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Be nice, play the fool
Tips for success in official Ireland

There are two rules for success in official Ireland: be nice, and play the fool.

Being nice is only a matter of avoiding contrariness. There's no need to think of the person across the counter or desk as the adversary. This is more generally true amongst humans, of course — but especially important in Ireland, where politeness is a highly-valued behavior.

The Irish bureaucrat will generally be entirely helpful; but you must treat them as if they are trying to be so. This is obvious; a truism. But it's more true in Ireland.

Playing the fool is a simple matter of admitting to less than you know. Playing the fool goes hand-in-hand with being nice — it's the complementary behavior. It's the assumption that you keep under your hat in consideration of the fact that the other person is there to help you.

If you know that by the books you are entitled to a certain kind of benefit, you don't go into the office and ask for that benefit. You go into the office and explain the situation, outlining parameters that you know describe your entitlement to the benefit. You play dumb. You let the official on the other side of the counter explore the level of need that pertains to your situation. You don't ask for anything, if you can help it. But you don't decline help, either — and there's nothing wrong with putting on "the poor mouth" (an beal bocht.) But you don't mention what you hope or expect. You let it come to you.

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