Being on committees and boards for every thing from the local primary school and Munster Bible College to youth camps and the local church means that Seth attends a lot of meetings. But there are several notable and important differences between Irish meetings and their American counterparts:
1) Irish meetings always involve a cup of tea – which usually comes with a little something to eat, which is why our kids used to say ‘Dad is going to an eating’.
2) The lingo is different – For example, if you ‘table’ a topic in America, that means you put it off for later. In Ireland, to ‘table’ a topic means that you bring it to the floor for discussion.
3) Decisions are made differently – In America, votes are taken quickly and the majority rules. The emphasis is on being efficient and moving forward. In Ireland, votes are rare. Topics are usually discussed until there is a feeling of consensus, and once that is reached the decision is considered to be made without ever needing to explicitly say so. The emphasis is on working together, but the adjustment for us was trying to figure out what had actually been decided.
4) No ending times – If you think the point above sounds like meetings would take longer in Ireland, you’re right. And maybe that’s one reason why they never have a set time to end. The meeting lasts as long as the discussion, although some discussions end up being tabled at multiple meetings. This doesn’t just apply to meetings, though – our church services have no definite ending time, either, and social visits also tend to last a lot longer than they do in America.
At the end of the day, every culture has unique values, strengths, and weaknesses. The Irish way of doing things certainly has it’s own problems, but we have learned to appreciate the way the Irish culture values relationships over tasks. Yes, it does make some projects less efficient to focus so much on the people involved, but after all, what is the real goal anyway?