Everything you need to know about Ireland

Before travelling to Ireland, there are a number of things that you should know.

Ireland is split into two countries.

On the island of Ireland, there are two countries. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. And they both have different currencies.

When people say “Ireland”, they are typically referring to the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, whereas the Republic of Ireland is an independent country. i.e. You should never ever make the mistake of assuming that Ireland is apart of the UK or Britain (or England, for that matter). It might open you up to abuse and a lengthy drawn-out lecture on Irish history.

The reasons behind all of this are pretty complex.

Read more: Is Ireland a part of the UK?

Do Irish people hate English people?

No. The vast majority of Irish people (Republicans included) will get on just fine with their English counterparts. When Irish people go off on a rant about “the Brits”, they’re typically talking about the Monarchy and the British government (of past and present).

If you’re English and you are particularly worried about this; try not to fret. Just avoid coming across as a die-hard British loyalist and you’ll be just fine. There are plenty of British people who live in Ireland and most of them never have any issues.

Irish people insult each other a lot.

Irish people tend to insult each other. A lot. In many cases, these insults are seen as an act of endearment and are not meant to be taken seriously. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear one Irish person refer to another person as being “a bit of a spa” (spa is Irish slang for “fool”, by the way).

If you are from a culture where insults are not traded between friends and acquaintances, then you will probably be surprised by the amount of ribbing and banter that goes on between Irish people.

Note that you should probably shy away from hurling insults at random people until you’ve learned more about Irish culture. i.e. Don’t start calling people spas as soon as you’ve stepped off the plane. It’s all about context, tone and familiarity.

Irish people curse a lot.

The Irish curse a lot. In fact, many Irish people will randomly curse during a casual conversation. If you are from a country where curse words are kept for more serious occasions, then you are in for a rude awakening. Words such as “feck”, “f*ck”, “shite” and “c*nt” will be used and you’re just going to have to find a way to not seem surprised.

Note: The word “c*nt” holds far less weight in Ireland than it does in America, so try not to be offended when you hear it (because trust me, you will hear it).

Do the Irish drink a lot?

There is a large drinking culture in Ireland, which means that there are plenty of pubs, bars, off licenses and nightclubs to choose from.

Although most Irish people do not drink alcohol every single day of the week, they will binge drink as soon as the occasion demands it. In other words, “a few drinks” typically translates into “Five or six pints of Bulmers, followed by shots of tequila and a late-night trip to the nearest fast food outlet.”

Is there Internet in Ireland? Do Irish people have televisions?

No. Most of us are too busy picking potatoes with our bare hands to care about modern technology. In fact, I first wrote this article on a piece of paper that I created from a tree beside my hut. I then sent it by carrier pigeon to a relative in England.

In all seriousness: Ireland is a developed nation that has undergone a lot of changes over the past thirty years or so. During this time-frame, the country transitioned from an agricultural economy into a knowledge-based economy. We have over 1000 multinational software companies in Ireland, with companies such as Facebook, Google and PayPal taking up residence here. In 2018, the country was ranked 9th in the world in GDP Per Capita, putting it above the USA, the UK and France. In 2017, it was ranked 9th in the world in GNI (PPP) Per Capita.

So, to answer your question: Yes, we do have Internet and yes, we do have televisions. In the more urban areas, you’ll even have access to fibre broadband.

Do Irish people say “Top of the morning to you”?

No. This seems to be a phrase that only exists in movies.

To be honest with you, I have never ever heard another Irish person say “Top of the morning to you!”

It just doesn’t happen.

What is the deal with leprechauns?

This piece of folklore is sometimes seen as a cringey Irishism that only really shows up around St. Patrick’s Day. We rarely even talk about them, to be honest. They are not a major part of our culture.

It is craic, not crack.

When somebody says “that was great craic”, they’re not (necessarily) talking about crack cocaine. The word craic basically means “fun.” Note the difference in spelling.

What side of the road do Irish people drive on?

Irish people drive on the left side of the road, so try not to kill us with your rental car.

Irish Car Bomb.

Do not order the Irish Car Bomb in Ireland. That’s an American cocktail and most of us don’t even know what it is. Furthermore, you might insult someone by ordering it.

How expensive is Ireland?

Ireland is not a budget holiday. You might be surprised by the cost of living.

If you are travelling to Ireland on holiday for a week or two, you should probably have a daily budget of around €75 to €150.

Examples of different costs.

Pint of beer: €5
Regular Coffee: €2.95
20 pack of Marlboro: €12+
Bottle of wine at a service station: €8+
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: €12+

For example, a 10oz Sirloin Steak at a mid-to-upper-range restaurant in Wexford will be about €26.00.

Starter meals will cost around €10. Add in a dessert for about €8 and you’re looking at a meal that costs €44 per person. That is without drinks.

Are Irish people friendly?

By and large, Irish people are very friendly, helpful and welcoming. For reference: I say that as an Irish native who has visited Scotland, England, Wales, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Although Irish people swear a lot and insult each other for fun, I can honestly say that the vast majority of us are pretty welcoming.

Does it rain all of the time in Ireland?

No, it doesn’t. Although our weather isn’t exactly tropical, it isn’t nearly as bad as what some people make it out to be.

For example, the Netherlands actually has more rainy days than Ireland.

It also depends on which part of Ireland you plan on staying. For instance, the west of Ireland sees more rainy days than the east. This is because it is closer to the Atlantic Ocean.

If you plan on travelling to Ireland, then play it safe. Prepare for rain and then hope that it doesn’t.

Buying Drinks.

Usually, when somebody buys you a drink, they do it with the expectation that you will purchase the next round. The odd time, you might get lucky and some random drunken lunatic will chat with you, buy you a drink and then wander off, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen too often.

Do I need to tip the waiter in Ireland?

Employees in Ireland are protected by a minimum wage. Unlike in other countries, this includes those who work in restaurants, bars and the hospitality sector.

Workers in Ireland do not generally expect a tip.

Don’t get me wrong, they will appreciate it. It’s just that they don’t rely on tips to make up their wages.

In other countries such as the United States, certain sectors rely on tips to supplement their wages. For example, waiters in the USA often get paid less than the federal minimum wage. This is because they are actually expected to make up the difference via tips.

This is not the case in Ireland, as all employees must be paid the minimum wage.

Basically, this means that you do not need to tip the barman every time that you order a drink.

Country Roads.

When tourists visit the Irish country side, they’re often shocked by the small winding roads that have a designated speed limit of 80KM/hour. They’re even more shocked by the fact that these roads are often two-way. Fortunately; you don’t have to drive 80KM/hour on these roads. In fact, I think most Irish people would prefer it if you used a bit of common sense and took it easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather not get into a head-on collision with a car full of tourists that is drifting around the bend on some small windy road in the back arse of nowhere.

By the way: If you intend on travelling through rural Ireland, you should probably rent a small car. Otherwise, good luck on trying to navigate your BMW through the windy rural roads.

It’s St. Patrick, not St. Patty.

You can call it St. Patrick’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day. Saying “St. Patty’s Day” is not acceptable.

The primary patron saint of Ireland is Saint Patrick, not Saint Patty. The given name Patty is short for Patricia. Patricia is a female name, not a male name. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and you will be mocked for using it.

Get it right!

Do Irish people wear kilts?

No. Irish people do not wear kilts. You’re thinking of Scotland.

Do Irish people play the bag pipes?

No. Irish people do not play the bag pipes. Again, you’re thinking of Scotland.

How old do you need to be to drink alcohol in Ireland?

The drinking age in Ireland is 18.

How old do you need to be to buy cigarettes in Ireland?

To buy cigarettes, you will need to be 18 years of age or older. This is a strict law. In other words, if you look “youngish”, don’t be surprised if you are asked for ID.

When do off-licences, bars and nightclubs close?

Off-licences open between 10.30 am and 10.00 pm on most days. On Sunday, they do not open until 12.30 pm.

Pubs usually stay open until 00:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. On other days, they tend to close around 11:30 pm.

Nightclubs will usually stay open until 02:00 or 02:30 on Fridays and Saturdays, depending on their licence.

Children in pubs.

By law, children cannot be present in Irish pubs after 9pm. Some exceptions exist, so be sure to do your research on this subject if you’re visiting on a family holiday.

Do all Irish people have red hair?

No. According to Wikipedia, the percent of Irish people with red hair is 9%.

As a native, even that figure seems high to me. My guess is that this figure is based on a very loose definition of what red hair is.

Can I tell people that I am also Irish?

People in Ireland sometimes get annoyed when Americans call themselves Irish. This is because in our minds, there’s a big difference between nationality and ancestry.

We’re also extremely used to American tourists telling us about how their Great Great Great Grandfather came from Kerry.

Don’t get me wrong. We like the fact that you’re proud of your Irish ancestry. It’s just that there’s a big cultural difference between America and Europe when it comes to how we define our own nationalities. When we think of nationality, we think of the country that we were born and raised in.

For example, one of my grandparents was Italian. However, I do not consider myself to be Italian.

If one of your parents were born and raised in Ireland, then fair enough. However, if you tell us that you’re Irish because your Great Grandfather’s milkman came from Dingal, then that might not go down too well.

Avoid Temple Bar.

Temple Bar in Dublin is a tourist hot spot and the bars there will overcharge youAvoid it.

Drinking in public.

Drinking in public is illegal. If you are caught, the police will most likely stop you and you may be given a fine.

Do Irish people drive stick shift / manual cars?

Manual stick shift cars are far more popular in Ireland than they are in the United States. Keep this in mind if you intend on renting a vehicle. You will need to specifically request an automatic car.

Why are potatoes so popular in Ireland?

Potatoes became embedded in Irish cuisine because they were easy to grow and high in calories. i.e. They made sense from an economic perspective, as the Ireland of old was very poor. As a result, many traditional Irish recipes will include potatoes in some form or another.

The weather.

Good things about the Irish weather:

  • We rarely get extreme temperatures.
  • We never get hurricanes, twisters or earthquakes.
  • As a result of our climate, we don’t have any venomous snakes or spiders.

Bad things about the Irish weather:

  • Often cold, wet and windy, with the odd bit of sunshine. Mostly though, the country is subject to overcast skies.
  • Unpredictable weather, especially in Spring. Pack for any type of weather!

Whenever we do get extreme weather conditions, the country struggles to handle it. In 2018, the country practically shut down after the Beast From The East showed up and dropped a metre of snow on some parts of the country.

But most of all, enjoy your stay!