Irish Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Communication Style: In Ireland, how you speak implies a lot about you. Telling stories, jokes or being witty is very common for the Irish. Moreover, public displays of emotion are common. They tend to be quite poetic in their expressions and sometimes embellish their stories. At times, they may relay a point they are trying to make through anecdotes. There is also a tendency to be modest. Bragging about yourself or constantly exaggerating will be looked on with suspicion.
  • Indirect Communication: The Irish tend to be indirect communicators; they often try to avoid creating conflict and will go to great lengths to remain polite throughout the discussion. For example, if you offer to buy your Irish counterpart a drink, they may say ‘ah, no' despite wanting to accept. Thus, you may have to offer a couple of times before they will accept. The Irish may also avoid bluntly expressing dissatisfaction or disagreement. Instead, they will give subtle cues, such as changing the subject or using humour or sarcasm.
  • Irish Gaelic: Irish Gaelic is one of the official languages of Ireland (alongside English). Although many Irish can understand some of the Irish languages, English is more widely spoken.
  • Profanity: It is not uncommon to hear the Irish say "God", "Jesus" or swear words in daily conversation. It's not considered profanity for many Irish people, nor is it ill-intended.
  • Humour: In Ireland, humour is used for various purposes. Generally, humour is used to create laughs and a warm spirit among people. It may be used as a defence mechanism, in a self-deprecating or ironic way, or as a way to show a sense of acceptance and attachment between those engaged in the conversation. Humour is also used if a person transgresses social norms to lighten the situation. Most Irish enjoy witty humour, as well as sarcasm and ‘slagging’ (insults and teasing). Such humour is well-intended and is not meant to be perceived negatively.
  • Soft Voices: The Irish tend to speak in softer tones. Being overly loud or disruptive is considered poor etiquette and off-putting.
  • Ingressive Sound: Some Irish people may inhale or inject short breaths while saying "yes" during a conversation to show agreement. It sounds similar to a gasp accompanied with the word "yes." This linguistic mannerism may be unfamiliar to many Australians, so don't be alarmed if you hear your Irish counterpart make this noise (nor ask them if they have a problem with breathing).


Non-Verbal

  • Physical Contact: The Irish tend to have a warm and friendly disposition, but generally restrain themselves from showing a great deal of physical affection in public. Men are usually less comfortable touching one another than women, but a friendly slap on the back and other gestures are still common.
  • Personal Space: Irish people tend to maintain an arm's length's distance between themselves and others when speaking. They also avoid pushing each other in public spaces such as queues or on public transport.
  • Eye Contact: Maintaining consistent (but not constant) eye contact is the norm. For many Irish, consistent eye contact reflects trust and engagement.
  • Gestures: Excessive use of hand gestures is not common, but neither do the Irish keep their hands entirely still when conversing. Some older Irish people who are Catholic will often make the sign of the cross when passing a church, funeral procession, cemetery or when an ambulance passes with its sirens on.
  • Pointing: Sometimes, an Irish person may nod or jerk their head or chin in the direction of what is discussed rather than point with their finger.
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