The Irish are wonderful, laid back, easy going and very friendly people and visitors will often be completely unaware of any slips that offended or upset anyone. With that in mind though, here are a few things that you should avoid saying or doing when visiting or coming to live in Ireland:
- North, South and everything in-between.
With Easter and memories of the Easter Rising events from 1916 fresh on everyone’s minds at the moment, I’ll start with “the troubles”, the North, Republic and the IRA. Do not make any insensitive comments or attempt to quiz the Irish about those events or the resulting situation. Some of them may answer your questions, but they much prefer not to talk about it and I want to ask you all on behalf of the Irish and English residing here to respect that. Things have been and are peaceful in Ireland and between the North and the Republic, the past is in the past and though the events are remembered, especially around Easter time, it brings up painful memories for many and is not something the Irish people like to discuss.
Which brings me to the next “don’t”:
- Black and Tan and “Irish car bombs”
Do not go into a bar and order a “Black and Tan” or ask for an “Irish car bomb” Both drinks’ names evoke memories of troubled times and loss of lives and is found insensitive and decidedly unamusing by the Irish. A friend of mine here used to work as a barmaid in a pub and was asked for the former by a visitor trying to be funny. She calmly asked him if he’d like to drink it, or wear it. Enough said. Not all reactions will be as thoughtful as hers, but in general asking for either drink is best not recommended.
- Claiming to be Irish
Unless you are a native and have lived in Ireland, or have Irish parents, don’t claim to be Irish or go around saying “I’m Irish”. Surprisingly a lot of people do and not surprisingly it annoys the genuine Irish a little. With that said, during your time in Ireland chances are that some Irish locals will at some point ask you about your ancestry and whether or not you have any Irish in you and would be happy to hear if you do.
- Quizzing or joking about potatoes
This may sound like a strange no-no, but keep in mind that the potato played a big part in Ireland’s history, notably around the famine, when potato crops were lost to blight and many, many Irish people either starved to death, or left Ireland. Nowadays potatoes are the local staple carbohydrate and I recall someone once saying it’s hard to find a meal in Ireland with no potatoes in it! I found it not quite true, but they do manage to slip onto your plate with surprising frequency and they are delicious, so enjoy them with your meals, but don’t joke about them, or make too big a deal of them.
- Leprechauns and Hollywood born cliche’s and sayings
Leprechauns are for tourist amusement only and tolerated by the Irish, with the exception of those who would sell you a souvenier of one. Outside of that small percentage of the population most Irish won’t appreciate jokes about them and would definitely not appreciate being called one. If you are interested in genuine Irish myths and legends, there are plenty of those to enquire about.
The only time you will hear “top of the morning to you” will be when an Irishman mocks the silly Hollywood born greeting. The Irish do have some fun sayings and expressions and I love how they play with words, but that phrase is not one used here and you will more than likely get an eyeroll if you try it out yourself, so best leave it.
- “Do you know so and so…”
It’s a surprisingly common question and the answer is, with a population of over 6 million people, chances are slim to none that the Irish person you are talking to will know the other Irish person you know from that region or city. With that said, it’s something I find amusing and wonderful, whenever I introduce two Irish friends, they always start quizzing each other until they find someone they both know. The average Irish person do know a lot of people, but they don’t know everyone!