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Ways of gaining respect in Ireland

Visitors to Ireland will find that the Irish are one of the nicest nationalities in the world. However, it will depend upon the region you are in whether or not locals will provide helpful advice. When lost, as may often happen given the road signs are quite different to other nations, ask in a local shop for advice and let them know where you are trying to go and be as specific as possible. Often the directions are by local landmark and don’t be afraid to ask for more specifics. The more tourist areas tend to be more friendly than other areas. Keep in mind that the locals will tend to steer you to establishments of friends and family and not necessarily based upon quality.

In smaller towns and villages and especially on a country road, if you walk past somebody it is customary to say hello. They may also ask you “how are you?”, or another similar variation. A simple hello or “how are you?” or a simple comment on the weather will suffice! In this regard, try something like “Grand day!” – if it isn’t raining, of course. To which the response will generally be “It is indeed, thank God”. At the same time in some rural areas a greeting from a stranger can be viewed with suspicion if you did not wait for them to address you first which is viewed as more polite and respectful.

When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This also applies when there are no traffic lights, and a driver lets you cross the road.
When accepting gifts, a polite refusal (such as, “no really you shouldn’t”) is common after the first offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer is accepted, at which point your answer is likely to become more recognized. However, some people can be very persuasive — this isn’t meant to be over-bearing, just courteous.

The Irish usually respond to a “thank you” with “It was nothing” or “not at all”. This does not mean that they didn’t try hard to please, but rather it is meant to suggest “I was happy to do it for you, so it was not any great difficulty” (even though it may have been!). This can often also mean that they expect that they can ask for a favor from you at some point or that you are in some way indebted to the person who did something for you. There is a significant amount of you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours entrenched in the Irish culture.

Public or semi-public discussions about religious differences, political views and 20th century troubles are generally avoided by locals on both sides of the border. Opinions between individuals are so vastly divided and unyielding, that most Irish people (of moderate views) have grown accustomed to simply avoiding the topics in polite conversation, especially since almost everyone in small towns know each other well.

The Irish are renowned for their sense of humor, but their humor can often be difficult to understand for more unfamiliar tourists. While the Irish will joke about any other culture or themselves and may overtly appear to be tolerant of non-nationals joking about them, they are often offended.

LGBT visitors will find some of the Irish accepting of same-sex couples, although overt public displays of affection are rare outside Dublin. Ireland introduced civil partnerships in 2011. But conservative values still predominate in Ireland, especially with the older generation. As in many other countries, the younger generation are generally more accepting. Ireland has anti-discrimination laws that are predominately for the work place and very few cases have actually been brought forward, possibly due to the lack of whistle blower protection laws. Common sense should prevail in all areas but particular care should be taken in areas outside Dublin. There is a significant difference within Ireland between the Dublin area and other areas of the county. Even in Cork City LGBT visitors should be careful. There has been a movement within Ireland by the LGBTcommunity to gain more acceptance with mixed results. It is often the case of don’t ask, don’t tell and don’t show attitude.

Written by the Travel Valet

Images courtesy of Fáilte Ireland

By Sandy Karwacki-farber, BA about Ireland

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