Talking With Your Hands

Reflecting on Communication Differences

When I first was researching study abroad programs, I thought eight weeks was a lengthy timeframe, but I underestimated how quickly the time would fly by. As I started my last week of work, several coworkers already tried to persuade me to stay. Even some of the guests at my placement, who witnessed my first week and have recently communicated with me, cannot believe how fast I assimilated with the team at the Club and how shortly I will be leaving back to New York. The best way to describe the situation is bittersweet. I am excited to go back home to see family, eat buffalo chicken wing dip, and start my last fall semester at UPB. On the other hand, I am crestfallen that I will be leaving this magnificent island and the working family at the Stephen’s Green Club in less than a week. Although I know it is unnecessary, I am going to write thank you cards to the staff who helped me the most throughout this program and truly spoiled me with their kindness.

Outside of work, I have been trying to cross off more places I wanted to see in Ireland before I leave. This past weekend I was extremely busy. I attended several exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and guided tours at the Kilmainham Gaol and the Glasnevin Cemetery. I also visited the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum and some other notable Dublin locations. Since Ireland has been experiencing an extreme heat wave, I have also made frequent visits to Murphy’s Ice Cream. It is hands-down the best ice cream in Ireland, and I highly recommend grabbing a cone. They have magnificent flavors that you can sample before ordering. My favorite combination is the chocolate whisky and honeycomb caramel ice cream.

There are several verbal examples of the communication differences I have witnessed that I can mention. To start strong, one of the most challenging aspects of verbal communication at my placement I experienced is regarding conversing over the phone with guests who are enquiring about dining and accommodation reservations. I was completely capable to handle the requests, but I often found it hard to comprehend what the other person was saying. Although Ireland is predominantly English speaking, I found it challenging at times to understand certain thick Irish accents. Even in person, it can be difficult to comprehend an Irishman or woman depending on their accent, speed of articulation, and the amount of mumbling. Even in my last couple of weeks, I still struggle to understand a handful of people, but I have learned several tricks to help combat the hardships. I try to repeat a guest’s name at least once, and I always ask the individual how to spell their name to ensure I do not get that wrong. Other times, it simply boils down to me asking for a person to please repeat themselves. I believe it is better to ask for clarification before agreeing to something you cannot comprehend. In some cases, even the simplest of names can be spelled completely differently than you expect from the pronunciation. Although my placement has a couple of hundred members that live in Ireland, we also accommodate international guests. It is essential that I can at least get the guest or member’s name correct to look them up in our system, complete a reservation, or properly transfer their call to the correct department. Also important to mention, I recently had a lengthy conversation about communication differences with a coworker who lived in Canada for a while. She mentioned she was often frustrated by how slow she would have to speak to be understood by her coworkers while working in Canada.

A subtle non-verbal difference that has been pointed out is regarding making hand gestures during conversations. Several coworkers have mentioned how I often talk with my hands. I never realized before these interactions that gesturing with your hands while you talk is not a global social norm. Upon further research, it is said these gestures help express thoughts more clearly. Also, that people who do this tend to be viewed as warm and agreeable. I have found that in the workplace, the communication style depends on numerous factors. My experience is somewhat different from my peers interning in Dublin and other IPP locations. At my placement, I have found there is a balance of high-context and low-context communication. Certain guests and members expect to chat for hours on end, whereas others prefer straightforward communication. This can be connected to the diversity of guests, as the Club welcomes international members. I am glad that this placement has helped me develop intercultural communication competency, as it is an extremely important skill needed for the hospitality industry and the general workforce.

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