Culture Corner – Ireland

My favorite part of visiting a foreign country is absorbing the local culture and asking about the day-to-day lives of the locals. Talking with the citizens of where you’re visiting is the best method of discovering those local spots that so many tourists would die to know and it’s a great way to make friends. After all the lovely chats I had with the native Irish men and women, while also observing some norms through my own embarrassing mistakes, this is what I’ve learned about Ireland.

Cabs/Taxis – You need CASH. There wasn’t a single taxi that took a card as payment. Good thing I had cash on me at the airport otherwise I would’ve been left stranded. And sorry to the kind taxi driver that helped me learn this lesson of “cash only” who waited for me to pull cash out of the ATM so I could pay him.

Cash – It’s insanely useful if you haven’t already guessed from the topic above. There were a few times I wish I traveled with more cash on me as the card readers in shops seemed finicky and didn’t always work. Luckily, the shop keepers were really nice and still let me eat my breakfast until their machines were working again.

Tea by the fireplace. Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.

Tea or Coffee – Don’t expect water to be offered when you sit down for lunch or dinner. I wasn’t complaining though. I drowned myself on tea the entire time and am now even more of a tea addict than when I left. I even made sure to get the info of the best loose leaf tea place in Dublin. You can buy their loose leaf tea here. Might I suggest the Black Tea-Irish Special? It’s addicting. They don’t mind giving you water when you ask for it though. All that tea and you’ll need to rehydrate.

Tipping – Usually 1 euro or 2 will be met with a smiley thank you at a coffee shop. I tipped a couple euros for the taxi driver, a few to the bell hop, and all the other usual people who make a trip wonderful! As an American, tipping is hard for some of us to get below our comfort level of 15-20% of the total bill, but in Ireland, it seemed as though 20% was GRAVELY too much. I had a few people actually try to give it back because they didn’t feel right taking that much. Many places said 10% was good and I appreciated their honesty. My internal cuckoo clock kept going off, “CHEAP! CHEAP!” every time I dipped below my normal American minimum. But when in Ireland… do as the Irish do.

Disposition – The Irish were BY FAR the nicest and most honest people I’ve ever met. Every single person was warm, friendly, welcoming, and engaged me in a nice lengthy chat about how much I didn’t want to leave Ireland. They were honest about how much was appropriate to tip, the best places to see on my route, and their thoughts on the recent Presidential elections. Some conversations had more curse words than others and I’ve never heard the word ‘c*nt’ so much in my entire life but every discussion taught me something new about Ireland.

Meeting new friends. Inis Mor Island, Ireland.

Dining & The Bill – Ask and you shall receive. Here’s a good tip to save time – you must ask for the bill when you want. Don’t do what I did and sit waiting, and waiting, and waiting. You’ll just keep waiting until you ask. Unlike in the United States, they don’t want you to feel pressured to leave so they’ll wait for you to ask for the bill when you’re finished. I actually really loved this about Ireland. Too many times have I received the bill in the U.S. before I ordered my ice cream sundae.

Breakfast at Ballynahinch Castle, Ireland

Driving –

Side: If you didn’t already know, in Ireland they drive on the left.

Manners: I learned that to say ‘Thanks!’ after they let you pass or cut in, you flash your hazards for a quick moment. To say ‘You’re Welcome’, you flash your high beams.

Fuel: When you fill up for gas, you’ll fill up at the pump first and then go in to pay. Bring cash just in case their card machine is acting up. Have a few hand wipes ready because it’s was a common theme that fuel was had leaked onto the handle.

Speed Limit: Not everyone seemed to go the speed limit which caused a few delays on the one lane roads. This didn’t seem to happen on the highways, but it didn’t happen quite a few times on the smaller roads.

One-way roads: A lot of the roads that weren’t main roads had moments of “one-way” which will take you by surprise if you’re not used to them. Even though the roads seemed like they couldn’t get any smaller (I’m partial to the very wide lanes in Los Angeles) they somehow managed to become the size of a one way road at random times.

Off Season and Public Holidays – If you go to Ireland during the winter season or around the holiday time, you’ll find many shops in the big cities closed on the holidays and many of the establishments in smaller towns that are closed for the season. I’m not exactly sure how long that is but one man I spoke to mentioned the off-season was from October to March. It was nice getting to interact with the locals when they weren’t bombarded with the demands of the peak season.

Tax Free for Non EU residents – Not a part of the European Union? Get a Tax Free card or ask for a tax free receipt of all your purchases and you’ll get a check in the mail a few weeks after you leave. You’ll submit the information for your refund at the airport and they’ll either refund it right to your credit card or mail you a check.

Bike Riding on Inis Mor Island, Ireland.

Sinks – This one took me by surprise. Ireland has a large amount of hot and cold faucets. I wish I got a picture of it but between the laughing of trying to wash my face with 1 boiling hot faucet and 1 freezing cold faucet, I could barely manage to not get water all over the floor and burn my hands. It only took me a few days to just fill the sink with both faucets.

Food Allergies – You’ve come to the right country if you have food allergies. Every single menu had a whole long list of food allergens that were in each dish. I’d say about 75% of the places I ate tried to accommodate my food allergies and modified a portion of the dish to exclude what was necessary. It was fantastic being able to sit down at breakfast and not eat scrambled eggs for 10 days straight.

If you hadn’t already guessed it, I fell for Ireland and I fell HARD! I know that I will be making at least 100 more trips to Ireland to continue my love affair with the gluten-free bread, breakfast tea, and all the dogs that run around.

Happy travels!