Northern Ireland is known for its castles, breathtaking views, and as the primary filming location for Game of Thrones. During my short time there, I was able to visit Belfast and Fermanagh. I stayed with a friend and her family, which was amazing because I was able to be totally immersed in Northern Irish culture.
While staying with the family, it was easy to see form a communication perspective that, like the United States, the people of Northern Ireland live in a low-context culture. What this means is that, unlike most Asian cultures, what people in Northern Ireland say is what they mean. They are not trying to imply anything with their words or add excess meaning to body language.
For example, the father of the household I was staying in had no problem asking me questions about the United States culture and politics. The questions were straight forward and to the point. He wasn’t trying to imply that he didn’t like policies in the U.S. and wasn’t trying to be rude. In a high-context culture his questions may have been taken as too deep and been taken offensively. However, there was no deeper contextual meaning to his questions.
Importance of Knowing the Difference
The idea of high-context and low-context is something that needs to be taken into consideration when individuals visit Northern Ireland or when businesses try to do work there. If someone comes from a high-context culture they may be reading too deeply into what the people of Northern Ireland are trying to say, instead of taking it at face value. For someone who is visiting this might just cause some confusion, but for someone doing business this could cause catastrophic misinterpretations.
Visiting Northern Ireland on my SEAM journey was extremely valuable. From my perspective, Northern Ireland is even more low-context than the United States. What you say and what you mean in Northern Ireland is the same. Northern Ireland is very direct. It was helpful for me to see the range of low-context cultures. It’s not just as simple as a culture being low or high-context. There is a range within these two categories.