Have you heard it said that Irish diplomacy is telling you to go to hell in a way that makes you look forward to the trip? This is the land of cead mile failte, a hundred thousand welcomes, one of the friendliest places on earth. But being friendly to someone and being friends with someone are two different things. If the Irish are generally completely charming even if they can’t stand you, how can you tell if someone Irish really does like you? How do you know you’ve really entered their circle of friends?
This is complicated further by the Irish sense of social obligation. If you are visiting Ireland and have a distant relative here, that person is morally bound to entertain you to a certain degree and make sure you keep out of trouble, avoid any dangerous areas of cities, and generally enjoy yourself. They will do this with cheer and charm regardless of how they feel about it, and they may indeed love you to bits and have a great time with you. One sign of this is if they then invite you to socialize with their friends. That is a strong indicator that you are indeed developing a friendship. Don’t be put off if the invitation is vague and things seem chaotic. That’s how we roll here. Have faith and ask direct questions about when and where and how to get there. And if someone is coming to pick you up, do not mistake lateness for a lack of interest. It’s more a sign of being relaxed around you. The Irish are known for being friendly, charming and witty – not for being punctual.
You Big Ejit and Other Irish Terms of Endearment
Irish terms of endearment are a bit different to what North Americans are used to hearing. ‘Fecking ejit’ qualifies as a term of endearment here, as does ‘hopeless ejit’ and ‘big ejit’. The Irish love to slag each other – that is to fondly tease and insult each other without mercy. This might make more sense to those who grew up in big families with siblings tormenting each other for entertainment. Those same siblings would be the first to step and help in the face of a real threat, and that’s how being slagged in Ireland should be viewed. It’s evidence that you are included.
The pub has historically been where people socialize, and each member of the group is supposed to buy a round a drinks for everyone in their group. So another sign of being included is when people remember what you drink. Do not expect to be asked what you’d like more than once at the start of the night, and don’t miss your turn to buy a round. (They’ll forgive you for asking, but if it is a large group, it’s fine to ask someone to come up and help you carry the drinks. Pick someone who knows what everyone drinks.) This is also true of tea – except you will be asked (and asked, and asked, and asked) if you’d like a cup of tea. People will generally remember how you take your tea.