Irish Cultural Differences to Know Before you Study Abroad
When I decided to study abroad, a few people asked me, “Do you know how to speak Irish?”
No, I don’t know how to speak Irish, but that’s okay since English is the common language in Ireland. Even though everyone speaks English, there are still differences in pronunciations, phrases, and sayings that can lead to confusion. Certain cultural differences will be noticeable the minute you enter a country, like how Ireland and the UK drive on the opposite side of the road, but other smaller cultural differences can sneak up on you without realizing they even existed. Here are just a handful of some of the differences I’ve noticed in the past eight months I’ve lived here…
1. Fries are Chips, and Chips are Crisps.
After a late night out, nothing is better than stopping by the chipper. A chipper is a tiny shop, which serves primarily fish and chips. Chips in Ireland are what American’s would refer to as fries, and crisps are what American’s would refer to as chips. If you’re in Dublin head over to Leo Burdocks or Beshoff Bros for some quality fish and chips. Or if you’re in the mood for just a little snack, stop by a Spar (a widely seen convenience shop) and pick up a pack of Tayto’s crisps instead.
2. “Oh, I’m grand.”
A mistake I made when I first got here, was thinking grand had the same meaning in Ireland as it does in America. My Irish friends got a kick out of that way I first used “Grand”, because I thought it meant “Great.” But, that is not the case… “Grand” purely means “fine” or “okay.” So, if someone says, “Oh, I’m grand,” (which is a very typical response if you ask somehow how they are), they mean that they are doing fine today.
3. “Half Seven.”
7:30 or 6:30? This is one of the differences that really confused me at first. My friend would say, “Let’s meet up at half seven,” and I would have no idea what time she meant, but “half seven” refers to 7:30. No one really says, “seven-thirty” here, it’s all just “half seven”, “half three,” “half ____ ,” etc. And on the topic of time, get used to the 24-hour clock. Whilst speaking, people refer to the AM/PM times, but all transportation timetables and such will be in 24-hour time. It’s best to change your phone to the 24-hour clock, so it will become second nature to know that 16:00 is 4:00pm.
4. “Taking the piss” and “Slagging.”
There is quite a large difference between “taking A piss” and “taking THE piss”. Taking the piss means someone else is joking around with, making fun of, or teasing you. Most Americans will originally get offended if a person starts “slagging” (aka teasing) them, but don’t get offended. The Irish will give you a hard time and tease you, but a large percent of the time it just means they like you.
5. “Good craic!” or “What’s the craic?”
I’m pretty sure this is one of the most known Irish sayings if you have read other articles similar to this one….“Whats the craic?” is a typical saying you will hear all the time. No, “Craic”, doesn’t mean “crack” cocaine. It’s purely a way of asking “Whats good?”, “What\’s going on?”, or saying, “Oh, I had a good time!”
6. A different standard of politeness.
Back in America if someone asked if I wanted a drink, I would just be straightforward and say if I did or didn’t right away. Well in Ireland it’s a little more complicated… When an Irish person offers tea, it is polite to first say no. After the Irish person then insists on you having a cup, it is polite to accept on about the third offer. I discovered this when me and my girlfriend would offer to do things for each other. She would just offer out of politeness and I would immediately answer yes (even though I didn’t realize sometimes it was only out of politeness), or I would ask her and she would immediately reject and I would never asked again (even though she did really want that cup of tea).
7. The drinking culture.
Drink is associated with so many things in Ireland. Drink to relax, drink to socialize, drink with dinner, drink to celebrate, drink to drink, etc. No matter where you go, you will always be able to find a pub. I thought the stereotype of the Irish drinking culture was exaggerated before I came here, but that is one stereotype I personally have found to be pretty darn true. At the beginning of the school year, if you went to any club meetings, the first meeting would always offer a glass of wine or beer as in incentive to come to the meeting. Since the legal drinking age is 18, there are student bars on every campus, and drink is very largely, and publicly a part of college life (well for those that choose to take part in it… no worries, there are still people that don’t drink though, so don’t feel like you will be left out if you don’t!)