Irish Customs Around Family and Children
In this series of articles about Irish customs, I want to introduce you to peculiarities in how Irish people interact. What are Irish people like?
On this page, I want to talk about families and children, two very important things in Ireland.
Children In Ireland
Something I still find remarkable after all these years of living in Ireland is how kind people are to young children. The Irish treat their children well.
When I am out and about with my kids, people we meet will
always make contact with the kids as well.
They smile with them and talk to them as the little people
they are about things that are important in their little worlds. In Ireland,
people understand having kids as something to be enjoyed. And enjoying them
means to have fun with them.
Kids are valued here, and have a lot of freedom to be
kids. They can run wild and mess around and it will be tolerated as good fun
and as ‘the kind of thing kids that age will do'.
A family on their weekend outing, watching a street performance in Galway.
Many people see disciplining as something for a little later
in life. Irish people will spend money on their kids before the spend money on
Many who have lived abroad for years, return to have their
children here. Ireland is seen as a great place to raise kids, even
though, compared to other European countries, the services and benefits aren't
Babies especially are doted over. Everyone here loves
babies. Even grown men will comment on your baby and ask you about how she is
doing, or give her a smile.
Therefore, if you meet people with babies in Ireland in any
context, whether they are introduced to you, or whether you are out and about
and are just talking to strangers, be nice and get in on the Irish customs around babies.
compliment the mother, ask about the baby, ’flirt’ with the baby. Whatever
comes easy. It’s the right thing to do socially, and it’s fun.
Irish Customs Around The Family
Family is a big thing in Ireland, and Irish customs around families are a good thing know about. In most people’s lives, family values will rank highly.
still quite traditional in the sense that the State offers no option for
paternal leave, and that in most families, men are still the main earners of
family income. Therefore, in most cases, the Irish mums are in charge of family life.
have babies and young children, they will try to spend as much time as possible
at home with them. Of course, this will depend on family finances and on each
particular situation, but in whatever way they can, they will make their
children the number one thing in their lives.
If mums are
at home or work only part time, they will give lifts to school and afterschool
events, to sports matches, to friends houses and so on. They cook the meals and organise
school uniforms and homework. Dad will often come home late from work, but will
make sure to be present for the important weekend events like swimming lessons,
Gaelic football matches and birthday parties.
of origin is extremely important as well. One might not share many of the same
values as one’s parents, but parents will be respected and visited regularly.
Most Irish people I
have come to know will work hard exercising tolerance, avoidance or whatever it
takes to avoid any conflict with their parents. Conflict is seen as being ‘not
worth it’. There is a great awareness of life being limited, being ‘too short’
to be tainted by arguments. You could argue that avoiding conflict is an Irish custom.
Some siblings can be very close even in adult life. In rural
areas, siblings will often end up becoming neighbours, and their kids will be
best friends as well as cousins, being in and out of each others’ houses.
Communication in some Irish families can be an interesting experience
for someone who is not used to it. In many families, the mother is the hub of
communications, and adult siblings will only communicate to each other through
Alternatively, if they do talk to each other directly, they won’t talk
about issues that concern A and B who are talking, but rather, A and B will
discuss C’s problems. Later on, B and C might talk about what is bothering A. To
this day, witnessing this indirect communication is very strange for me.
Communication in Germany is straight up. Even though I have
mellowed a lot over the years and would often pull away from being too straight
out for fear of hurting the other side’s feelings, I would still want to speak
directly to the person concerned. But in Ireland, addressing a situation
directly, especially in a family context, can often be seen as inappropriate or
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