In this entire section around the topic of Irish customs I am pinning down some peculiar things in the Irish psyche that are quite noticeable when you are visiting here as an outsider.
See what you think about the peculiar ways that I have named how Irish
people interact in public. Have you noticed the same things, or can you
think of any other?
Leave a Facebook comment underneath and let me know!
Understatement is a biggie among Irish customs. Irish
people do not want to be perceived to be presumptuous, or arrogant or show-offs
(although some are, of course).
Understatement is all about playing down your own
achievement or at least being quite casual about it, to make it seem
attainable, to make you seem human and humane, and to lessen the gap between
you and others that might arise otherwise if you were really to ‘wallow in it’.
Irish people don’t like it when people boast or wallow.
Some people call it modesty, but personally I have come to think that
understatement isn't necessarily about what you feel internally, but rather
about how you appear or interact in public.
In public, boasting or bragging are a complete NO NO. Keep
your feelings of pride to yourself. Excuse the pun, but do not
underestimate understatement! Get in on the game. Everyone does it, just watch
celebrities or politicians.
They all try to come across as a likeable people person,
just like you and me. When discussing their achievements, they make them sound
very do-able, like the kind of thing anyone would be able to pull off. Prime
example: Katie Taylor who attributed her Olympic Gold Medal Win above all
else to God’s helping hand.
The Irish custom of being ‘easy
going’ is a big deal.
The Irish like to see themselves as very easy going.
They deliberately place little emphasis on formalities. People get in on a first name basis
They meet you as a human being, not in the
authority role they
may have as the Gardai in the photo above seen here chatting to thhe public. You will see the
Gardai doing that everywhere and I have taken a photo of it to show
Find out some secrets to starting a
conversation with an Irish person.
Read about the next stage in
making conversation where your conversation partner will look to bond
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
Find out about Irish people and their family values.
Find out some first
impressions about the Irish that will strike you early on.
time however, I have come to realise that Irish people aren’t just simply easy going.
It is also very important to them to be easygoing, and to be perceived to be.
In fact, some work very hard at coming across as easygoing! Even top ranking politicians or celebrities would always keep out their easy
going side. They need to in order to be liked by the public.
brings me to the flip side of the easygoing thing: Many people here have what
self-help books would describe as a commitment problem.
In my first couple of
years here I couldn’t comprehend Irish customs at all and expected the Irish to make
friends in the same way that I was used to from back home.
Back home, you make arrangements with people and everyone will stick to them, and will
reliably show up at the agreed time. Be prepared- many people here don’t
operate like that.
There are those who like to keep the relationship ‘casual’.
‘See you again.’ sort of thing, no definite arrangement proposed. And then
there are others who will make definite arrangements with you, but won’t keep
to them not returning phone calls or showing up late, or not showing up at all.
you want to make friends here, get in on the easygoing game. In Ireland, when
you are inviting someone, say for dinner at your place, the invitation has to
be almost casual, without any trace of pressure or expectation. Keep it light.
If they got any whiff of an expectation, they would be turned off very quickly.
It might be easier to meet them out and about at first, that way either party
can leave when or if they want to, and nobody would have to feel pressurised.
Slagging is an Irish custom that can be easily misunderstood when you are not used to it. Slagging can be described as a heavy-handed form of teasing. In a weird way, it has something to do with bonding or showing
affection without saying so.
If you can take a good slagging, then you are acceptable. If you can
give a slagging back, you are considered good company.
Don’t take offence if
somebody ‘slags’ you. It is a way of being familiar with somebody, and a way of
checking you out, where your limits are.
Slagging is usually good natured, even
though it might not sound that way at first. Slagging can also be a great
leveller bringing you right down to the same level as your conversation
So, my advice is, pay it back. Find a way to slag the other person. But
don’t become vicious or outright offensive. That’s not what slagging is.
Slagging is a careful balancing act on the edge that does respect the other
You want an example for slagging?
My husband called me mid-morning the other day, saying he would really like roast chicken for his dinner. This is unusual enough. He doesn't fuss about food. So, I thought, here is my chance.
'Chicken' I said, 'why, I am actually making a nice lettuce salad for lunch.' 'Oh.' he said. 'Yes,' I continued 'see, I have been noticing, you are putting on a bit of weight of late, and at our age, I thought we should become health conscious.'
'Oh', he said, 'okay then, whatever you think is right.' Actually, the roast chicken was already in the oven. So, when he arrived home, it was time to say, 'I was only slagging about your weight.'
Actually, in this example, I was 'codding' him as well, as I played a trick on him, pretending he would get nothing but salad.
If you enjoyed this piece on the customs of interacting in Irish culture, and if you like what we do on this website, please pay it back!
free to use any of the sets of social features on this website to give
us a shout out, find them at the top left and at the very bottom of the
Your support is much appreciated.
Regards, Colm and Susanna
Return to the top of this page
Return to 'Irish customs'
We invest a lot of our own funds and free time into this website so that you can find out about Irish culture, heritage and history.
Please return the favour and help us cover our cost by clicking on Google ads and/ or buying us a cup of coffee! Thank you so much in advance.
Warmest regards, Colm & Susanna
Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?
Like and follow us!
Our Facebook Page Our G+ Page Our Pinterest Our Twitter