I’ll return to my American Expat in Ireland journey next time, today, I was reminded of some differences I thought might be worth sharing.
Sometimes, the differences in culture are not overt. I have always blended well into the cultures around me, taking heed of the differences, as best as possible, at least, but there are differences that are fundamental to a culture. You can’t always get by learning how to greet people, what gestures not to make, what words not to use, etc… As an entrepreneur, and small business owner, as well as someone who has worked for, and represented other people’s companies, I have to be more diligent. In the U.S. most people, no matter how small their business might be, present themselves in the most professional manner they can. A certain distance, or “bubble” is maintained, though in some places and situations, it’s ok to be more personal and relaxed regarding interactions with your customers. This attitude and practice is familiar and expected, and if not maintained, can result in customers feeling they should be getting a better deal, getting lax on payment, scheduling, and the likes.
Ireland is fundamentally different. I’ll use one of my businesses, the one that I plan on resorting to when I finally get back to Ireland, as an example. I’m a chimney sweep amongst other things, and I deal with people in their homes most of the time. I will greet them briefly, and get right down to business quickly. Most people like this as customers, or they are indifferent about it. If I were to do that in Ireland, without chatting with them a bit first, and being offered tea about 10 times, It would be viewed as almost rude, or suspicious in a way. So here lies a problem for me… Tea… I don’t really drink it much, I don’t drink coffee much either, to be honest, but I do enjoy a cup of either occasionally.
Let me pose you a question. What do you think the end result of 4-6 house calls a day would result in? TAY! more tea than I would drink in a year, in one day! Irish women especially don’t seem to be able to hear the words “no thank you” when it comes to just about anything. They just look at you with the eye of a CIA operative grilling a terrorist with rose colored glasses, and ask again, and again….and again….because obviously you must be mistaken, or confused about your want for tea, or spuds. I’ve said no thank you to tea, just to find a freshly poured cup in front of me before I could finish saying: “No than…oh fine.” Ok, so I had my first non-consensual cup of tea already today, now that i’ve processed what’s happened, I have to figure out what this story is that she’s already in the middle of telling me. It’s got to do with someone named Mary, or John, something about mass, and a baby. Forget it, you’re already lost, try to catch the next phase. Oh no! She found out my last name is O’Brien, There’s no way that an American can have a last name like O’Brien, so they ask if i’m sure i’m American, and then jumps into a story about one of the million O’Brien’s she knows. Mind you, she knows my ancestors i’m sure, as my wife says, get a few of the old townswomen together, give them a few pots of tea, and let them at it for a few hours, and they’ll have traced my ancestry back to the baby Jaysus’ time. Now i’ll have no Idea what time it is, how long i’ve been there, and i’m really itching to get started on the job so I can make my next scheduled client. IF I make it out of there, I’ll have to do this all over again at the next stop! Keep in mind, there’s going to be a bit of chatting after the work is done, and the vacuum can’t drown out the conversation anymore. I’ve found that in foreign countries, i’ll be getting extra chatting to because i’m a foreigner, there are always questions and interests regarding that you can count on.
Normally, I wouldn’t mind a bit, really! I love talking to new people, and hearing their random stories. In my other business as a recording/audio engineer, I started a project where I set up a microphone at a random location, bar, park, street corner, and recorded random stories people had to share. This world is full of stories, color, ideas to be heard and shared. When it comes to getting work done though, this whole Irish tea and chat thing is becoming a foggy labyrinth that I have no idea how to begin to navigate. I’ll have to figure out a whole new bag of tricks to move things along, but remain polite and personable. I can’t drink that much tea, so i’m not sure how i’ll pull that off, maybe a hidden bottle to siphon the tea into, I don’t know, and I try not to think about it right now as I struggle enough with getting ready for the permanent move.
In the next post i’ll have to get into all the nitty gritty details, loopholes, and finagling that it’s taking to get over there, and what it took to become legal in the first place.
I’ll need to consult a sage on how to solve this tea debacle though…
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