The Guide: A Crash Course in Irish Culture

YOUR Guide to: make the most out of your study abroad experience by travelling, learning, and living

Did you know the original lease for the Guinness Storehouse was signed as a 9,000 year lease?  Talk about confidence!  What about that the Titanic was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland?  Whether you don’t know much about Ireland yet, or you find yourself wanting a quick recap on what you do know, this is the place for you!  Today is Crash Course 101 in Irish Culture: What to expect, Do’s and Don’ts, and a wee Irish Slang Translator.


What to Expect

Culture and Traditions:

  • Music:  One of the great parts about living in Ireland is that you can barely walk a block without hearing some amazing, traditional Irish music.  Many pubs in the cities have nightly sessions, and you can be sure you’ll stumble upon some traditional Irish tunes during your travels throughout the country.  Check out this guide for some of the best locations to listen to live, traditional music in Ireland!
  • Food: It’s not all potatoes.  Although this is a ~staple~ in Ireland and many dishes have at least 3 different forms of potatoes,
    IMG_7141

    Boxty

    there is still a vast assortment of foods from around the world offered in Ireland.

    • Expect traditional Irish dishes, such as  Irish Stews, Irish Breakfasts, Boxty (a sort of potato pancake), Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie, Steak & Ale Casseroles (or any type of casserole or savory pie TBH), Colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale), Fish & Chips, etc.  Vegetarians – don’t worry!  Although, basically all of these dishes include meat, the cities in Ireland tend to be very accommodating to most dietary requirements!  For example, you may be able to sub a steak pie with a sweet potato and veggie pie.  Also, be sure to try some traditional Irish desserts, such as Sticky Toffee Pudding, Guinness cupcakes or mousse, and of course, Irish shortbread.
    • You can also expect an array of foods from around the world, especially  European, Asian, and Indian cuisines.  However, I hate to break it to you, but great, traditional Mexican food (the type us Californians are used to) is in minimal supply here in Ireland, so load up before you arrive!
    •  Lastly, expect lots of tea. That’s all.
  • Irish Dancing: If you haven’t yet seen live Irish dancing to live traditional Irish music, you absolutely MUST.  It’s honestly impossible not to smile from ear to ear at such an event.  My advice – attend as many Irish themed events with live music and dancers as you can during your time abroad, some of my best memories are from these iconic and traditional nights.

    6pBLDgFCTImpbrdqJgpHyA

    Celtic Nights, Dublin

Weather:

  • Basically, the number one rule when contemplating what to expect in Ireland as it relates to weather – don’t expect anything.  You may wake up, look out your window only to see clear, blue skies all around, happily expect that a t-shirt and shorts will do, only to walk into lecture 20 minutes later soaked to the bone from a rainstorm that came from nowhere.
    • When in Ireland: Always be prepared! Carry a jacket, umbrella, etc. etc. so you don’t get caught in the rain unexpectedly.  P.S. GIRLS – this goes for unexpected wind as well! If I had a pound for every time I’ve been too tragically optimistic with a flowy summer dress that all but flew straight over my head from that unanticipated wind..

IMG_2032

  • Fact: You will miss the sun.  Although I do love the gloomy, overcast classic look the Irish skies flaunt most of the time, basking in the sun in a park on a clear, warm day is always a highlight of (let’s be real, it’s ~rare~) my month.  Here, you can expect to see locals appreciating the sun during its infrequent appearances, causing them to flock to warm grass with blankets, BBQs, and frisbees.

People:

  • In my experience, Irish and Scottish people are some of the nicest, and truthfully, funniest people I’ve experienced throughout my travels.  Take and appreciate any chance you get to befriend the Irish, not only because you’ll cherish interactions and friendships with the locals of your host country, but also because they are a great, honest, friendly, silly, and culturally proud people!
hi

UC Dublin staff showering us with gifts <33

Country:

  • Ireland’s natural landscapes are arguably unsurpassable.  From green rolling hills, to vast, sparkling blue waters, to soaring and rigid mountains throughout the country, Ireland seems to tick all the boxes on my ‘Natural Beauty Bucket List’.  Although traveling Europe and other countries on this side of the pond is an incredible opportunity study abroad allows students, one of the best opportunities you can allow yourself to experience abroad is exploring your own host country.  Make sure to send us pictures with a cow or two along the way!
moher

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s:

  • Get involved with your host uniLeanne 5
    • One of the best ways to meet locals is to join a club or society at your host uni.  There are hundreds of different clubs and societies at each host uni in Ireland, and immersing yourself in the culture and interacting with the people truly gives your time abroad a profound purpose.
  • Maintain an open mind
    • You are abroad! This is your time to open your mind to new cultures and experiences and to try things you may not have tried at home.  But remember, always stay safe, first and foremost.
  • See as much of your host city, and the rest of Ireland, as you can
    • Trust me, you won’t regret it.
  • Immerse yourself in Irish history, culture, and traditions
    • One of the most common regrets students often have is not experiencing enough of their host country.  Make it a priority to learn about and see as much of Ireland as you can.
  • Find some wildlife. And send us pics.
    • We love cows, and so should you.

7

Don’ts:

Rather than listing off a bunch of things you shouldn’t do (because what’s the fun in that?), I’ll simply list some things to be aware of, culturally, as an American living in Ireland.

  • Etiquette: British, and Irish, people are very polite – keep this in mind as you interact with them
    • This translates to volume levels as well – it’s no secret that us Americans are well-known for being the loud ones on the block.  Just be aware of this in public places.
  • Stereotypes: Be careful about outwardly reducing aspects of Irish (or any country, for that matter) society and culture to stereotypes.
  •  Actually… I will inform you of one thing you shouldn’t do – DON’T LOOK THE WRONG WAY CROSSING THE ROAD AND GET SQUISHED LIKE A BUG BY A DOUBLE DECKER BUS
    • Pedestrians don’t always have the right of way like at home – buses here may not always stop, so please be aware and make sure you are looking the right way for oncoming traffic.
IMG_1764

Cute, but D E A D L Y

Irish Slang Translator

Obviously, I still have quite a bit of Irish slang to learn myself, so this list may not be as comprehensive as the type of slang you may encounter during your time abroad – but it is a start!

  • Craic” – A good time, fun
    • How’s the craic?” = How you doing?
  • Muppet” = Fool
  • Knackered” = Exhausted
  • Divvy” = Silly
  • Scundered” = Embarrassed
  • Olagonin’” = Moaning/complaining
  • Fizzy Juice” = Soda, e.g. IRN BRU (you must try it at least once)
  • Hen” = A woman (human, not chicken)
    • AKA “Lassie” “Bird
    • Bloke” = A man
  • Chips” = Fries
    • And “Crisps” = Chips
  • Tea” = ofc tea, but can also mean dinner
  • Wee” = Tiny, small

Hope you enjoyed your Crash Course on Irish Culture!  If you have any stories, pictures, or experiences you want to share to be featured in this series, please don’t hesitate to email me at hewart@sc.eap.ucop.edu!