Ireland from the perspective of a British person.
Top of the morning to ye! Time to get that old stereotype out of the way first; the Irish do not greet each other like this. However, after living in Dublin for a year as an Erasmus student, I can confirm that some other conceptions of the Irish are more accurate: the love of Guinness, the beautiful scenery and, above all, the warm and friendly Irish people.
As a Brit with Irish roots, I thought I already had the country of my grandparents sussed out when I set off in September 2016 to spend a year studying at University College Dublin.
Let’s face it, Ireland has many similarities to the United Kingdom (complaints about the weather will make for decent small talk with both Irish and Englishmen). However, actually immersing myself in Dublin life proved to be an experience that was enriching, exciting, and completely different to anything in my home country.
After my amazing year on the Emerald Isle, there remain a few things that really stick out to me as a British woman. So, if like myself you’re a Brit about to move to Ireland for work or study, or you are just heading off to Dublin for a long weekend, here are ten things to bear in mind when going to visit our close neighbours.
1. It can be expensive!
Most Brits from outside the capital will regularly complain about “London prices”. However, the cost of living in Ireland is on another level entirely!
Though prices are most expensive in Dublin (the priciest city in the Eurozone after Copenhagen for cost of living), food and drink cost a lot wherever you venture.
This will be a shocker to British students in particular, who will be used to “pounded” drink deals in their university cities.
More information on spending money in Ireland can be found here
2. Yet price is no barrier for an Irish “SESH”
Whatever their budget, the Irish always seem to find a way to pay for a round – or maybe two or three. The price of alcohol in the country doesn’t stop the people’s love of drink, in particular “the black stuff” (Guinness).
While pubs in Britain are under the threat of closure, drinking in Ireland remains one of the main communal activities.
While it is something of a stereotype that the Irish love to drink, going to a pub is one of the best ways to spend your time in the country and meet new people.
As long as you stick to your usual rule of not drinking beyond the recommended amount, a night on the town with the Irish will be worth the throbbing head the next morning!
3. But you may get drunk quicker!
It’s worth bearing in mind that alcohol measures are larger in Republic of Ireland than UK. A single measure of spirit is 35.5ml, as opposed to the UK’s 25ml. What’s more, more alcohol is worth fewer units than in the UK.
The UK government suggests men should not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week, while in Ireland the government recommends a 21 unit threshold!
Bear in mind, therefore, that your Irish drinking partners are likely to be more accustomed to drinking these bigger measures – don’t try and catch up with them, even when they insist on you having “one more!”.
4. You can’t drink everywhere
There are restrictions on drinking alcohol in public places in the UK, but in Ireland, they have recently become much stricter. Whether you can drink in an outdoor public place depends on the local by-law which, of course, most tourists won’t be familiar with. It’s best to assume you can’t.
New by-laws in Dublin mean this applies to all public spaces such as parks. If your Irish friends encourage you to “crack open a cold one” on a sunny day, therefore, it’s best not to – if a Garda (Irish policeman) catches you, it’s likely you’ll be handed a hefty fine!
5. And you can’t drink all the time
Sure, pubs and clubs are open most of the night, but what if you want to chill at home with a bottle of wine? My friends and I realised we wouldn’t be having a lovely Merlot with our pasta when we walked into a Spar after 10pm. All shops stop selling alcohol after this time.
People from Scotland will already be familiar with this licensing law. If you’re from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, however, bear in mind there can be no last-minute outings to grab alcohol for your Irish dinner guests!
6. Irish people love to chat
It’s not that Brits aren’t also friendly, but if making small talk was an Olympic sport, Ireland would win gold. Some of the talk isn’t even “small”; Irish people want to know where you’re from, what you’re doing here, who your parents are, if you’ve been sure to have a “cupa tae”.
Once they find out you’re from Britain in particular, the chat can go on even longer. They’ll love telling you about their brother who moved to Manchester, or the time they lived in Birmingham in 1970s.
These stories are a testament to not only how friendly and open the Irish are, but also the close links our two nations have. As long as you avoid any mention of shared history circa 1916, you’re sure to be grand!
7. Still, don’t forget about that history circa 1916
The Republic of Ireland remains very proud about gaining independence from British rule. There will be commemorations of the Easter Rising (the revolt in Dublin against British soldiers that sparked the road to independence) on its anniversary, and railway stations across the country are named after the Rising’s leaders.
Despite this awareness of the past, you’re unlikely to find any hostility as a Brit in the country. Just be aware that around such celebrations, some Irish may shout slogans like “up the RA” or “Brits Out” in jest; not usually as an act of aggression.
If you find yourself among people shouting this on a night in Temple Bar, or if a pub musician starts playing “Come Out Ye Black and Tans” don’t get annoyed. It’s more than likely an Irish person having “the craic”, and not personally attacking you for being British.
8. They have green post boxes!
The Irish post boxes are exactly the same as the British Royal Mail ones, except rather than being red, they are a lovely bright green colour!
This is again due to Ireland’s history. After gaining independence, the previously red boxes were painted green to signify the country’s break with British rule. Seeing one on the street is a reminder of how today’s independent Ireland has so much history with Britain.
9. Listening to the radio is a lot more depressing
One of the most striking differences between home and Ireland was hearing local death announcements on the radio. Yes, you read that right.
Normally confined to the back pages of a local paper in Britain, Irish Regional radio takes it one step further and has a whole segment dedicated to broadcasting recent deaths in their area, along with the funeral details.
Of course, this owes to Ireland having a much smaller population. If you don’t want to be reminded of humanity’s shared fate on a daily basis however, probably best to switch the receiver off.
10. The country is just as metropolitan as back home!
Long considered by many British people to be a largely rural nation of warring Catholics and Protestants, modern day Ireland couldn’t be further from this. Its urban areas are as diverse and multicultural as many British cities, and Dublin, in particular, is a hub for international students and young professionals.
During my year at UCD, I made friendships not only with people from Ireland, but from Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Israel, India and the USA. Of course, the unspoilt Irish countryside is still expansive.
A short bus ride from Dublin will take you to the forests of Glendalough National Park or the beautiful harbour town of Dun Laoighre. However, the preconceived notion some people hold about Ireland being “backward” or “underdeveloped” is completely unfounded.
With just the right mix of cosmopolitan city life and rural getaways, Ireland is a country that has it all!