Everything in Belfast is "new"; at least that's what keeps coming up in conversations about Northern Ireland. From bars and cafes to art galleries and new shopping centers, the country's starting afresh after a long and troubled history. Northern Ireland business people are savvy, outward looking and place a lot of value on having fruitful professional relationships.
A lot of success in business relationships hinges on first impressions. And like anywhere else, a good introduction in Northern Ireland involves a firm handshake and a warm greeting, while looking the other person in the eye; avoid staring at the person for too long, though. As an English speaking country, you'll experience fewer language and cultural barriers than on Europe's mainland. But, Louise Conway of the Boost Business Team, a local investment agency, advises that it’s best to avoid assumptions about people’s national identity. Some might identify themselves as British, Irish or Northern Irish. Also, avoid talking about religion and "the troubles," of years past.
Be sociable; this is important during formal and informal business gatherings. It’s a good idea to open meetings with some informal chat. Once you start talking business, though, limit technical or corporate jargon. Northern Ireland business people tend to be practical thinkers and often appreciate working with straight-talkers. To engage meeting attendants, share your energy and enthusiasm about U.S.-Northern Ireland business collaborations.
Your new trading partners in Northern Ireland understand that business deals are subject to change. If you must update or change a plan, keep emails and phone calls clear and to the point. You might wish to rehearse what you're going to say before calling or writing to ensure that you get your point across. Offer alternative plans of action and time frames. In your email signature, add various ways for your business partners to reach you, such as alternative phone numbers and professional social network usernames. In business communications, use first names only if invited to do so.
According to the Scotch-Irish Society USA, the connection between the two countries goes back to 1684, so you can expect a lot of good will when visiting the country for business. You might notice an admiration for U.S. commercial achievement. Regular networking and business events promoting U.S.-Northern Ireland collaborations are held throughout the country.
Currently working in Dublin, Michael Mageean started out writing for Belfast-based “Fortnight” magazine in 1998. Recently he has written for Verify Recruitment’s technology blog, newsletter and scripted Verify's radio show, "New Job Radio." He trained as a journalist with the London school of Journalism in 2012. He is a graduate of the University of Ulster.