Visiting Ireland this year? Here are some of the most confusing habits you may encounter!

Don't try and give us a compliment! Photo Credit, Eire Sarah (Flickr)

We Irish are unique in our ways, speech and cultures and often engage in behaviour that is quite baffling to our foreign counterparts when they visit. So in honour of St Patrick’s Day (note it is NOT St Patty’s day) below are some of our most confusing habits:


Slagging is almost a national sport here. To our foreign visitors this can be very confusing as unlike other countries, in Ireland if someone likes you and considers you a good friend, they will pick on you a lot and this is in fact a very good thing.

Our fond indulgence of Dublin Bus

Expecting the excellent public transport Europe is renowned for, visitors are often horrified following their first encounter with Dublin Bus. Expecting clear comprehensible routes and schedules, they are often found bewildered at lone bus stops where timetables are more suggestion than fact, only to be told, “Sure just tell him where you’re looking for when you get on”. That is if they make it on a bus. If one comes there is no guarantee it will stop. In fact three could sail past in a row. There is two possibilities here, either the bus is full or the driver is “in a mood”. Assumed and accepted by the Irish this is baffling to others, especially since after this “stellar service” the golden rule is you must ALWAYS thank the bus driver!

Dublin Bus its an experience, Photo Credit, Canadian Pacific (Flickr)
Dublin Bus its an experience, Photo Credit, Canadian Pacific (Flickr)

Saying the opposite of what we mean

Fond of contradicting ourselves, the Irish regularly say the opposite of what we mean. Those asking their Irish friend to go to the shop for them may encounter the response “I will yea”! Glad to have that settled they relax unaware that here “I will yea” means “I definitely won’t”. Similarly if you offer something to an Irish person and they say no, they really mean yes. They are simply being polite. The correct protocol is to offer it again several times before they can politely concede and thus everyone is pleased.


One of the most confusing practices for visitors is our practice of buying rounds when in a group, whereby each person in turn will buy, or offer to buy, a drink for all others in the company. Possibly the most damning thing to an Irish person is someone who never gets their round. Non Irish visitors often fail to understand that even if you turn down the offer of a drink during a round that has already started doesn’t mean you can now skip your turn, because you’re no longer drinking.

The Sanctity of the Irish Round System, Photo Credit, Kyezitri (Flikr)
The Sanctity of the Irish Round System, Photo Credit, Kyezitri (Flikr)

Not accepting compliments

The Irish inability to accept compliments is difficult for others to understand, especially Americans coming from a country where lavish praise is heaped upon mere acquaintances. We are extremely self-deprecating. Compliment an Irish person’s appearance and we will hasten to tell you that we simply threw on the oldest thing we own, and barely dragged a brush through our hair. The modern day phenomenon of this is the commonly heard phrase “Thanks, Pennys”, whereby one Irish person compliments another and they hasten to reassure them that the said item was only a few euro, and not worthy of their compliment.

Don't try and give us a compliment! Photo Credit, Eire Sarah (Flickr)
Don’t try and give us a compliment! Photo Credit, Eire Sarah (Flickr)

Making up words

The Irish have a love of vague words that replace nouns. This is common practice and easily understood here, but is confusing to others not familiar with this practice of randomly inserting words where nouns used to be. For example “where is the yoke to make the coffee? You know the thingamabob that yer one got me, that time?”


The Irish have our own concept of time, something which can infuriate more punctual countries. Stemming from the Irish being a very relaxed race, this means we often take schedules as more suggested than definite and are rarely on time. Being five to ten minutes late is considered on time and visitors would do well to approach timekeeping with flexibility.

The Irish have a relaxed relationship with deadlines, Photo Credit, Marcus Mc Bride (Flickr)
The Irish have a relaxed relationship with deadlines, Photo Credit, Marcus Mc Bride (Flickr)

Obsession with tea

Tea is an inherent part of our culture. Visitors are often amused by our level of obsession with it. When in Ireland you will be offered tea several times a day and non-tea drinkers are viewed with suspicion. A recognised solution to all the world’s problems, tea is immediately sought out in every crisis before anyone can even consider what should be done next. It is not unheard of for people to pack their own teabags when going on holidays for fear they won’t be able to get a decent cup of tea during their entire trip otherwise.

Endless conversations about weather

Others find our obsession with the weather and the constant need to discuss it fairly strange. However they incorrectly think we are merely obsessing about rain. Ireland frequently experiences four seasons in one day. Due to this we must converse on the weather and its endless possibilities as it is crucial from the very start of our day. We need to know what way we should dress. Should we dress for rain, hailstones, dry but cold, wet but humid, sunshine? It could all happen and it could all happen today. Of course we’re obsessed! We are also fickle and reserve the right to change our mind, therefore we will happily talk of longing for sun whilst it rains endlessly. However as soon as some sun appears we panic there will be drought.





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