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Teach me to drink in Ireland!
August 30, 2009 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm heading off to Ireland next week, and plan on spending lots of time in pubs. What do I need to know about drinking in and around Ireland to totally not come off as a dolt?
posted by nitsuj to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (52 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Younger people drink a lot of Carlsburg and Budweiser, older folks drink a lot of Guinness, but you won't be looked at funny for drinking Guinness if you're a young person.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:06 PM on August 30, 2009


Oh, and apparently if you're a whiskey drinker, Jameson is preferred by Catholics, and Bushmill by protestants. I didn't drink much whiskey when I was there, though.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:07 PM on August 30, 2009


Oh, and I almost forgot the most important thing! If you're going to be in Cork (and if you're doing a drinking tour, go to Cork), there's a pub that's just downhill from the brewery where they make Murphy's Irish Stout. You want to go to that pub and drink a pint of Murphy's. Because it's just down the street (and the hills in Cork are steep), apparently instead of rolling kegs down the hill, there are actually underground pipes connecting the pub and the brewery directly. I prefer Murphy's to Guinness these days in any case, but Murphy's piped directly from the brewery is an experience far beyond "a tasty glass of beer" and just short of "Paul's roadside epiphany in Damascus."
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:10 PM on August 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Bushmill's is preferred by people with taste in my opinion (I'm not Irish), but especially Black Bush (while still a blend, it has a much higher proportion of malt to grain whiskey) and their Single Malt.

If you don't want to look like a dolt, make sure you never flash money at the bar (i.e. hold it visibly) unless you have your forearm or elbow in contact with the bar itself. This sounds absurd, but is a fairly hard-and-fast rule of pub ettiquette, especially in more traditional pubs.

If you have any opportunity to at all, try some real ale.
posted by Dysk at 7:13 PM on August 30, 2009


Refraining from offering unsolicited advice may be a good way to avoid appearing like a non-local.
posted by fish tick at 7:16 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If someone buys you a drink, buy them one on your next go. I notice that in Ireland people tend to take turns buying rounds for their group rather than ordering individuals drinks.
posted by emd3737 at 7:23 PM on August 30, 2009


If someone buys you a drink, buy them one on your next go. I notice that in Ireland people tend to take turns buying rounds for their group rather than ordering individuals drinks.

This is very true. I didn't even think to mention it, as the 'rounds'* system is so natural a part of the drinking culture in the North Atlantic archipeligo**.


*(Don't call them 'turns', you'll sound like a dolt to locals. The correct discourse is to speak of whose round it is)
**(Great Britain + Ireland + a few crown dependency islands)
posted by Dysk at 7:33 PM on August 30, 2009


Was just there on my honeymoon. Didn't drink (blasphemous, I know) but I quickly learned that if you just order a 'pint', you get a Guinness. Want anything else, make sure you specify. Don't order a 'glass' of anything unless you want a smaller portion (which I heard one local actually say was 'only for the ladies.')

Above all, have fun. It's a wonderful country.
posted by Rewind at 7:38 PM on August 30, 2009


Oh, and apparently if you're a whiskey drinker, Jameson is preferred by Catholics, and Bushmill by protestants. I didn't drink much whiskey when I was there, though.

This is not true, it's 2009.

Most pubs that are on the tourist trail get a lot of tourists (obviously!) but here's some advice that I can think of. Rounds are a good thing to be aware of but if you get in over your comfort level don't be afraid to back out. Depends on the pub, but in general go to the bar and order and wait for the drinks yourself, don't sit down and expect wait staff to rush over to you. Don't tip bartenders (or, do, but not with every round and not too much, you'll stand out as a tourist). If you're in a pub with younger "lounge girls"/"lounge boys" cleaning glasses etc give them a few bob though. People drink very few mixed drinks at home, don't be surprised if you get eye rolls if you order a gimlet or a martini or some other crap like that. If you're drinking pints, guinness and other stouts tend to be a little cheaper than pints of lager.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:41 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


People drink very few mixed drinks at home

Er, I should correct myself there's lots of vodka and cokes and so forth sold there, but not the classic cocktail type stuff.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:43 PM on August 30, 2009


Guinness in Dublin and most of Ireland, Murphy's and Beamish in Cork. (But do try the DBC brews in Dublin, especially D'Arcy's.) Order at the bar. Observe "first come, first served". Don't tip, but offer the barperson "one for yourself" if you're inclined.

If you order a stout at any decent pub, there'll be a wait, with the classic "pour two thirds, let it settle, top up, serve" pour. If it's a decent pub with good traffic, the barperson may have a few pints two-thirds full and settled behind the bar, and will top one of them up for you. (With or without the shamrock drawn in the head.) You're not getting someone else's pint. If a pint's too much for you, a half-pint is "a glass".

Slightly less vital information: you're out in the sticks, you may end up at a lock-in, where the publican locks the doors after closing time, but continues to serve.

And this may just be me, but I've usually ended up having long, fun and interesting conversations with random people every time I've been in a pub in Ireland on my own.
posted by holgate at 7:48 PM on August 30, 2009


(With or without the shamrock drawn in the head.)

You will almost certainly never get served a pint with a shamrock drawn in the head in Ireland. Common opinion amongst the Irishmen I know is that it is societally acceptable to stab any barman who does this in the eye with a fork.
posted by Dysk at 7:51 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


nitsuj: What do I need to know about drinking in and around Ireland to totally not come off as a dolt?

Do not use words like "dolt" unless they come naturally to you. You will sound like a complete eejit, which is a word I still cannot use naturally even after five years here. It just sounds fake and posed and rings like a bell in conversation to the point you will blush.

The Jameson/Bushmills thing you can just dispense with.

Do not, not, NOT discuss the Troubles.

It's Irish, not Gaelic. Gaeilge, which is Irish in Irish, is not pronounced like Gaelic. This will make no difference to you as everyone just calls it Irish (unless they are speaking Irish, of course.)

Do not eat kebabs at 3 AM from Abrakebabra, or from any food truck spilling out of a pub.

And if you do come to Cork, which you should, we'll be happy to take you to the pub and explain to you why you should not discuss the Troubles in a pub :) MeMail me before you go if you like and I'll give you my Irish number - you never know when you'll need someone to bail you out of jail or just a jam.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:58 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you are going to tip (and it is not expected in any way), do it by offering to get the barman a drink, and under no circumstance should you do this more than once for each session.

I live in England rather than Ireland, granted, but I only ever tip in one pub (where I'm mates with the landlord) and even then it's not every time I'm there. It is generally unusual for you to tip at all in pubs where you are not a regular (or guesting a lock-in).
posted by Dysk at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2009


You will almost certainly never get served a pint with a shamrock drawn in the head in Ireland.

When they hear your American accent you may well, if it's a touristy sort of place or a hotel and they have time. (I am from Ireland and bartended in Dublin for 7 years). It doesn't affect the taste. Similar stuff that goes around the pint of guinness - "can't" be served in certain types of pint glasses, testing density by tapping pennies, it's a bad pint if it has bubbles and so on. Expect to be educated by this "wisdom" at length by half-cut Irish people wanting to entertain!

A couple of other things my husband just reminded me - when I first took him home we were served by a lot of polish/chinese/aussie/etc bar staff in pubs in Dublin. It goes against the tourism board image of the salt of the earth Irish barman and he was quite surprised!

Sport and big TVs are popular in a lot of pubs - on a sunday afternoon a lot of pubs are full of families watching football matches.

And drink some red lemonade and eat some ham and cheese toasties and tayto crisps. When you get back and are talking to Irish expats these will be the thing they seem to miss more than any beer!
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2009


Common opinion amongst the Irishmen I know is that it is societally acceptable to stab any barman who does this in the eye with a fork.

So it wasn't "dress like a pirate night" in Temple Bar then? But point taken: I didn't see Guinness latte art outside of the worst offenders in that particular den of tourist iniquity.
posted by holgate at 8:00 PM on August 30, 2009


jamesonandwater: You will almost certainly never get served a pint with a shamrock drawn in the head in Ireland.

When they hear your American accent you may well, if it's a touristy sort of place or a hotel and they have time.


Quoted for truth. I regularly get Guinness lattes (fabulous term, exactly right) when I order because I cannot seem to loose my accent. My normal response is to look at the pint, look at the barman, and say "But I'm from Cork!"
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This should be obvious, but since no one else has said it, don't order a black and tan or an Irish car bomb.
posted by katopotato at 8:06 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri, you could properly integrate and start with the fork trick - they'd soon stop giving you the latte treatment, I reckon ;-)
posted by Dysk at 8:08 PM on August 30, 2009


Brother Dysk: DarlingBri, you could properly integrate and start with the fork trick - they'd soon stop giving you the latte treatment, I reckon ;-)

Jaysus have you seen the queue at the bar? I'm just happy to get served!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:11 PM on August 30, 2009


Be friendly, let people talk to you/sit at your table/whatever. Normally Irish people will talk at you, just let it flow over you and chat back when you get a chance.

If you offer to buy someone a pint, the conversation may go like this:

You: "Can I get you a pint?"
Them: "Ah no..."

Correct response here, is to say, "Ah you will" and buy them one. Otherwise it'll likely go like this:

Them: "Ah no..."
You: "Ok"
Them: *glare*

Don't carry a large SLR around your neck, don't wear shorts.

You'll be grand. Don't worry about it. And take most of my advice with a pinch of salt. Just have fun and enjoy yourself. Be ready to take a bit of stick now and again as well, people enjoy making fun of each other here, it's friendly banter.
posted by knapah at 8:21 PM on August 30, 2009


Seconding the advice not to ask about the Troubles. Also avoid asking lots of consecutive annoying questions about culture or making lots of self-initiated comparisons out loud about life in the USA compared to what you observe in Ireland.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:29 PM on August 30, 2009


Do not eat kebabs at 3 AM from Abrakebabra

Seconding this, as this is wisdom for the ages. Abrakebabra is responsible for one of the only two cases of food poisoning I've ever had in my life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 PM on August 30, 2009


Isn't ale stronger than American beer? More than 3.2? That seems like the kind of thing that could sneak up on someone who was unaware.

And yeah, they do serve it warm. Or at least not ice cold, like Americans are used to.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:38 PM on August 30, 2009


Isn't ale stronger than American beer? More than 3.2? That seems like the kind of thing that could sneak up on someone who was unaware.

And yeah, they do serve it warm. Or at least not ice cold, like Americans are used to.


Guinness is about 4.2% I believe. Most beer is between 3.8% and 5%, with the occasional one going over 5%. Also, most beer in Ireland will be served chilled. If you get real ale it won't be, but that's sufficiently rare that you have to seek it out and therefore should know it.
posted by knapah at 8:42 PM on August 30, 2009


Real ale won't be "ice cold" is what I mean, it will be cellar chilled to about 12 or 13C.
posted by knapah at 8:44 PM on August 30, 2009


If you try to buy someone a drink and they tell you "I'm off it and that's that" do not insist and drop it without further inquiry.
posted by mlis at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tip well on the first round. They're expecting dipshit Americans. Don't be one.

Got any Irish relatives? Talk about them. Tell everyone you're so happy to see them, and that they're nice people.

Ask questions. Don't teach someone the rules of baseball. Learn the rules of hurling.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:57 PM on August 30, 2009


Tip well on the first round.

This will identify you as a dipshit American. If you're going to tip, offer to get the barman a drink ("and one for yourself"). They won't drink it then and there, but will probably ring it up and drink it when their shift ends. Since you're buying them a drink, you cannot tip "well" or "badly" - a drink is a drink. Tipping in the 'giving people money' sense is a no-no in this part of the world, as we like to pretend that service personel (like barstaff) aren't serving us, but are doing us a favour. Hence all the pleases and thankyous that are part of a normal shop or pub interaction here. If you downright pay them, that's almost a put-down, making it clear that they work for you.
posted by Dysk at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Tip well on the first round. They're expecting dipshit Americans. Don't be one.

Got any Irish relatives? Talk about them. Tell everyone you're so happy to see them, and that they're nice people.

Ask questions. Don't teach someone the rules of baseball. Learn the rules of hurling.


Hmm, I'd add a few qualifiers here.

Tipping is incredibly rare here. Maybe, maybe, say to the barman "...and one for yourself?" if you want to show your appreciation, but tipping on the first round would be seen as odd in my neck of the woods.

If you do talk about Irish relatives, don't go overboard and don't ask silly questions like: "My ancestors lived in a castle near Dublin, do you know them?" (Yes, I have had this said to me before). Casually mention your ancestors were from a particular area if you want, but don't go on about it.

The All Ireland Hurling final is on the 6th of September. Don't try and tour Croke Park then... but watch the game in a pub if at all possible.
posted by knapah at 9:08 PM on August 30, 2009


Well that'll teach me not to preview...
posted by knapah at 9:08 PM on August 30, 2009


Isn't ale stronger than American beer? More than 3.2? That seems like the kind of thing that could sneak up on someone who was unaware.

Most American beer is (much!) stronger than 3.2. Budweiser is 4.2 for Bud Lite and about 5 for regular Bud. Guinness you can buy in the States is about the same. And if you're used to drinking craft/microbrews (in the U.S.), many have a much higher percentage of alcohol than Coors/Bud/Miller/Guinness, so don't worry about that. The Sierra Nevada Torpedo I'm drinking right now is 7.2% ABV.
posted by rtha at 9:15 PM on August 30, 2009


By far most real ales will be below 5% ABV - 3.8% is considered typical for a session bitter (though even some best bitters sit around the 4% mark).
posted by Dysk at 9:19 PM on August 30, 2009


There was an anthropological study of pub culture in Britain (PDF) that I found a fascinating read a while ago. It covers a lot of the generalities that have been touched on, although I apologize in advance for putting a document about British pub culture into a thread on Ireland. My grandmother is enraged from beyond the grave this very minute, no doubt.

IAAAAHNBIAP (I am American and have never been in a pub.)
posted by winna at 9:33 PM on August 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


winma's link is to a Kate Fox article, fantastic! If you get the opportunity to at all, go and read her book "Watching the English" - not only does it provide a fantastic and approachable explanation of many aspects of English culture, it's downright frightening how on the money she is. Quite a lot of it generalises to other parts of Britain, the UK, and the North Atlantic Archipelago.

My explanation of why American-style tipping is bad that I posted above is ripped off that book, wholesale.
posted by Dysk at 9:38 PM on August 30, 2009


winna, sorry. It's the middle of the night.
posted by Dysk at 9:39 PM on August 30, 2009


I know I'm overposting now, but I just have this to add - if all the pub stuff seems complicated, it's because it is. From the foreword of winna's link:

Our first task in the preliminary research for this project was to find out how much tourists knew about pub etiquette. Not surprisingly, given the lack of information available, we found that what tourists didn't know about pub etiquette would fill a book. This is the book.
posted by Dysk at 9:44 PM on August 30, 2009


Cool Papa Bell: Tip well on the first round. They're expecting dipshit Americans. Don't be one.

I think we've covered this but: no. And in practical terms, it's nothing to do with who works for whom; it's about how much people get paid. Anyone working in a pub or restaurant is making a very nice €8.65 an hour, thank you - they are not relying on tips to eat or pay rent.

Got any Irish relatives? Talk about them. Tell everyone you're so happy to see them, and that they're nice people.

Please don't. And worse than that, if your granny was from Wicklow and got off a boat from Queenstown/Cobh, please don't run around telling everyone how Irish you are. You are not Irish and nobody cares.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:03 PM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


And in practical terms, it's nothing to do with who works for whom; it's about how much people get paid. Anyone working in a pub or restaurant is making a very nice €8.65 an hour, thank you - they are not relying on tips to eat or pay rent.

While the earnings may be decent in the Republic, they're going to be minimum wage in the UK (which includes Northern Ireland) and the tipping rules are the same. It's not about their practical ability to pay rent or earnings, and it is all about who works for whom - the pub is an egalitarian environment, and nobody works for anybody there. If anything, the barstaff are elevated above you, status-wise, within the confines of the pub.
posted by Dysk at 10:13 PM on August 30, 2009


No tipping.
"Please" and "Thankyou" - think of yourself as a guest rather than a customer.
If somebody buys you a drink, they are probably expecting one in return; don't just accept it a a gift but at least try to return the favour. This is important. If you are included in a round of drinks, you are now obligated to buy a round for the whole group - which means at some point soon you have to finish up your current drink before the other guys and take the initiative.
The phrase "what are you drinking?" means "what drink would you like me to buy for you?"
Drink beer or whisky; possibly cider. A pub is not a cocktail bar. Ladies are more likely to take mixed drink such as rum and coke or gin and tonic, but do not expect the barman to know a fancy range of cocktails like a US bartender. Cosmos and appletinis are not going to happen. In many places it is normal for ladies to drink beer by the half pint rather than the pint.
Talk about Irish relatives if, and only if, they are regular patrons of that particular pub. Similarly, even if you consider yourself 1/16 Irish, nobody cares, you're American.
Somebody here keeps using the phrase "North Atlantic Archipelago" - most people would imagine that to mean the Faeroe Islands. The archipelago to which Ireland belongs is called the British Isles.
The PDF linked a couple of posts above looks to be excellent; be aware that licensing hours are different in Ireland (and have changed in the UK since publication of the article).
posted by nowonmai at 10:41 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


nowonmai, I keep saying "North Atlantic Archipelago" out of deference to my Northern Irish housemate who (being a Catholic and a Politics student) finds the term "British Isles" mildly offensive, as Ireland is not part of Great Britain (it's called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, after all). But yeah, nobody in the real world actually says it, or will necessarily know what is meant by it.

Oh, and another key bit of advice (if you're American especially) - don't introduce yourself. Never approach somebody and go "Hi, I'm [name]". People will recoil in horror, and quickly move to close any conversation with you. It's considered brash, and almost rude. Names can be exchanged incidentally after a good bit of conversation ("I'm [name], by the way" once you've bought each other a pint, say) or even at the end of your encounter ("Well I'm off, er... what was your name again?").
posted by Dysk at 10:49 PM on August 30, 2009


It's mentioned in the PDF, but worth mentioning, cider in the UK & Ireland is alcoholic. What you would know as Hard Cider. if you want a US-style cider, ask for apple juice (flat) or Appletise (fizzy).
Generally if you are male, asking simply for a Guinness (or whatever) will get you a pint.
Pint also becomes the term for your drink. If alone you might ask a fellow drinker "keep an eye on my pint will ya?" if you go to the ladies or gents (don't ask for the restrooms).
Absolutely no tipping.
To avoid all confusion re the point in nowonmai's post - if and when you do talk to locals, whilst geographically the Republic of Ireland is part of the British Isles, ALWAYS refer to it as Ireland, never Britain. It's Ireland, they're Irish, that's it.
posted by jontyjago at 10:55 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brother Dysk, relax, you do not have to respond to every post. And please try and stay on topic. We are here to answer questions about drinking in Ireland ("Teach me to drink in Ireland!") so I don't get your response to DarlingBri above about minimum wage in the UK. Might as well talk about the minimum wage in Denmark, it would be just as relevant.
posted by mlis at 11:13 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Word on the Murphy's. I lived in Bantry for many moons, and spent the inevitable weekend in Cork, here and there. Learned to adore Murphy's. Finally I got back to the USA. First time I bought some Murphy's here, the taste was so different (and so very disappointing) that I wondered if I was misremembering the name of the beer I'd drunk so regularly for months.

Other stuff that I remember -- and this is all from Bantry, mind you (a pretty small town, not so many-many-many tourists), and a few years ago --

I saw a LOT of fights when the pubs closed. They freaked me out, maybe because I come from a place where it's always safe to assume somebody might be carrying a gun. The longer I lived in Bantry, the more often I knew the people involved in these fights. So one night, when a fight broke out, I tried to talk down the two brawlers. The spectators looked at me like I'd grown two heads. For the first time, I got some serious guff from friends for being a Stupid American. And that's when I realized -- at least in that time and that place, brawling was a spectator sport, violent good fun, nothing to be petrified about. (In fact, I remember there being several editorials in the newspaper about how people SHOULD be taking it more seriously, as a couple of kids in the county recently had been stabbed in Saturday night fights.)

So, if you run across post-pub brawls, try not to freak out and definitely don't try to play peacemaker.

What else. Ah. I don't know if you're a man or woman. I'm female, and Irish pubs are by and large pretty comfortable places for a woman to sit, read, and drink, unmolested. (I really miss that.) They're also great places to meet and befriend people, precisely because so few of them are plagued by the pick-up vibe that characterizes the Classic American Bar Scene.

I'll caution you, I've got a great ear for accents, but sometimes, I couldn't make heads or tails of what older men were saying to me. Most of these gentlemen were from the little island off Bantry, though, so perhaps accents that thick and unfamiliar are a rare phenomenon.

I agree with the aforementioned advice. If you've got Irish heritage, don't mention it. The Irish-American seeking his roots is a terrible and much-mocked cliche. But if you do have an Irish surname and look halfway Irish, you can try my approach, which always backfired on me, in a sort of a reverse psychology in action. To wit:

Irish person: Where are you from?
Me: The U.S.
Irish person: Ah, an American. (pause as s/he waits for me to say, "Irish-American!" Growing puzzlement as I continue to smile silently.) Where is your family from, then?
Me: Oh, we go a long way back in the U.S.! Just American, really. Total mutts.
Irish person: What's your surname, then?
Me: [Irish name]
Irish person: You're IRISH!! I knew it!

And if you do come to Cork, which you should, we'll be happy to take you to the pub and explain to you why you should not discuss the Troubles in a pub :)

Yeah, my last piece of advice, you probably won't need, because you're going there as a tourist. But at some point, people started asking me if I was Catholic or Protestant. And asking my landlord, too. In County Cork! Where I'd never expected this to be an issue. I'm not sure if that shows how ignorant I was, or suggests that I stumbled into an unusual scene. Anyway, my answer always was: "We've never been churchgoers in my family." Which is kinda true -- for me, at any rate.

But hey, for hanging out in pubs? You probably don't need to consider such things. Have a great time! In my experience, the Irish remind me of nobody so much as southerners -- they are infinitely courteous to strangers (but it takes a long time to win an invite to Sunday roast)...
posted by artemisia at 11:18 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's lots of etiquette about the urinals...
posted by A189Nut at 3:57 AM on August 31, 2009


Wish I had more time... I lived in Dublin for a year (06-07) and experienced some of these things, but not others. I imagine some of my experience difference could probably be chalked up to being in pubs in the city.

First, we were fortunate to make some Irish friends early and they did inform us that tipping was unnecessary. I don't remember ever being told that it would insult anyone and I think Dublin was diverse and touristy enough that bartenders, waiters, waitresses and others probably got lots of tips from visitors anyway.

Our friends did buy in rounds. This was pretty obvious and it was easy to understand that if you hadn't paid for a round yet, you should. Periodically I would buy the round the next time we were at the pub or perhaps pick up tea at the cafe for a friend.

Our friends drank pretty seriously. My wife and I were usually "challenged" to get beyond our three pint limit. It actually gets harder on the stomach than anything else as Guinness seems so thick. I did have one friend who drank Carlsburg, but we lived near St. James Gate, so it was all Guinness, all the time. Not that I minded! There is some "macho" culture surrounding Guinness and I got some gentle teasing from the publican from time to time, such as when I would switch to Smithwick's after a few pints of Guinness.

A few things I haven't seen mentioned... or at least not talked about as much. The biggest difference between an American drinking location and an Irish pub is that a pub is really the town (or neighborhood) hall. It's a meeting/talking place for a good portion of a neighborhood and thus has a pretty chill vibe. That's something I really liked. The purpose of a pub, it seemed to me, was to just get away from the outside world and unwind, semi-quietly. It's not that the pub is actually quiet, it's just that the only expectations that I ever felt from my Irish hosts was that I should relax (it could also be because I am a naturally driven person and one of our main hosts was a Buddhist). It could also be because we were in Dublin, which might be a bit faster paced than Killarney or Ennis or Bray...

Which brings me to my last thought - although the Irish can be stereotyped as talkative ("gift of the gab" and all that), our hosts sometimes made it clear that we should just sit quietly and enjoy our Guinness. Just soak it in...

But you know, I'm sure your experience will vary! It's a diverse, international world, so don't worry too much about getting some custom or other wrong. The Irish like many, or most, people are basically very tolerant of others, so you'll be fine even if you don't know all the finer points. Have fun!
posted by Slothrop at 4:27 AM on August 31, 2009


i literally just returned a few days ago - ireland was awesome! we didn't know whether to tip or not the entire trip, we got confused but we did anyways. the locals bought us round after round - very generous people. i advise to get out in the country, visit Dingle, do a pub crawl in Galway, Cobh. We did one in every town we stopped in. Drank Beamish, Smithwicks and Guinness. Took a picture of every pub meal we had - I advise you to do that...great memories.
posted by dmbfan93 at 6:53 AM on August 31, 2009


I keep saying "North Atlantic Archipelago" out of deference to my Northern Irish housemate who (being a Catholic and a Politics student) finds the term "British Isles" mildly offensive, as Ireland is not part of Great Britain (it's called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, after all). But yeah, nobody in the real world actually says it, or will necessarily know what is meant by it.

One of my best friends is a physics teacher in Cork (we were pen pals when we were 12) and she and her family have always referred to "the British Isles" as "these islands". I have no idea if that is a term in common parlance, but that's at least another instance of what Genuine Irish People (tm) have said at one point in time...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on August 31, 2009


Let me just stress, as a thoroughly lapsed Catholic from "the occupied six counties"/"north of Ireland"/"Northern Ireland"/"Ulster"/"The Province"/etc, (and Genuine Irish Person TM) that the chance of someone getting offended if you say British Isles is pretty minute. Particularly if you're an American. There's far too many terminological issues for us to expect anyone from abroad to stay on top of them.

It is the internationally accepted norm after all, and despite the fact that I and many others mock this by referring to things like "North Atlantic Archipelago" - which is the most circuitous way to refer to Britain and Ireland (etc) that I know - most people here know this and aren't bothered if other people say British Isles.

Feel free to try and avoid saying British Isles, but if you "slip up" and say it sometime, don't get worried. We're friendly people here and have far more things to worry about than semantic expressions for the islands. You'll probably find that the vast majority of people don't really give a shit about British occupation of NI anymore, letting the UK have it is punishment enough for 800 years of oppression. Ha!

Yet again, I am taking the piss slightly with some of my comments. But I must reiterate, don't stress out. If you refer to it as the British Isles you might have to listen to a boring lecture by some armchair republican, but they won't be mightily offended and try to fight you. Just relax.

Much the same would apply if you were British. Surprisingly enough to many people, Irish people don't hate British people (with some exceptions. I'm looking at you Maggie), we just moan about The British. Big difference.
posted by knapah at 7:48 AM on August 31, 2009


Be careful with trying to keep up with Irish people when drinking. There's a very different culture around drink here than in the US and Irish people tend to be able to handle sustained binge drinking better. In my experience, American friends who have tried to "keep up" with Irish people have generally had rotten nights, because they're trying to develop a constitution in one night that's taken the Irish people years to develop. YMMV.
posted by SamuelBowman at 9:38 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


nitsuj - Dropping back in to recommend A Pint of Plain by Bill Barich, if you need some airplane reading. A friend gave me this book recently and I was totally expecting for it to be horrible offensive paddywhackery, but for the most part it's a very entertaining and interesting book with insights about why so many pubs in Ireland are going under and about Irish (especially Dublin) pub culture in 2009, albeit from the viewpoint of an older guy.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:12 AM on August 31, 2009


Regarding rounds, my advice is to get your round in early. This way, if you don't want to close the place or can't keep up, you have already got your round taken care of. If you are only having on or two, you might be able to get out of being included in the round, releasing you from buying everyone a drink. This can be hard, so stand your ground and explain yourself.

Keeping up is harder than you think. There is a reason session beer has a lower alcohol content, so you can drink it for hours. It took me way too long to realize I should be drinking halves when drinking with some of my favorite alcoholics. As a women, this is acceptable. If you are guy, switching to hard booze may be a good strategy as one Bacardi and coke is about half as much alcohol as a pink of Stella. Remember, you are not drinking at your pace, but at the pace of the people around you. People will buy you a new pint even if you haven't even finished half of yours.
posted by Gor-ella at 12:50 PM on August 31, 2009


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