5 Things I wish I had known when I first relocated to Ireland

Map of Ireland

5 Things I wish I had known when I first relocated to Ireland


I’m English and first moved to Ireland 15 years ago. I’d made the odd trip to the Emerald Isle before then for leisure purposes but can’t say that I completely integrated myself into the culture on those short visits – unless going to the pub counts!

So, when I actually relocated – for good – back in 2005, I was gloriously untrained in Irish culture and the variety of English spoken here (Hiberno-English), as well as in the Irish language.

Many people may assume that Ireland and England are similar in terms of culture. However, the fact is, living in Ireland is very different to living in England. The culture is different, the accent is different, the English is different.

Of course, there are some similarities in terms of English and Irish cultural traditions, and we have many similar reference points. But most of the time I was experiencing something new.

From my experience, whether you come from England, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, China, Russia, Germany, Japan or any other country in the world, there are a few things that are good to know to give you a good start to your relocation experience in Ireland – cultural facts and tips that will help you navigate life here and see you enjoying the experience as quickly as possible.

Here are just five cultural points (of varying degrees of importance) I wish I had known when I first relocated to Ireland. I found out eventually, but it could have saved me from a few humorous episodes. Although, perhaps that’s why no one told me (the Irish like to have fun after all!)

1) Irish counties are important

Relocation to Ireland

In England, for example, the county you are from or in which you live is not particularly important. Not so in Ireland. The county you are from here is often your badge of honour. It distinguishes many things from your accent to the Gaelic football or hurling (both unique Irish sports) team you follow, and it’s often an important reference point for Irish people when they meet someone new. So, if you relocate to Cork, Dublin, Galway or any other county in Ireland, it’s definitely worth getting to know a little about it and what others think about it.

2) Taytos are all crisps

The most popular brand of crisps (that’s potato chips in US English) is Tayto. Yet the brand has become synonymous with all crisps in Ireland. So, if someone mentions a bag of Taytos in Ireland, they are not necessarily talking about the brand Taytos, but just crisps in general. Some (many!) say Taytos are the best, though, and the Irish even make sandwiches with Taytos!


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3) Silence in the pub for solo singing and rugby

Every so often you may find yourself in a pub with a traditional Irish music session or other musical performance. During most music sessions in pubs there will be some people who listen intently, while there will be others who engage in general chit chat and banter with the music playing in the background.

On other occasions there can be a sing-song. These are great too. But when someone sings solo it’s important to be quiet. Even though you are in the pub – normally a place full of boisterous banter – show a respectful silence. Now, not everyone will always follow this rule, but it is definitely better to do it than not.

Another time an Irish pub is unusually quiet is when there is a rugby match on and there is a kick at goal. As absurd as this may sound – because it’s not as if the player can hear you – everyone stays quiet. This is a respectful habit that is shown at Irish rugby stadiums and has somehow spread into the pub. It’s especially true for the big matches (think Ireland in the World Cup and Six Nations) but the Irish apply it equally to the other team. It’s just another little idiosyncrasy that makes me love this place.


4) Football versus soccer (and how important sport is!)

Speaking of sport, the Irish love it. But to the Irish, football means ‘Gaelic football’ whereas the game that most of the world call football is called soccer, much like in the United States.

So, if you are into the sport, remember that Manchester United, Liverpool, FC Barcelona etc. are generally referred to as ‘soccer’ teams rather than ‘football’ teams. And also know that sport is important to a lot of people in Ireland. In fact, many communities take deep pride in their G.A.A. (Gaelic Athletic Association) teams, meaning football and hurling. And if you’ve never heard of or seen hurling, check it out on YouTube now!


5) Irish people love a chat, anytime, anywhere!

The Irish are friendly. Of course, we have to be careful with general stereotypes, but I sincerely believe that the Irish are among the most outwardly sociable people on earth.

I’ve had Irish friends tell me that they don’t really believe the Irish to be friendly – that it’s a kind of superficial friendliness – but that hasn’t been my experience. And, after all, a superficial friendliness is all we really need sometimes to get a nice, welcoming feeling about a place.

But be warned! Irish people will tend to speak to you in almost any situation. Here are just some of the surprising moments I have been engaged in a full-blown conversation in Ireland.

  • While running past someone when out for a jog
  • When fully undressed in a swimming pool changing room
  • While standing at the urinal in a restaurant/pub toilet
  • On pretty much every bus/train/plane I’ve been on.


There really is no limit to when an Irish person might want to strike up a conversation. So, be prepared!


Let us help you prepare for living and working in Ireland with our Cultural Orientation for Living and Working in Ireland course.


The author of this post is Steven Paget.


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