High Context Dining

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Something we talked in depth about when preparing for this trip was the idea of high versus low context societies. The U.S., and what we’re used to, is low context. Meaning, people from the United States prefer things to be straightforward and told directly to us. Similar to the idea of the “recipe” instead of the “ingredients” from Dr. Kelley. The Irish, however are considered to be a higher context society. They don’t necessarily need things spelled out for them in order to get something done and prefer to just do things as they please. When we talked about it while preparing in Pittsburgh, I didn’t know what to make of it. I honestly thought it was something we were reading too far into. But, after being here for some time now, there are clear differences between how Americans communicate with each other and how Irish people do.

A great example of this idea is the etiquette I’ve experienced in restaurants here. In the U.S, restaurants typically have a host or hostess to seat you at a table and give everyone a brief rundown of how things work in their establishment. It’s something I’ve now realized I completely take for granted. In Ireland, you are expected to seat yourself and sort of figure out how things work on your own. Additionally, waiters/waitresses seldom “check” on your table, and you have to basically flag them down in order to get a check. This has definitely been a learning curve, as the first few times we went into restaurants all of us were clueless as to what to do. This is one of many examples of small cultural differences that make navigating Ireland a bit more challenging, but also more interesting. In a lot of ways, Ireland and the U.S are very similar culturally, so I would be curious to travel to a place where the differences are more pronounced.  

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