The 10 UNWRITTEN RULES of an Irish Pub

It’s a funny thing, Irish pub culture; how unwritten rules can somehow be engrained into the knowledge of each pub patron and almost passed down telepathically, from generation to generation. No, these are not talked-about, nor are widely-discussed as common laws; these are merely understood as the unwritten rules of an Irish pub.

The vast majority of Irish pub-goers adhere to these rules (unless you’re an ass), and there is no excuse to break these simple 10 commandments.

10. Respect The Musicians – you’re in their territory


This is common sense and therefore usually adhered to by all. If live musicians are playing a “session” in the pub, respect their space.

Musicians will usually set up in one corner of the bar, where they place their instruments, equipment and jackets et cetera. Although this may look (to someone with little common sense) as a bit of extra seating space, it is not. This space – even if it could squeeze in an extra body or two – is indirectly appointed to the musicians.

9. Don’t Block The View – avoid getting heckled


If a sports match is on TV, do not stand directly in front of it. Not only will you be heckled by the locals who have come to see the game, but you’re unlikely to make any friends at that pub.

8. Don’t Be A Drunken Lout – no one loves that person


Often there is one drunken lout. They are generally characterised as being loud, crass, vulgar, rude and gross in their drunken stupor. No one likes a drunken lout. So simply, don’t be one. Often these are the ones to be asked to leave, if not heckled into doing so.

7. Ask Before Taking A Seat – be polite


Be polite, you’re more likely to make friends this way. The Irish are generally very friendly and respond well to good manners. One of the key unwritten rules of an Irish pub is to always ask before taking a “free” seat. You never know, it may, in fact, be occupied.

6. Be Cool – manners go far


Bartenders have a tough job. They’re on their feet all night; they deal with some head-melting customers, and they’re generally busy as hell. So, be patient – waving and finger-clicking will not be tolerated. In fact, you’re likely to be pushed to the back of the cue with that attitude.

Also, in a busy Irish pub, you should know your order before getting to the bar. Time is of the essence and if you need a couple of minutes to consider your options, do so seated.

5. Rounds – the way it goes


This is the common drinking system amongst friends in Ireland. If someone buys you a drink, you buy them one back. If you are in a group of friends, one person will buy each member of the group a drink. Then another person from that group will buy each member a drink. This continues until each person has bought a “round” for every member of the group. It can then start again.

4. Leave the Oldies Out of It – a golden rule


Often in Irish pubs, you’ll see old local lads sitting at the bar, doing their own thing. Leave them alone. They’ve been around a lot longer than you.

3. Never Discuss Irish Politics – a big no-no


It is an unwritten rule never to discuss Irish politics in a pub. Ireland has a troubled past, and the impact of that lives on today. It remains a very sore spot for the Irish people, and while divided views remain, it is safe to say best avoid political discussions in the pub.

2. Banter is Essential – a must


Banter or “the craic” is the Irish humour. It is an element of our culture which somewhat defines us, and the Irish people wouldn’t be the same without it.

Often, banter can be misconstrued as being mocking or mean, but it is actually meant in good spirit and seen as a sign of camaraderie. Banter is essential in an Irish pub; so remember, it is taken as well as it is dished out; and, no hard feelings!

1. Drink and Beer Mat Placement – be right back!

It is a widely accepted unwritten rule of an Irish pub that the placement of a beer mat on top of a drink (i.e. covering a drink) means “be right back”, “gone to the toilet.”

And lastly, remember: always leave with an Irish goodbye!

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more