Your question stopped me in my tracks… my first reaction is that I have no idea what each could learn from the other. But let’s see. I’ll limit myself to two things for both sides.
What Americans could learn from the Irish:
1. In America, we don’t do being witty well, especially not the subtle kind that makes conversations in Ireland so enjoyable. Perhaps we’re too young as a nation to appreciate such indirect and understated humor?
2. Americans need to learn that quantity doesn’t equal quality. In escaping privation by going to the U.S., too many emigrants have come to think that having plenty of everything is the highest value. Many consume compulsively; we could learn from Ireland that we don’t always need to have a superabundance of things to be happy.
What the Irish could learn from Americans:
1. Ireland may not have the same class divisions as Britain, but the Gospel verse, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” could have been written just for the Irish. The Irish tend to have a place for everyone and want to keep him or her firmly tied up in it. In America, you can still reinvent yourself and that is a glorious thing to be able to do.
2. Make fun of us all you want, but there is something very endearing and powerful about the American “can do” spirit. The optimism here is so different from the pervasive Irish fear that something dreadful is about to happen. The Irish would do well to drink a little of the “hopeful Kool-Aid.”
P.S. I’d love to hear from PFO readers about what they think we can teach and learn from other nations.