What are Irish people like? In this entire section on Irish customs I am bringing you my view on this question as a blow in who has been living here for a long time.
On this particular page I will talk about some peculiarities you are going to notice pretty quickly when visiting Ireland. Some 'first impressions' on the Irish.
If you are familiar with Ireland, I invite you to leave a Facebook comment at the bottom of this page. Do you agree or disagree? What were your first impressions?
So, now we are going to step off the plane. And the next thing you are going to see is...
Irish people smile a lot.
That is one of the first Irish customs you will notice when getting off the plane.
Wherever you go, you will be met by smiles. Walk down the
street anywhere in Ireland, even in anonymous Dublin, and you will see
In Ireland, if you ask a stranger for directions, you
will get a friendly and helpful reply along with a smile. When I came here
first, I was truly blown away by the amount of smiles everywhere. In
contrast, in Germany people tend to be closed and indifferent in public at best
or angry at worst. If you smiled at them, it would not be returned.
Two young ladies chatting and smiling on their shopping trip on an ordinary Galway Saturday.
Since then, I have learned that there are many different
types of smiles. Not everyone smiles because they feel happy or light
hearted. A lot of smiling here is about ‘keeping the best side out’.
Keeping the best side out is very important, people want others to think well
In the Irish culture, smiling can be about many different
things. For example it can be about not wanting to show what is
really going on inside, such as fear or maybe anger. A smile by an unhelpful
shop assistant can mean: ‘I am not helping you, but I am smiling so that you
won’t question me.'
Or how about this smile: ‘Don’t come any closer, I am prepared to give this much, but no more.’ And another one yet: ‘I want you to like me.’ or ‘Please don’t be angry with me.’ Hm, food for thought for the newcomer or visitor...
But even with all that in mind I must say I still enjoy the predominantly friendly atmosphere here. People everywhere have their 'stuff', their unhappiness, their suffering and so on. To keep smiling is just another way of dealing with it. Smiling your way through life is one of the most immediately noticeable Irish customs.
Buying drinks in Galway. Irish people love to invite others and settle the bill.
Something you will often experience in Ireland is that someone will insist on inviting you, for example for lunch. I am not talking about a dating situation here.I am talking about friends, maybe acquaintances or even perfect strangers that you have just met. Irish people are notoriously generous, often beyond their means.
And, honestly, I have never experienced an unpleasant
scenario around this, you get invited no strings attached, simply
perhaps because Irish people want you to have a nice memory of them.
There is a famous scene from the Irish sit com Father Ted
that you might have seen. The gang from Craggy Island are on a visit to the
mainland, where Mrs. Doyle is meeting Mrs. Dineen for tea in a coffee shop. At
the end of their pleasant chat the two ladies start to argue over who is
going to pay the bill. It’s not that they want the other one to pay, oh no.
Each middle aged lady wants to invite her friend! It ends up
being a physical fight, and Mrs. Doyle is arrested. So, arguing over who
will get to pay the bill is a THING here. It can be like a game, and if you
wish, and want to be the one to pay the bill, you can get in on it.
Oh, how strange it is at first when you hear the word sorry
all around you. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Wherever you go, men, women, and children all apologizing.
No other culture does this, apologising countless times a day. It is a
uniquely Irish thing.
The waitress will apologise because what you are looking for
is not on the menu. Odd, you think, because of course she has no control over
what gets served and what doesn’t.
The doctor will apologise because there is a queue in the
waiting room. On the bus, people will squeeze past you muttering the magic
As you are still wondering if they are indeed apologising
for taking up space, you suddenly hear it coming out of your own mouth, sorry,
as your phone is ringing and you are apologising for the noise. Oh no, it’s
Just why does everyone here say sorry so much?
Find out some secrets to starting a
conversation with an Irish person.
Find out how to continue that
Find out how Irish people interact.
Find out about the concepts of privacy and
personal space in Ireland.
Find out some secrets to social interaction in Ireland when
you are out and
Find out about Irish people and their family values.
For one thing, he says, Irish people want to avoid
conflict. They value the relationship over being right, so in a potential
conflict situation, they are likely to back down and say the magic word-sorry.
It is an island after all, a small country, and you do need to get on with
Secondly, he says, there is the old Catholic guilt thing.
Growing up, he says, we were always led to believe that we are somehow
incomplete, or not quite right. Irish people therefore are very quick to blame
themselves. They apologise for their existence- sort of thing.
And the only thing I am going to add to that is to say that
'Sorry' often mean 'Excuse Me'. It is not always an actual
apology, but can be calling the other persons' attention to the situation.
Saying 'sorry' is considered polite.
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Regards, Colm and Susanna
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