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Cultural and Social Norms Between the Republic of Ireland and Ontario

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Cultural and social norms can be found in any society while being a citizen or a traveler in a community. These behaviours, characteristics, best practices and acceptable social interactions can range from ways of communication, living and daily etiquette (Myers, Nyce, and Dekker, 2014). When discovering a new environment and some social norms, it is crucial to understand that though it is common to see some practices, it does not define the social structure or the culture of one society (Myers et al. 2014). While recognizing some social interactions one may view similar or varied changes compared to their typical daily routine. The Irish and Canadian Cultures both have similarities but also have some social differences that enhances each society’s uniqueness. Specifically the Republic of Ireland and Ontario have some differences when viewing the individual’s social norms and practices of Family Dynamics, Religion Importance, Waste Habits and Personal Etiquette.

The Family unit is a starting foundation for an individual’s agents of Socialization throughout their lifespan. These agents are evident in one’s childhood and throughout their upbringings in to adulthood. They introduce one to language, communication, traditions and emotional connections in one’s life (Schwartz, Sheeber, Dudgeon, and Allen, 2012). Parental behaviours can also be an influence when guiding a child or youth through emotional struggles or difficult situations (Schwartz et al. 2012). The amount of influence and emotional connections that the family unit shares, varies by culture and the societal social norms. The differences can be evident with responses, reactions or common practices within the family (Schwartz et al. 2012). When viewing the family social norm differences between the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, it is crucial to discover the family dynamics along with common family traditions.

In the Republic of Ireland, the family dynamics always originate around the Nuclear Family (Gaeil, n.d.). It is common for family members to live close until further education path is finalized. Furthermore, the extended family is increasingly included in the dynamics of family within Irish culture (Gaeil, n.d.). The Irish family dynamics continue to evolve as time does as well. As the cost of living has increased, the size of families has decreased from an average of 2 children in 1991 to an average of 1.4 children as per the 2011 census (Goodman, 2015). Though the family size may be decreasing by lower fertility rates, the traditions continue to get passed to represent the family to current and future generations and their gatherings. A common tradition that is celebrated is an individual’s life when they pass. A celebration of life is typically put together before or after the funeral and wake services for a family member who dies (Irish Culture, 2016). This celebration is typically held at a pub with family and friends to cherish and share memories and the opportunities to comment on the good moments in their life. At these celebrations it is common to fill the period of time with humour, music, dancing, food, drinks and storytelling (Donnelly, S, 1999).

In the last two decades, the family dynamics in Ontario have been changing. Previously, a communal social norm was to get married and secure a family with children. Though marriage still is 72% of family sizes in Ontario, changes in these dynamics have shifted with the legislation of common-law practices along with same-sex marriages (Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada, 2018). These shifts have allowed us to see different family dynamics. From the Canadian 2006 to 2011 census, common-law couples rose 13.9% while lone-parent families accounted for 16.3% of family population along with 12.6% account for blended families (Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada, 2018).These culture shifts in Ontario and Nationwide have shown the acceptance shift of others in society. Similar to Irish Society, the Canadian society will pass on family specific traditions. The key difference would be the effort comparable to the expensive wedding tradition, Ontario citizens tend to invest money in to the funeral services to show the wealth of the individual (McCullough, 2017). Based on religion practice of the individual’s family, the funeral practice may differ with a burial, cremation and different traditions prior to or following the main service (McCullough, 2017). These practices, unless strictly stated, are common to be influenced by the religious affiliation of the family rather than the deceased individual.

Religion serves as an additional agent of socialization to an individual, that is considered a high or low degree of influence on one’s lifespan. Personal practices, religious views and degree of influence varies between each family household as they are passed down from parental figures (Okon, 2012). The culture you live in may also influence your belief system to strive towards successful socialization. Through this, the degree of religion that is inflicted in an individual’s dominant society is shown through learnings or daily practices such as; morning prayer in grade school, religion-specific classes or clubs, community media and social or political movements (Okon, 2012). In the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, the role of religion can be examined by the social norm practices for individuals, with attendance to one’s respective religious practice and to one’s daily routine influence.

Though the Republic of Ireland does not have an official religion, it is common for Irish citizens to be Christian (Global Affairs Canada – Affaires, 2018). In the progression of Irish society development, it was clear that the role of the Cathloic Church had a heavy influence in political decisions up until the sex scandals of the 1990s; this, along with additional factors begun to deter the dominance of church and religious practices (Fahey, Hayes, and Sinnott, 2006). In the Republic of Ireland, the decline in religious attendance and practice, became apparent starting in the 1970s between both males and females across all age groups; an exception to the decline were males aged 63 years of age and older (Fahey, Hayes, and Sinnott, 2006). Through a child’s primary and school age years of learning, the influence of religion begins within the school system. As the Cathloic Church continues to maintain responsibility for over 90% of the Primary Schools in Ireland, children are being forced to learn religion no matter if their family’s degree of practice (Sherwood, 2016). Additionally, as the Cathloic Church operates majority of state-funded schools, it immediately sets a standard of Cathloic integration into a teachers’ classroom and curriculum. This set of criteria that the School System abides by, forces unbaptised children to find school’s at a greater distance from home, that is not operated by the Cathloic Church (Sherwood, 2016). The great impact that a child would face when needing to separate from their familiar friends and typical community, puts the family in a difficult situation. This set of standard from the school system has made conformity to baptism an easier decision for non-religious families, thus being able to refrain from enduring pain for the child in school settings or towards the family at home (Sherwood, 2016).

In Ontario, the social norm with freedom of religion is practiced day-to-day similarly to across the nation. When discovering religious affiliation, we can understand that the age population does have an impact regarding the influence of religion. In 1991, only 41% of the population had determined an affiliation with the Cathloic religion (Religious Groups in Canada – Statistics Canada, 2001). That same year, it was determined that of the population, 94% of those over age 65 had determined to have a religious affiliation, while 86% of those aged 15-44 determined some religious affiliation (Religious Groups in Canada – Statistics Canada, 2001). These numbers began to drop as time progressed with dominant factors including an increase of immigrant population and higher education importance across Ontario citizens (Wormald, 2014). This has been evident with decrease in religious attendance along with reports in 2011 indicating that 23% of Ontario citizens reported no religious affiliation (Wormald, 2014). With religion having lower influence on an individual’s daily routine, it is also clear that religious beliefs does not inflict political decisions (Montgomery, 2017). This is evident in controversial debates such as abortion or assitive dying, which these matters are handeled “between the provincial health care system and the Ontario College of Physicians” (Montgomery, 2017). This disconnect of religion and politics allows for unbiased and creation of neutral decisions for all citizens.

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Society waste habits relate to the actions of communities to take care of their amount of waste that is produced. The influence of waste management in a community culture comments on the conscious efforts completed to improve or further harm the environment (Cox, Giorgi, Sharp, Strange, Wilson, and Blakey, 2010). Efforts such as separation of waste, recycle, compost, community clean-ups or regulations are seen as action plans to commitment to a healthier planet for current and future generations to habit (Cox et al. 2010). In the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, the societal waste habits can be examined by efforts from micro communities including citizens and households and macro communities including city enforcement.

Over the last two decades, the Republic of Ireland has been making an increase of conscious efforts to support the Waste Management Policy in Ireland. Initiatives to separate waste, compost and recycling have heightened thus reducing personal and household waste (Waste – Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). The change of view on Waste Management initiated in 1998 where it “has shifted considerably from a waste disposal culture towards a recycling society” (Comhshaol, 2012). This has been evident in high return investment community based programs, increased city regulations and an increased use of biodegradable waste (Comhshaol, 2012). Through these efforts of waste management, the focus of all communities has been a commitment to a circular economy; including the goal to reuse waste for fuel, reduce pollution rate and create new jobs (Waste – Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). When in Belfast, I had the chance to converse with a local George where he commented “on the low litter, George mentioned how it’s really common for people to want to separate waste, recycle and compost. We even noticed the high amount of workers clearing trash cans, cleaning the streets and tending to any debris in the park bushes.” (Benudiz Field Notes, May 11 2019). Noticing this it is clear that government efforts have included funding jobs to keep the streets, parks and environment of Belfast cleaner.

The efforts to achieve a healthier communal environment to live in is what most societies in Ontario are hoping to gain one day. An official statement regarding the plans of debris and control in “Ontario is shifting to a waste management approach where waste is seen as a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated back into the economy” (Waste management, 2012). Ontario’s updated plans will target to reduce waste and debris in communities, increase economic growth and protect the environment (Waste management, 2012). A case study in Toronto, Ontario examined the service quality and economic investment in privatizing and contracting out the local solid waste management services. In this research, it was determined that though it may be a cost effective short term measurement tool, the quality of service is interval of high and low delivery between varied companies and thus not producing the same standard of cleanliness across Toronto streets (Zhu and Huang, 2017). Understanding this, the municipal government are attempting to make efforts to save costs while increasing productivity but in fact this is a system that would need to be reviewed to ensure consistent cleanliness throughout all communities (Zhu and Huang, 2017).

Personal etiquette skills are learned and developed behaviours that one inhabits to become their personal social norms in any interpersonal environment. These behaviours include greetings, reactions, manners and conversation responses (Waghmare, 2017). Positive and strong etiquette skills are key for any individual to hold as it shows a stranger what type of character traits you may hold or succeed in (Waghmare, 2017). Demonstrating positive manners in one’s forefront also gives opportunity to further polish an individual’s personality traits (Waghmare, 2017). In the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, the societal etiquette can be viewed by understanding communication styles and conversation dynamics.

In the Republic of Ireland, communication is found in various forms such as music, art and conversing. While conversing with an Irish citizen, the use of humour and sarcasm is heightened in typical conversation and distinguished as a social norm (Gaeil, n.d.). The humour also goes hand-and-hand with bantering or pathos, these slight actions are truly to show the positive emotion or appreciation towards a person rather than a sign of ridicule towards them (Donnelly, 1999). Along with humour, the manners are practiced in Ireland on a traditional basis. Being polite is a character trait that we have opportunities to gain our entire life. When conversing with a Bartender Luke, he had the opportunity to comment on this and note how “he had the chance to grow up in Britain but also lived in Belfast for years before moving to the North. Though he was British, he found that the levels of manners in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are exceptional. He continued to say how he appreciated always being called a ‘Gent’ or ‘Lovely’ whenever dealing with strangers” (Benudiz Field Notes, May 15 2019). Understanding a perspective of an individual that migrated there was neat to discover his felt differences that he experienced. In terms of typical conversations, Luke had also noted that if one “wish[es] to keep the peace with a local, to avoid the conversation of being a Nationsist or Unionist” (Benudiz Field Notes, May 15 2019). Politics is a controversial topic when conversing with Irish citizens and a best practice to avoid these conversations for safe measures (Global Affairs Canada – Affaires, 2018).

Due to the cultural diversity and religious differences across Ontario, there aren’t set principles with regards to ways of communication and structure. Similarities of across all citizens do occur with etiquette of attentive conversation and positive manners between individuals (McCullough, 2017). When conversing with someone from a Candian multicultural society, it is common to keep distance of arms length to ensure personal space (Dorais, 1994). This allows for comfort of both individuals to ensure complete communication of verbal responses rather than interfering or inferring non-verbal signals. These opportunities allow for communications systems to rediscover and question if their communication is being read and received correctly (Dorais, 1994). Some common manners that are traditional are friendly greetings, literal meanings with one’s words and schedule commitment along with respect for an individual’s role and hierarchy (McCullough, 2017). In doing so, common controversial topics that one would consider private and stay away from would include; topics of politics, explicit conversation and judgmental religious-based contradictions (McCullough, 2017).

The similarities and differences of cultural and social norms between each society is unique in its own way. Through the lens of Family Dynamics, it was understood how each society has a different take on the current role and influence that the family’s possess on an individual’s life. In the Republic of Ireland the family is oriented around the key nuclear family members with addition to their extended family (Gaeil, n.d.), while in Ontario, the family dynamics have increasingly changed with shifts in common-law, lone-parent household and blended families (Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada, 2018). In both societies, the government does not choose to identify a specific religion as the set state or province religion. Through examining, it is evident that between the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, the amount of multiculturalism and varied religions occurs predominantly in Canadian culture (Wormald, 2014), while Irish culture has an increased Cathloic influence in daily and school system communities (Sherwood, 2016). With understanding waste habits between these two societies, it is key to recognize that both governments have environmental plans put in place, however, there is more evident results occurring alongside community commitment. With the influence of the Waste Management Policy of Ireland, the positive outcome has been seen to produce a cleaner environment for the citizens to engage and progress through (Comhshaol, 2012). With revision to Toronto and Ontario’s current model for solid waste management (Zhu and Huang, 2017), the Ontario Waste Management plans should allow for community growth and development (Waste management, 2012). Lastly, with understanding the different communication styles, it is evident that Irish citizens will utilize an increase and sense of humour along with sarcasm within conversation (Gaeil, n.d.) compared to Canadian citizens being more literal with their words, time and actions when conversing (McCullough, 2017). Viewing the two societies it is clear that the level of uniqueness is true to its citizens in each community.


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