There are millions of people of Irish descent across the world and many of them have a longing to visit the land of their ancestors.
A holiday in Ireland is a great way to connect with the past and for many people, touching down on Irish soil almost feels like coming home.
So far so good, but it doesn’t do to overstate your Irish connections when travelling in Ireland. At best it will amuse your Irish hosts and in some cases it may even irritate them.
So here are a few tips on making the most of your Irish connection without spoiling it by overdoing things.
Don’t try to speak with an Irish accent
Some tourists are so keen to assert their Irish identity that they find themselves almost unknowingly putting on an Irish accent. This never works and never ends happily. However, accurate you think are, no matter how much you think you sound like your Irish mother or father, it won’t work. The Irish will see through it straightaway.
You may think the Irish accent is charming but the Irish themselves see nothing special about it. It’s just every day and ordinary to them. If you try to copy their accent they may think you’re trying to patronise them or make fun of them, at the very least they’ll think you’re a bit weird.
Remember, the Irish are just as likely to be enchanted by your accent as you are with theirs. A New York slur or a Texas drawl may seem the pits to you but it’s pure Hollywood glamour to the Irish.
Just speak in your normal voice and the Irish will warm to you instantly.
Don’t describe hurling as a primitive form of hockey
Hurling has a special place in the hearts of the Irish, even by those who don’t play and rarely watch it. It’s seen as being part of the Gaelic heritage. It’s a complete art in itself, not a primitive forerunner to something else.
Don’t start adopting Irish slang or idioms
Like every country, Ireland has its quota of idiomatic phrases. For example, the word ‘grand’ serves as an appropriate comment on any number of different situations. Sentences are frequently peppered with the soft expletive feckin’. When chastising a child a parent might say “don’t be touching that now” whereas most people would simply say “don’t touch that”.
To a tourist’s ear the Irish phrasing can sound new and charming but unfortunately they only work with a native Irish accent. If you use them with your accent they will almost certainly sound forced and unnatural, which brings us back to point 1.
It’s better by far to charm the Irish with the colourful expressions from your own neck of the woods.
And of course, it hopefully goes without saying that you should never use phrases like “top o the morning” or “begorrah”. Those phrases simply aren’t used and owe more to Hollywood than Ireland.
Don’t admit you work in banking or the finance industry
OK, the whole world was stung by the banking crisis and the recession but Ireland was hit harder than most. Bankers and financial whizz kids bore the brunt of the blame, and when they continued to receive big bonuses while everyone else was suffering, it very nearly drove the Irish over the edge.
Better to keep quiet about your high finance position if you want to avoid creating an uncomfortable atmosphere.
Don’t start talking about leprechauns or the little people
Leprechauns, fairies or the little people are a tiny part of Irish folklore that was taken by Ireland holiday souvenir makers and blown out of all proportion.
The Irish are tired of it and feel it stereotypes them as ridiculous and backward looking, which is ironic really because the Irish are among the most dynamic and modern thinking people in Europe.
Don’t wax lyrical about old style potatoes
Many second and third generation Irish from the US and the UK have fond, rose-coloured memories of taking holidays in Ireland and having their granny feed them up with wonderfully fluffy potatoes, boiled in their skins and served with lashings of butter.
OK, they’re very nice we admit but they’re no longer the staple diet. Months can go by without us even seeing the humble spud in all its glory. Ireland is now a cosmopolitan country with every dish imaginable on offer…you’ll find sushi and tapas more easily than potatoes boiled in their skins.
It’s OK to mention them of course, but it’s best not to overdo it as if Ireland is the only country that can produce good potatoes…in fact you might even find that some of the potatoes you eat have been imported.
The thing is that the potato is associated with a cliché image of Ireland as a rural, poverty stricken country as described so well by people like Patrick Kavanagh. It’s no longer like that and most Irish people would prefer to leave the cliché behind.
Don’t make out you’re Irish
When an American of Irish descent says he’s Irish it’s understood by his compatriots in the United States that he means he’s Irish American – an American who wants to assert his Irish heritage.
That’s fine. But if an American says he’s Irish in Ireland, he’ll be taken literally.
The Irish mind won’t be able to compute. Here’s someone born in America, who looks and sounds American, making out he’s Irish. The natives might think you’re a bit simple, or perhaps phony. Far better, to describe yourself as an American with Irish ancestry who’s come to see the land of his forefathers! The Irish will like that and you will quickly earn their respect.
Finally, one thing you must do
Enough of what you shouldn’t do. What should you do if you want to get along with the locals and feel part of the scene? Simple: BE YOURSELF.
Here’s a little Irish magic to end on. the more you are your ordinary self, the more the Irish will see you as being just like them, which, of course, is exactly what you are.
Before you know it, you’ll be chatting and laughing along with everyone as if you’d known them for years…which is what you want isn’t it!