Never Miss Any Updates! Subscribe Here And Receive Free Access To Our Irish Castles E-Course!

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Enjoy Irish Culture ezine.

Irish People-
Some First Impressions

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...

Keeping Up The Smile

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 people smiling.

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.

Peculiar Irish custom- People in Ireland smile a lot.

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 of them.

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.

Irish People Are Very Generous

Witness The Famous Argument Over Who Is Going To Pay The Bill

In Ireland, you could easily be invited by a stranger offering to buy you lunch or a drink.

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.

Why Irish People Say 'Sorry' A Lot

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 word, sorry.

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 infectious!

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 same conversation.

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 about.

Find out about Irish people and their family values.

This is what my husband thinks:

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 people.

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.

Creating this website for you our readers to enjoy is a labour of love. If you like what we do we'd appreciate your support in growing our readership.

Feel 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 page.

Paying it back is much appreciated.

Regards, Colm and Susanna

Return to the top of this page

Return to 'Irish customs'

Buy Us a Cup of Coffee

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

New! Comments

Like what you just read? Leave us a comment!
Share this page:

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.