8 Things to Know before Moving to Ireland
Once you have a job locked in and you have decided which Irish city you will now be calling home, you are all set for your big move. However, before you set foot on the plane, take a look at this final guide to things that you should know before you move to Ireland. The Emerald Isle has its own customs and cultures that could easily trip up anybody unfamiliar with the way things work in the country, and this guide will spare you any avoidable embarrassment or awkwardness.
Ireland is NOT in the UK!
OK, here’s the most important thing to remember – Ireland fought long and hard for independence from Great Britain (Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom, but people that refer to Ireland usually mean the Republic of Ireland).
Referring to Ireland as part of Britain is just about the most offensive thing that you could say to a native, and will likely result in a long and expletive-filled lecture.
Religion and politics
It’s a popular refrain that religion and politics should never be discussed in polite company, and that goes double in Ireland – the battle for independence early in the 20th Century still leaves some degree of separation in the country.
The same also goes for religion. Although Catholicism is an important element of Irish life for many – you may find that, wherever you choose to base yourself, the town or city tends to close down completely on a Sunday – some Irish citizens remain staunchly protestant. If you have a man or woman of faith you will have no trouble finding a church in which to worship, but if you are an agnostic or atheist, keep that to yourself upon initially meeting somebody.
Avoid getting drawn into a conversation on religion or politics in Ireland unless you know exactly who you are talking to – and even then, pleading the fifth is sometimes a wiser course of action!
If you’re living in Ireland you’ll be spending a lot if time in the pub, as this is where most the nation’s socializing takes place. With this in mind, it pays to learn the etiquette pretty quickly.
The most important Irish tend to operate on a ‘rounds’ system, meaning that if somebody buys you a drink it’s with the expectation of getting one in return. A reputation as a ‘round-dodger’ in Ireland is a huge blot on your character that can be impossible to shake off, so be careful to avoid that!
The Irish love to swear, and insult each other constantly in the name of banter (or, as the natives call it, craic – not crack!). If somebody calls you a name that would lead to you never speaking to them again in the States, don’t take it personally – it’s done with affection in Ireland. Give as good as you get, and you’ll be embraced by the locals in no time.
Celebrations are a big deal
Birthdays, weddings, christenings, even wakes that give the opportunity to celebrate a person’s life – these are all huge deals in Ireland, as the natives love an excuse to get together and party.
If you’re invited to a wedding it will be expected that you will attend – and provide a fairly substantial cash gift (at least €200). Generosity is important to the Irish, so much like it’s important that you pay your way in the pub, don’t get a reputation as a tight-fisted American on social occasions.
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Forget the straight roads that you’re used to in the States – Irish roads tend to be long and winding, and are not always in the greatest condition. Drive carefully when using country roads, as wildlife may wander into your path at a moment’s notice. There is no need to drive at the maximum speed limit at all times, and you’ll notice that the natives tend to take it easy.
Drinking and driving is also taken extremely seriously in Ireland, with low allowances (as much as one pint of beer can tip you over the legal limit) and frequent roadside stops from the Gardaí (Irish police force), who will issue a breathalyzer test on the spot. Don’t take any chances – if you will be drinking, order a taxi or use public transport to get home.
The metric system
Like most of Europe, Ireland operates the Metric system – though don’t worry too much, as Imperial measurements will also be available in many cases. Road distances, however, will be measured in kilometers (1km is roughly 0.6 miles).
One thing that you may have to prepare yourself for is that customer service is a little less attentive in Ireland. Serving staff are generally paid a higher living wage in Europe and are less reliant on tips to survive (though failing to tip your waiter is still a huge social no-no in Ireland!), and thus will not necessarily fawn over you throughout your visit to a café or restaurant.
This isn’t saying that customer service in Ireland is poor, as the country prides itself in a sense of welcoming hospitality to all, and any staff will be delighted to help you out if you smile politely and ask them for help. It’s just a little different to what you may be used to in America, and politeness and respect will be expected at all times.
Forget the stereotypes
Leprechauns do not exist, nobody says, “top o’ the morning to ya!” as they pass you on the street, you’ll meet more green-eyed brunettes than blue-eyed redheads, and every meal in Ireland does not begin and end with potatoes. Ireland is a vibrant, multi-cultural and modern country, especially in the bigger cities, so don’t step off the airplane expecting a vast and desolate rural landscape with just a farmer and solitary sheep for company.
There is obviously more to learn and discover about Ireland, but part of your personal experience to uncover all of these little quirks for yourself and learn as you go! Just bear this advice in mind and you will avoid any potential pitfalls as you settle in.