If you’re about to visit Ireland for the first time, you might be wondering, “What is considered rude in Ireland?” It’s always a good idea to learn a bit about a destination before you arrive so you can try to avoid the common faux pas.
What’s considered rude in Ireland will often overlap with generally inappropriate behaviour in your own country. But there are a few additional, specific things you should know before you travel to Ireland. If you’re taking one of our multi-day tours of Ireland, your guide will be an excellent resource for you should you have any questions along the way!
How to Avoid Being Rude in Ireland
Generally speaking, there are a few key things that you should avoid doing because they’ll be considered rude in Ireland.
First and foremost, be respectful. The Irish expect you to be polite in conversation and social interactions. That’s not to say you won’t hear frequent swearing! But you will be expected to shake someone’s hand upon meeting, to maintain your composure in public settings, and to say please and thank you.
The latter is especially important for public transportation! Always greet and then thank the bus driver as you get on and off a bus in Ireland. It’s expected and it’s the decent thing to do. (Don’t worry, if you’re taking a private tour of Ireland with us, your driver won’t expect a thank you every single time you exit the vehicle!)
Along the line of please and thank you, get used to hearing the word “sorry” quite a lot. Sorry is used to actually apologize, but it’s also used as a way of saying “excuse me” when you need to interrupt or ask for assistance.
For example, you would ask, “Sorry, is this seat available?”
Failing to use these basic conversation tactics could be off-putting to any locals within earshot. Overall, just be polite and respectful with everyone you interact with during your visit.
Polite Irish Customs in Social Settings
In general, PDA (Public Displays of Affection) are to be avoided in Ireland, so try to keep the lovey-dovey stuff out of the public eye.
When you’re in the pub (where you’ll often find yourself when visiting Ireland), you must understand the rule of rounds. A group that’s drinking together will also share who buys each round. Each member of the group is expected to buy so everything evens out in the end. Of course, this can lead to endless rounds if the first person ends up buying a second round and on and on it goes.
Just remember this: You’re never going for just one pint unless you’re drinking alone.
Along this line of pubs and drinking, there’s a vitally important consideration to avoid being rude in Ireland. In the US (and in many other countries), you could order a drink at a bar called a Black and Tan. You might also order an Irish Car Bomb. Neither of these should ever be ordered in Ireland. In fact, it would be best to stop using those names altogether! But they’re especially rude in Ireland given the historic context in the country.
The history of Ireland is another sensitive topic altogether. If you’re unfamiliar with the last century or so of Irish history, there are a few key points you’ll want to steer clear of in polite conversation.
First, don’t bring up religion as it could cause discomfort or even animosity in social settings. And don’t bring up politics unless you’re genuinely inquiring to educate yourself. For example, it’s fine to ask a local how to correctly pronounce Taoiseach. Finally, definitely never call Ireland part of Britain. That’s a quick way to cut a conversation short and lose friends!
Don’t Do These Things in Ireland
Did you know there are more people claiming to be Irish living outside of Ireland than in Ireland itself? So there are plenty of folks who travel to Ireland who like to claim they’re, in fact, Irish. While this can be endearing or at least amusing to locals, there are a few things you should avoid doing if you’re tempted to call yourself Irish in Ireland.
Don’t focus on the leprechauns. Sure, they’re a fantastic part of Irish folklore tales that you might have heard and there’s even a National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin. But, no, you shouldn’t ask anyone where to find one nor crack a few corny jokes every time you spot a rainbow.
Also, be respectful of the Irish language. Gaelige is the national language of Ireland and you’ll see it on road signs and hear it on the radio and on TV, etc. But there are also lots of Irish folks who don’t speak Gaelige (which is usually just called Irish) and it’s certainly not necessary for you to try to speak it. English will get you everywhere, despite the challenges and miscommunications you might have with some accents!
Also, please don’t call everyone Paddy and certainly never Mick. These have been used as derogatory terms over the years and are not acceptable, unless someone’s actual name is Paddy or Mick! And, while we’re on it, St Patrick’s Day shouldn’t be called St Patty’s Day. Paddy is the correct nickname for Patrick; Patty is for Patricia.
DO These Things in Ireland to Not Be Rude
When driving, especially in more rural areas, it’s considered rude in Ireland to not acknowledge an oncoming driver. This is done by simply lifting a finger off the steering wheel in greeting. You could raise the whole hand if you recognize the person, but at least a slight wave motion in passing is expected.
Make eye contact with people. Both when you’re actually talking with them and even as you’re passing them on the sidewalk.
Do wait your turn in line! The Irish prefer politeness, remember? So if there’s a line (called a queue), be sure to wait your turn and don’t cut in front of anyone else who’s been waiting.
Always accept a cup of tea or a drink when it’s offered. It’s actually not a question when you’re asked, “Cup of tea?” It’s more like a command. So you’d best just accept and be grateful for the gesture.
If you’re on a phone call with anyone local, it’s rude in Ireland to hang up after saying goodbye just once. You’re more likely to hear “Bye, byebyebyebyebye” before being allowed to politely disconnect the call. It’s common practice!
And, last but not least, bring the kids everywhere! Ireland is a very family-friendly culture and kids will be allowed into pubs and expected at gathering in people’s homes.
Whether you’re visiting Ireland as a family or otherwise, we’d love to show you the best of this magical land. Join us to get off the beaten track and to explore, experience, and give back to the planet. If you have any questions, or simply feel like reaching out, don’t hesitate to contact us.