What's Different in Ireland?

There are some things different here in Ireland, than in America, and other places in the world, so take note, and be "Irish-Aware."

In Ireland we drive on the left side of the road. That means, when you are walking, you have to check for on coming cars looking the opposite of the way you would in most places. Thankfully, the Irish know this can be a problem and reminders are often painted on the street at crossings to LOOK RIGHT.

We also drive much "nicer" than in much of the world, so ignorant pedestrians are allowed to live longer here :)

Breakfast is a great bargain here. Many places offer a full Irish breakfast for €5 or less. An Irish breakfast consists of a fried egg, rashers (fantastic 'bacon' that is 99% meat, not fat) sausages, a black and white pudding (another variety of sausages is the best way to describe the puddings) and toast. If you don't like your eggs over-well, then be sure to specify how you want it cooked as most of the time you will not be asked. Some places also include tomatoes, beans and even mushrooms on the side. Breakfast is the only meal of the day where potatoes are not a big part. But here you can usually get a lot of food for the money!

Don't order coffee with cream it - it will come with a big dollop of whipped cream that has been whipped to a stiff consistency. Here we use milk in our coffee and teas, so if you don't like cream be sure to specify milk. Also, most coffee here is stronger than American coffee, but very good.

Here in Ireland, you CAN drink the water! I have noticed moving from state to state, or even city to city, it sometimes takes some time to adjust to the change in water but there seems to be no problem with that here. The water is cold, sparkling clear, pure and tastes wonderful. Many brands of bottled water are available in shops, eateries and pubs.

Tipping is not required in Ireland, nor really expected. Some places have a small tray or saucer near the cash register for you to leave change, which is divided among the employees at the end of the day. If you have a very helpful taxi driver or get exceptional service in a restaurant a tip would be nice and no one will take offence.

It is not unusual to see a van pull up and a man in a white coat get a side of beef or the carcass of a hog from the back of the van, hoist it on his shoulder and carry it into a butcher shop. In butcher shops you will see the meat hanging and the butchers cutting off what they need to fill an order.

In shops and grocery stores you will see unwrapped loaves of bread and rolls and you pick out the one you want.

In cafes and restaurants there are open bowls of sugar and often small pitchers of milk left on the tables.

On homes you will see open drains outside the house where 'clean' used water, such as from the washing machine, drains.

In America we are conditioned to believe these things are unsanitary. This is NOT the case in Ireland. Ireland as a whole is one of the cleanest places you will ever see. The food handling practices are very strict and safe. Many of these people have University degrees in food handling and their health standards are very high. Restaurants are extremely clean and most American restaurants would not be able to pass the strict inspections here. I have yet to see a dirty public toilet. The Irish people are extremely clean and are very proud of their country and do everything to ensure visitors have a pleasant and healthy stay.

Even though English is the language you hear most often there is American English and European English and there are a few words that have a different meaning. For instance:

* If you hear someone mention 'crack' they are not arranging a secret drug buy! It is spelled 'craic' and is Irish for friendly banter.
* Cheers (and on the rare occasion ta) means thank you.
* Something that is really good can be brilliant or grand.
* In restaurants, especially fast food, you will be asked if it is for here or take away. In Ireland it is not to go or take out, but take away.
* French fries are 'chips' (except in Burger King and McDonalds) and potato chips are 'crisps'.
* If you need to find a rest room ask for the toilets - usually the bathroom is the room in a house where the bath tub resides.
* A pitcher is a jug, like a jug of milk or cream (or even beer)
* Diapers are nappies and a baby bed is a cot, not a crib
* A day care or nursery is a crèche
* Homes in Ireland do not have yards, they have gardens. A yard is an enclosed, sometimes paved over, commercial area.
* There are no parking lots either. There are parking spaces or car parks (most often a parking garage)
* In most areas there are no parking meters but parking is NOT free. You must go into a shop and buy a parking disc which is a piece of paper that you punch out the date and time you parked then place it on the dash of your car so that it can be read through the windshield
* Which brings up they are not windshields here but wind screens. The boot is the trunk and the hood is called a bonnet. Oh, and tires are tyres and gas is petrol. Gas stations are petrol stations. If you ask where the nearest gas station is you might get either a puzzled look or directions to the nearest place that sells natural gas for heating!

If you hear something you are uncertain about, ask. The Irish have a wonderful sense of humour and are very friendly and out going, and they are pretty much used to tourists asking all kinds of questions or directions.

Be prepared to fall in love with Ireland and finding yourself a bit sad when it is time to head home. Many a visitor has a tear rolling down their cheek as the plane soars out over the coast, leaving the Emerald Isle behind, including me every time I head 'home' to the states for a visit.