
  • Business cards are exchanged, but not necessarily immediately upon meeting.
  • Irish people tend to be creative and calm in a crisis. They prefer to improvise rather than follow a rigid plan.
  • Outwardly the Irish accept authority but inwardly have strong displeasure in accepting it. They also dislike bureaucracy.
  • Planning and strategy are short term. Irish tend to be poor in long-range planning.
  • Don’t be misled by the easy going and amiable attitudes of the Irish. In negotiations, the Irish are astute and tenacious.
  • The golf course is a major venue for conducting business in Ireland.

Dining and Entertainment

  • Business entertainment is commonly conducted in restaurants.
  • Business dinners are usually considered more of a social occasion and a good way to develop relationships.
  • Spouses may or may not be invited to a business dinner.
  • The small plate next to a dinner plate is for peelings removed from boiled potatoes.
  • It is polite to eat everything served to you in a private home.
  • Table manners are the same as in England, only a bit more relaxed.
  • Refusing a drink can be perceived as insult in Ireland.
  • Always buy your round of drinks.


  • Dress modestly and conservatively. Flashy colors and styles, white pants, nylon running jackets, etc. do not blend into Irish style.
  • Tweeds, wools and subdued colors are recommended.
  • A raincoat is needed year around.
  • For business meetings, men should wear suits or sportcoats and ties; women should wear suits or dresses and blazers (women wear pants less often than in America).


  • Gift giving and receiving is unusual in a business setting. Small gifts may be exchanged, but are not expected, at the successful conclusion of negotiations.
  • When invited to someone’s home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. Give flowers (lilies are for religious occasions only; red and white flowers symbolize death), chocolates, a bottle of wine or continental cheeses.
  • Do not give expensive or ostentatious gifts.

Helpful Hints

  • The Irish respect reserved behavior. Initial meetings should be low key.
  • Assume that children will be included in family entertaining.
  • Send a thank-you note after receiving a gift or being a dinner guest.
  • Always be sincere. The Irish dislike pretentious behavior.
  • Remember the Irish want to do things their way. You will not succeed if you insist on doing it “your way.”

Especially for Women

  • A foreign woman will be accepted easily in the Irish business community.
  • The ‘Old Boys Club’ still exists. Whom you know is vital to getting the job done.
  • It is considered more proper for a woman to order a glass of beer or stout rather than a pint.
  • It is acceptable, but may be misconstrued for a foreign woman to invite an Irishman to dinner. It is best to stick with lunch.
  • If a woman would like to pay for a meal, she should state so at the outset.

Mary Bosrock
International Education Systems
1814 Hillcrest Avenue, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55116
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