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Center for International Studies
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

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Ireland

Irish Society and Culture

The pub lies at the heart of cultural, social and musical life in Ireland. Not just places to have a drink, in an Irish pub you can philosophize on the meaning of life, ruminate on global politics, listen to a poetry reading, tap your feet to a traditional session, feast on delicious food or just enjoy the quiet settling of a pint of Guinness in front of a crackling fire.

The Irish love a good excuse for a party. The country is legendary for its “craic” and “fleadhs,” festivals and fairs are a massive part of cultural life whether it’s the gastronomic delights of the Kinsale Gourmet Festival or the high-brow Dublin Theater Festival. If you’re looking for something unique then head to Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. It’s Europe’s biggest singles event. Puck Fair in Kerry, where a goat is crowned king, is well worth a trip, while the Ould Lammas Fair in North Antrim draws crowds from across the globe.

Humor is very important for breaking the ice and building trust. An Irish person may use it as a defense mechanism, in a self-deprecating or ironic way. Note that it is also commonly held that “the more I insult you the more I like you.” “Slagging,” as this trade in insults and teasing is often known, works on the basis that it is meant to reflect the strength of relationship between those engaged in it and so not meant to be perceived negatively. To a visitor, such jokes at someone else’s expense may seem over-personal or harsh. If ever at the other end of a slagging match, you will earn immense respect if you try to give as good as you get, while remaining in good spirits and not taking it personally.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting and Greeting

  • Eye contact and a strong handshake are expected.
  • Shake hands with everyone upon arrival and when leaving.
  • The Irish are uncomfortable with loud, aggressive and arrogant behavior.
  • The Irish are not comfortable with public display of affection.

Gift Giving

  • When invited to someone’s home, always bring a small gift for the hostess.
  • Do give flowers (lilies are for religious occasions only; red and white flowers symbolize death), chocolate, a bottle of wine or continental cheeses.
  • Do no give extravagant gifts.

Dining Etiquette

  • The small plate next to a dinner plate is for peelings removed from boiled potatoes.
  • It is polite to eat everything served to you.
  • Refusing a drink can be perceived as insult in Ireland
  • Always buy your round of drinks.

quick facts

Climate: temperate maritime; mild winter, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time

Population: 6,380,661 (2008 estimates)

Ethnic Make-up: Irish 87% and other 13%

Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic 87%, Protestant 7%), Jewish 4%, Muslim and other 2%

Government: Parliamentary Republic

Language: Ireland has two official languages—English and Gaelic. All the people who speak English have a soft accent called a brogue. Gaelic is a form of ancient Celtic language. The Gaelic spoken in Ireland is generally called Irish.