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What is the Difference Between Ireland and America?

Ireland - How To Blend In? Image by Jamie McCaffreyWhen visitors from the USA first arrive in Ireland, they'll notice that things in Ireland seem familiar, yet subtly different. 

1. Irish People Don't Speak American

Everyone speaks English -- well, sort of. It's not the Irish brogue that Americans are familiar with from screen adaptations such as Tom Cruise in Far and Away. Irish people speak with an unvarnished Irish accent -- more precisely, Irish accents, as there are many regional accents throughout the island. The accent inNorthern Ireland is distinct to that in the south. Irish accents and pronunciation can be traced to the Gaelic heritage. For example, in the Gaelic language, there is no equivalent "th" sound, hence Irish people often make a hard "t" in place of "th" -- the pattern has been handed down through many generations, from native the Gaelic speakers who first learned English. This is known as Hiberno-English. Don't worry, you will understand most Irish people. America's cultural influence is so great that younger Irish people tend to speak with American inflections, and use common US phrases, such as "awesome".

2. Swearing is Less Offensive in Ireland

Irish people swear a lot. Not everyone in Ireland swears, and people don't swear all the time. Little kids (hopefully!) don't swear. But the Ireland's swearing offense barometer is noticeably lower than its US equivalent. For example, an Irish office worker at a water cooler might ask a colleague if they enjoyed a music concert, to which the co-worker might eagerly reply, "Yeah, it was f**king great craic!" (Craic, pronounced "crack" is uniquely Irish word meaning both "fun" and "mischief".) Swear words are often, though certainly not always, used as colour or expression in everyday situations between people who know each other reasonably well. In a pub or other situation where there's alcohol, swear words are used even more liberally, even between strangers. 

3. Driving is Different in Ireland

One of many problems that the Irish inherited from the British is that, unlike most European countries, the Irish drive on the "wrong" side -- i.e. the left side. Automatic cars are rare -- the vast majority of Irish cars are stick shift. While there are some highways, roads in general are a lot narrower than in the US. To add to the confusion, speed limits are not only different to the US, they are different between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Worse, they are measured differently -- with Ireland using kilometres and Northern Ireland using miles. See: What is the Difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland? For more details, see: Driving Tips for U.S. Visitors to Ireland

4. Tipping is Not Always Mandatory

Tipping in Ireland is not always mandatory. Tipping is usually expected in restaurants, where 10% - 15% is standard, depending on service. In less formal cafes, tipping is not always observed by all customers, but personally, I always do it. I either leave a tip on the table or in the tip jar. I do think it is becoming standard. Again, 10% or so is the norm in these settings. In other situations, tipping is not common, but there are a few exceptions, for example: I usually tip a taxi driver by around 1 euro, or at least rounding up to the next euro One of my first jobs was as a kitchen porter in a hotel and, while a tip is not expected for every little task or favour, hotel staff do appreciate it when small tips  (e.g. 1 or 2 euro) are given for small things such as carrying heavy bags As a total aside, in the kitchen, I used to get annoyed when someone would buy the chefs a drink but forget about the other hard-working kitchen staff! See also: Tipping in Ireland

5. More Differences...

- In Ireland, you have to ask for "tap water" in a restaurant, otherwise you may be served bottled water (and charged expensively for it). - In Ireland, the bottom floor of a hotel is called floor zero, not floor one - Times in Ireland are often given using "military time". For example, a hotel will often set state that lunch time is at 13.00 rather than 1pm -- not a problem, but just one of those unusual cultural things. All of these differences and many more are listed in our article: Advice from an American Who Visited Ireland

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Ireland - How To Blend In? Image by Jamie McCaffrey

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