When I was preparing for my internship, improving my communication was one of my biggest goals. When I thought about improving my communication, however, I hadn’t considered the cultural differences between communicating in the States as opposed to communicating in Ireland.
Before I talk about the communication differences I have observed in Ireland, I want to talk about some I have observed relating to places outside of my host country. Since starting my internship I have worked with a few interns from Germany and even took a weekend trip to Berlin which was interesting for me to observe differences beyond just those from the United States and Ireland. I have noticed that the German interns are very direct with questions and comments. When they have a question about a task they do not hesitate to ask and when they do as they do so in a way that highlights the problem very clearly. I found this refreshing as it made me feel more open to ask them any questions I may have and allowed us to understand each other better. I found it interesting to compare this style to the Irish styles I will talk about below because it was even more direct than the American style of communication I am used to.
Just as it would be in any place, I have found that communication in Ireland can vary from person to person and environment to environment. Overall I have noticed that there are some differences that can apply to most scenarios. The biggest difference is the Irish way of small talk. I have observed that small talk is very important in Irish communication, typically involving some kind of joke or bantering back and forth. When I talk to both coworkers and non coworkers most people are readily excited to engage in a conversation. Typically these conversations tend to be very casual and can be just about anything. At first, this caught me off guard as I am used to keeping to myself but over time I have grown to enjoy the friendliness and embrace these unexpected but often fun conversations
In a work environment, I have two very different communication styles, varying between the two offices I have worked at. At one of the offices, it was a very high-context style of communication. The specifics of tasks were implied and overall I was assigned a project and given the freedom to do what I wanted with it. I found this very challenging as I like to have clear instructions since they make me feel more confident in the work I am producing. This sometimes lead me to get stuck on a certain task, not knowing how to proceed and being unable to ask for direction due to my supervisor being busy. Though the instructions were not always very clear on what the final product should look like, this did not mean that my supervisor or coworkers were rude. They enjoyed the informal small talk I spoke about above just as much as anyone else here, however, the topic of communication was typically not focused on work. I found it very odd that fairly vague directions would be given but instead of going to work, we could still chat about something else, forgetting the project for a time. From speaking with other interns it seems to me that this is a typical style in which communication is handled here.
The other office I worked at had some similarities and some differences. Most of the people in the office still enjoyed having casual conversations, however, when tasks were assigned they were far more thoroughly explained. I found this style to be more familiar and lead to me having more success with the projects I was assigned to here in comparison to the other office. When instructions are laid out clearly I found I could work more confidently. This meant I had fewer questions to ask so I didn’t feel as bad always asking them. This also lead to the questions I asked feeling more informed and intelligent because they were more specific to certain parts of the project. When working in the higher context office I found that I would have so many questions about so many things that I felt far more intimidated to ask them.
I have enjoyed being able to compare different aspects of communication while experiencing my internship. By observing the communication differences between the two offices, as well as adding my observations of my fellow interns from other places, and my own experiences in the past, I have been able to learn that a lower context style tends to suit me best. Though knowing what style works best for me is valuable, I find it potentially more valuable that I have gained experience working in an environment that I found difficult. This means that if I encounter a high-context environment in the future I will be better equipped to do better work there.