Dining out in Ireland has done more than satisfy my hunger. Going out to grab breakfast, lunch and dinner have taught me so much about cross-cultural communication. On our first night in Ireland, we went to a restaurant called.
“Bleeding Horse.” This was our first experience being immersed in the culture of Ireland without our study abroad program representatives. After our class session, we were essentially left to interact with Irish culture by ourselves.
Two words sum up my experience at “Bleeding Horse” patience and flexibility. A group of 9 of us decided to enter the building very confused. As we glazed through the atmosphere, we couldn’t find a table large enough to fit our group, we were confused if we needed to seat ourselves, and there was no hostess in sight. I would describe the moment as similar to “ a deer in headlights.” We found a waiter who guided us to a table on the top of the restaurant. Another waiter came back to take our drink order, and it was at this moment that I noticed the culture shift. “ Can I have this…” “Could I have…” poured out of our mouths as we gave the waiter our order, but I noticed a slight attitude shift in his demeanor; he appeared frustrated. I was so confused and immediately began analyzing the situation. “Did we say something wrong” “Is our body language coming off a certain way?”, “What did we miss?” are all questions I began to ask myself. His demeanor continued throughout the rest of the night. I left the restaurant puzzled, trying to figure out what we might have done wrong to make him so frustrated.
It wasn’t until speaking with Dr.Kelly that I truly began to understand what transpired that night. During his talk on the high context culture of Ireland, he mentioned that Irish people like to build relationships with people. “ Irish people don’t like to go straight to business; they like to get to know the person first.” Then my experience at Bleeding Horse dawned on me. I spoke with Dr. Kelly about my experience. It resulted in me understanding that maybe our innocent request for a beverage could have come across as being demanding, which could have explained his appearance of stress and frustration.
Before coming to Ireland, I thought I understood the difference between high and low context cultures, but experiencing the contrast in person is quite different from reading it in a textbook. I am truly beginning to understand how I need to alter my communication style to suit Irish culture.