From swearing at hurling games to getting hopelessly lost in Dublin, here are my first impressions of Ireland.
- “The Emerald Isle”
This is true, the island is green and beautiful always. Except for when the heat wave hit, then it turned brown and everyone freaked out about the water reserve (even though the heat had only lasted five days). But usually yes, it is very lush and green.
Stereotypes exist for a reason and this one holds true. Drinking is a huge part of Irish culture. There are pubs on every corner and there is no rule for when you can start drinking. Just don’t try to keep up with the natives, because you’ll likely end up flat on your ass with a spinning head.
You will definitely have a case where you cannot understand an Irish person no matter how hard you try. The closer you are to Dublin, the better you’ll be able to understand. In the countryside however, you’ll probably have to ask people to repeat themselves at least three times before you understand anything. The worse case I’ve ever been stuck in was actually my first night here, I was trying to order some cider and he tried to convince me of something – I think to do sort of a buy two get one more deal. But in the end I ended up with four ciders and he told me I only had to pay for one. I’m still confused to this day how that worked.
Swearing is an art form here. Everyone swears, even in the workplace. It isn’t considered rude or bad form, it’s just a way of life. Be ready to hear some f-bombs and “shite” passed around.
People here are mad for athletics, most especially their own Gaelic Games (previous article explaining more about this in my blog). If you go to Dublin, you MUST watch hurling or Gaelic football in a pub somewhere because it can get intense. I was here for the World Cup and everyone in Ireland wanted Croatia to win, but even when they lost everyone still took to the streets with Croatia jerseys and facepaint to cheer them on.
- Public Transportation
Buses are the way to go in Ireland. You can get a bus pass pretty easily and they run from (roughly) 6 – 10, all over the country. The buses are reasonably fast, but the seats are small so tall people might be squished. Taxis are more expensive, but faster if you can afford it. Truly Ireland is the country for walkers. This is because most Irish cities aren’t built on grids so sometimes the public transportation can take a while to get you where you want to go.
Different slang exists everywhere and Ireland is no different. The most common phrase you’ll hear is “that’s grand” or “it was grand”, or something similar. Grand is when something is good or great or honestly anything. Then there is craic, the most famous Irish slang for tourists. It means fun, good, enjoyable, etc but the Irish don’t really use it much in normal conversations, only around tourists. Another is “to get the shift”, which is another way of saying kiss or “to get with someone”. The most important one, especially if you’re having a night out, is “ride”. Lets just say if someone asks you for a ride or if you want a ride, they DON’T mean they will give you a ride home.
You’ll notice that a lot of dogs are off leash and will mostly ignore anyone who isn’t their owner. Bigger dogs sometimes wear muzzles too, which was a little upsetting to me. Also owners don’t pick up after their dogs half of the time even in the city, so watch where you step!
Ireland doesn’t do medium rare, or even medium in some cases. Order a burger and you’ll likely be told that it has to be well-done due to “health laws” or something like that. You can usually get away with having it cooked less with steak though, thus my weekly burger turned into a weekly steak sandwich.
The Irish are very casual and laid back, reminding me almost of my home state of California. They aren’t as hippie-ish (although some in Galway are close), they just have a more relaxed way of living life. For instance, you may have work at 10 but people don’t show up till 10:15 without any worry. That’s because people run by “Irish time” here, meaning that being punctual isn’t as strict and people are often 15 minutes late.
Tea is a big thing here. I’m not a real fan of it, but tea breaks in the workplace are common and it’s actually a blessing to have that 15 minute break that everyone takes.
The weather in Ireland is very middling, never really getting cold enough for snow (with some exceptions) and never getting hotter than perhaps the mid 70s. The rain is constant, but in the summer you’ll definitely have better weather than you’d think.
Taxi drivers are very nice and will generally let you get away with things like having an extra person or not knowing exactly where you’re going. They are almost always cash only though, which can be a pain.
Ireland is really really expensive. Dublin is the most expensive but honestly anywhere you go will be similar. A beer here can cost 7 Euros, which is just over $8, and even small souvenirs can be 10 dollars more than you think they should be. The best way to save money is to plan in advance what you want to do and see if they offer discounts. Then avoid the Temple Bar area in Dublin and choose something a little farther away from the Liffey River for better prices.
- Getting Lost
You won’t have a full Irish experience until you get lost at least five times. Even the native Irish get lost sometimes. It’s because there aren’t really street signs and those that do exist are on small placards on buildings rather than on poles. Plus, there are no high rises or tall structures to help you orient yourself. It’s very confusing and you’ll have your phone out the whole time to use Google Maps.
- Gaelic/Irish Language
One of the first things you’ll notice in Ireland is that most buildings and street signs will be both in English and in Gaelic (also known as the Irish language). You won’t pick up the language, nor will you pronounce it correctly and if you try, you’ll likely be made fun of by the natives. Interestingly enough, most Irish people can’t speak Gaelic either.
So there you have it! My first impressions of the country I spent two months in.
Enjoy the craic ~