10 Things About the Irish that You've Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask3:37 PM
10 Things About the Irish that You’ve Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask
1. If you are reading this, you are probably NOT Irish
I don’t care if you’ve got flaming red hair, potatoes coming out your ears, a bad case of the blarney, or a great aunt who goes by the name “Sibean,” unless you possess an Irish birth certificate or passport to prove it, it is most unlikely you will be welcomed with open arms as somebody’s long lost cousin. Believe me, I tried.
Did you miss me?!
2. Lucky Charms are officially banned in Ireland
There are two theories going around about this phenomena. One is that the General Mills cereals in general are considered too sugary for sale. The other is that the leprechaun on the front of the box was deemed offensive. I’ll let you take your pick which you choose to believe. Whatever the truth may be, they are heartily missed. After a quick trip back to the States while living in Belfast, I was questioned quite thoroughly by my Nirish roommates as to whether I might, just maybe, have brought back a “wee box of Lucky Charms.” Well, who can blame them?
After all, they are
“Would ya like a wee cuppa?” “There was this adorable wee ol' man!” “Why, I think I’ll just grab me a wee cake.” Until physically living in Ireland, I had absolutely no idea how many ways there were to use the word “wee.” Other slang favorites included words like “Scundered” - meaning to be partially or entirely confused about something. “You could tell by the look on his face he was completely scundered.” Another one that I’m quite partial to is the word “Mingen.” I’m not even sure if I spelled that right, but mingen is the word used when something is utterly disgusting. “I walked through a field full of cows today and came home absolutely mingen.”
4. North and South is kind of a big deal.
I’ve been consciously committing a huge faux pax while writing this, as I’ve just been referring to everyone as “Irish.” Try that in Northern Ireland, and you’re in for a very long, very historically complicated conversation in which it’s best if you don’t have an opinion. The short version is, Northern Ireland belongs to the United Kingdom, which some people consider fantastic and others not so much, while the south of Ireland is a country in its own right. Most of the people are super gracious about this stuff and do realize that you are an ignorant American . (Come on, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, we can at least laugh at others!)
5. “Irish Diplomacy: The ability to tell a man to go to hell, so that he will look forward to the trip.”
When visiting the Emerald Isle, be prepared to hear the most shocking statements of your life. Ex: One bright Sunday morning, while walking with the choir processionally up to the front of the church, an older lady walking beside me who was well known as an infamous man hunter, carefully considered me with her gleaming, dark eyes. “You know, Rachel, let me offer you a wee piece of advice. Now I say, find yourself a rich old man…..with a bad cough.” After a few “Amens” from the other older ladies, we continued on our walk, leaving me examining the hairs on my arms in case of lightning strike.
6. Must Sees
If you are planning yourself a wee getaway to the Emerald Isle, there are more than a few places that are definitely worth a visit. The Ring of Kerry, in the South West of Ireland, is a hiker/camper’s dream.
I would also heartily recommend the city of Waterford. It is truly an exquisite port city known for its production of the famous Waterford Crystal. What makes this city different is that, although still very much an Irish city, it tends toward more tropical plants which apparently can be owed to the jet stream in that area.
There are many villages in Ireland that are worth going off the beaten path to find. However, you might find a few very remote villages in which the inhabitants stick to the Gaelic and aren’t much fond of nosey tourists poking about! I had one such experience when visiting Ireland at 16. We lost our way to some attraction and had stopped at a tiny town to ask for further directions. After only a minute or so, my friend’s dad, who was driving the car, ran back to us, jumped in, and quickly sped away, a look of fear on his face. He quickly explained that they wouldn‘t or couldn‘t speak English and didn‘t like tourists. As the locals started to creep out of their narrow dwellings, one had the distinct feeling of being an unwanted intruder who might, quite possibly, be pursued on horseback with pitchfork in hand. Either that, or it was the beginning of the zombie apocalypse; it’s still unclear.
Oh yes, you read that right
7. Don’t Be Bothered
To be truly honest, I found the capital city of Dublin a rather dull affair. Although possessing a decent bit of shopping and the Trinity College with its famous book of Kells, the city in general was not my cup of tea (mmm... appropriately put, don’t you think? ) I had also heard the praises of The Temple Bar sung from the rooftops, and though it offers some pretty good live music, the feeling is far from authentic, and is generally crawling with foreign tourists. To each his own.
8. Step Away from the Ginger
Surprisingly, calling someone a ginger is not really the cutesy term I’d expected for someone sporting a shock of that oh, so well known Irish red hair. Apparently there’s even such a thing as a “Kick a Ginger Day” as you can see from this poor kid on the news.
Though some wear it with style
9. Be prepared to go through several umbrellas
The Irish pay for those 40 shades of green in almost daily monsoon-like conditions accompanied by blasting, gale force winds. This is especially true if you are anywhere near the coastline, which makes up about 75% of the populated country. After going through more perfectly acceptable California umbrellas than I could count, I finally succumbed to buying a practically body length invention, giving folks the impression I was the next bubble boy.
If you’re to be there, say, for more than, oh I don’t know, 2 hours, I would also consider investing in a pair of cheap rain boots, or “Wellies.” Believe me, your toes will thank you!
10. Do spend as much time with the locals as humanly possible
I know when you’re traveling, it’s easier to stick with your own species, but let me assure you, in this case, the natives are friendly. They’re a beloved race for a reason. Many of the Northern Irish, who by birth are residents of the U.K., apply for an Irish passport while traveling just so they get better treatment in customs!
Possibly the best Irish graffiti of all time
Just showing the love
What really surprised me about the Irish, besides how genuinely witty they are (you’re never quite sure if it’s all just a load of hype), was their extreme humility. They may be proud of their heritage, but arrogant they most certainly are not. I hate to generalize a race, but I can honestly say that there were very few Irish/Nirish I didn’t get on with, cause they’re just so dang likable! They are effusive and kind; after only two weeks of living there people who were still practically strangers to me were approaching me on the street as if I was their long, lost, best friend. They are hilariously sarcastic, laughing even in their worst moments. I met many who matched their frivolity and love of life with a boundless well of wisdom and discernment and many an Irish eye whose laughing gaze seemed to penetrate far beneath a person’s surface to the depths of their character. All in all, they’re a cheeky bunch who are pretty much the most memorable people you’ll ever come across. And if you ever find yourself in Belfast, be absolutely sure to drop in at Fisherwick Church, my old stomping grounds! Happy travels!
Photos via Pinterest, Target.com, Ebay, Feizees, and Fisherwick.com