How to Be Rude and Respectful in Ireland

Sometimes visitors to Ireland can come across rude when talking to locals. I see this kind of thing happen all the time. Like anywhere in the world, there are lots of local customs and cultural norms in Ireland that most visitors are totally unaware of. So, it might be a good idea to talk about a few dos and don’ts.

Irish Etiquette Dos and Don’ts:

Say Please and Thank YouMiss Your Round of Drinks
Acknowledge Other Drivers in Rural AreasAccept an Offer for Food/ Drinks Right Away
Take Your Hat Off When InsideJust Say “Bye” Once When Finishing a Call
Try to Speak Irish When You CanCall the Language Native to Ireland Gaelic
Say SláinteMistake the Irish For British
Wait Your Turn in LineMistake Ireland for Being in the UK
Make Eye Contact With PeopleAnswer Questions with Just “Yes” or “No”
Use Curse WordsUse Curse Words Too Much
Offer a Drink/ TeaShow up Without a Gift
Let People ComplainTalk About Leprechauns or say “Top of the Morning”
Ask Questions About IrelandClaim to Know More About Ireland than Locals

Let’s dive in and try to cover all of the above in more detail. Also, you should note that Ireland is usually a friendly and welcoming country. The people here should be more than accommodating to strangers, provided you come in with good intentions and an open mind, you will likely be fine.

How to Be Respectful in Ireland

The Irish people are generally respectful of others. Based on its colonial history and associated history of poverty. Ireland also has an egalitarian culture. It is considered rude to be considered to either flaunt wealth or be miserly with it. It is also rude in Ireland to consider yourself “above” others in society.

Say Please and Thank You

Irish people are generally polite, especially when it comes to service workers. Most people will have worked a service job at some point in Ireland, so that is definitely an element of where this part of the culture comes from.

Also, make sure to say thank you to the Bus driver if you are using busses for transport in Ireland. It is considered the height of impoliteness not to thank the driver in Ireland.

Acknowledge Other Drivers

If you are driving through Ireland, especially in rural areas, you will need to make sure that you acknowledge other people on the road. Just make sure to give them a quick wave of the hand or even just raise a finger. You should also make eye contact while doing this.

This is the culture in rural areas, but you will find it less common in cities. However, when you are driving in cities and another driver helps you on the road, it is considered polite to wave a thanks.

If you want more information on how difficult driving is in Ireland, I talk about it in more detail in this article, linked here.Opens in a new tab.

Take Your Hat Off

When you are inside someone’s home, it is considered polite to take your hat off. This is also the case for most establishments like pubs and restaurants. Though, you can leave your shoes on, depending on that particular household.

Use Irish When You Can

The language native of Ireland is called Irish. Some people from other parts of the world call it Gaelic, but we will talk about that later on.

While most people are not fluent in Irish, they will often throw the occasional word into conversation. We all grow up learning the language in school and the education system is getting better at teaching it. So, interestingly, the language has started to become more common, especially among younger people.

This means that if you know a few words, you should try to throw them into casual conversation when you can.

Say Sláinte

Irish people use the word Sláinte (Slawn-chuh) instead of cheers. Though using both is common. Sláinte literally means “health” in English, so Irish people traditionally toast o each other’s health.

Wait Your Turn in Line

When queuing in Ireland, make sure to wait your turn. If you skip in line, you will earn the ire of all of the people behind you!

Make Eye Contact With People

When speaking to someone, you should always make sure to keep eye contact. Though it can be rude to make eye contact when meeting new people in some parts of the world, this is not the case in Ireland. It will be considered strange not to keep eye contact when talking to people in Ireland.

Use Curse Words

Even though most people don’t use the Irish language in their daily lives, this language has had a huge impact on the way Irish people use English. The English dialect in Ireland is called “Hiberno-English”, it is one of the reasons why Ireland has so many writers and poets, but there are some other things to look out for.

In Irish, there are no curse words like there is in English. When you are angry with someone in Irish, you have to put a curse on them, not curse at them. This means that cursing is not as big of deal in Ireland and the people will throw them around a lot more than you might be used to!

Offer a Drink/ Tea

When you invite people to your home, it is considered polite to offer some sort of a drink. This doesn’t have to be alcohol. In fact, the most common drink offered in these situations will be tea. Almost every Irish home has a kettle and a large supply of teabags, even if the people who live there don’t drink it.

When you are offered a drink like this in Ireland, you will have to take it. Even if you don’t drink tea, you can ask for an alternative, like coffee. But even water will be alright.

Let People Complain

Complaining is the national pastime of Ireland. We love complaining so much, some of our biggest national media figures are the equivalent of “agony aunts” in other countries.

Though, most people might not complain as much as in the clip above. You might notice that the Irish will complain a lot more than you might be used to. The best thing to do in these situations is to just agree with them. Much of the time they will not actually be as serious as you might think.

Ask Questions About Ireland

One of the most polite things you can do in Ireland is to ask questions to locals. Though the Irish like to complain about their country, they are generally fiercely proud of it and will talk about it at great length. If you approach a conversation with an Irish person with genuine curiosity, they will engage with you.

When talking to visitors, most Irish people will try to make sure that they have the best possible experience of the country. So make sure to ask locals about places to check out when you’re in Ireland.

How to be Rude in Ireland

Now that we have covered all the ways to be polite in Ireland, let’s talk about all of the many different ways that you might be insulting the Irish people without knowing! Try not to get too hung up on any of these things. As mentioned above, the Irish people are generally friendly and willing to help foreigners.

Miss Your Round of Drinks

Rounds are a common part of Irish drinking culture. Someone will generally buy a round for a group of people when in a pub and everyone in that round will buy another drink in return. When there are only a couple of people in a round, this is easy, but it can get a little unwieldy with more people.

In part due to Ireland’s history of poverty, it is considered rude not to share your wealth with others. It is also rude to be seen to not pay your fair share. So people will take notice if you don’t return the favor of buying a round when one is bought for you.

Accept an Offer Right Away

When Irish people offer you food or a drink, you will notice that they generally don’t take no for an answer. Based on the same culture that gave us our strict system of rounds, we generally don’t like to seem as though we are taking things from other people.

When someone offers you something, the fear is that they are only doing it to be polite. So, you will have to refuse a couple of times before you can say yes to something that you actually want.

While this obviously causes confusion for people when they come to Ireland, it causes even more for Irish people when they go elsewhere. I have been in multiple situations where I have refused food or drinks that I wanted, in other parts of the world, because of this Irish custom.

Only Say “Bye” Once When Finishing a Phone Call

If you get the chance to listen to Irish people on the phone, you will notice a few quirks about how we speak. The most common thing that people notice about Irish telephone calls is how we say goodbye.

It is considered rude to just say goodbye one time in Ireland and you will often hear people say it more than once!

Call the Language Native to Ireland “Gaelic”

Irish people call the language native to Ireland “Irish”, when speaking in the language, it is called “Gaeilge”. Most of the time, people reserve using the word “Gaelic” to refer to different aspects of ancient Celtic culture(s).

The most common use of the word “Gaelic” in Ireland is to refer to the native Irish sport of Gaelic Football. When using the word to refer to the language, there may be confusion as to which of the many Gaelic languages that you are referring to.

Please see the video about this above. It covers things very well

Mistake the Irish for British

Videos like this go viral in Ireland every couple of years…

Irish people are usually proud of their heritage and culture, which is distinct and unique. Even when comparing to our closest neighbors in Britain, Ireland and its people tend to stand apart.

There is nothing inherently bad about this. But when Irish people are told that we are British or that the two countries are practically the same, it is seen as insulting. Make sure not to make the same kind of mistake that the interviewer kept making in the video clip above.

Mistake Ireland for Being in the UK

This is another of these viral videos

While the video above is an extreme example of this. The US journalist clearly insulted a representative of the Irish Government.

Ireland being its own independent country should be basic common knowledge. The Minister in the above clip was praised in the Irish media for his immense patience in this interview.

Answer Questions with Just “Yes” or “No”

Another aspect of the “Hiberno-English” dialect that is used in Ireland is that we rarely use yes or no answers to questions. These words do not exist in the Irish language, so today it is uncommon for Irish people to just use them when asked a question.

When Irish people do answer a question, they will generally give a story or a conversation. This can be quite unfortunate if you are in need of information immediately. But it does lend itself well to our storytelling culture.

For yourself however, you should note that it is considered blunt to rude to just give a yes or no answer in Ireland. So make sure to follow up any such answer with a question of your own!

Use Curse Words Too Much

While a big part of our dialect is using curse words, make sure not to overuse them! I know that Irish people curse more than almost anyone else in the English-speaking world, but if you curse too much, people will still get offended.

So be careful!

Show Up Without a Gift

If you are invited to someone’s home in Ireland, it is customary to bring some sort of a gift. A bottle of wine, some tea or chocolate is usually appropriate in these sorts of situations.

Having said this, if you are just dropping in to say hello, this is not necessary. It is very common for people in Ireland to call into each other’s homes for a cup of tea. These less formal and less organized meetings don’t require a gift.

Talk About Leprechauns or say “Top of the Morning”

Leprechauns are not really a part of Irish culture or mythology, though they may have their origins in some ancient Irish legends from some parts of the country. For most Irish people, their only real experience of them will be from media from other countries.

To most Irish people, leprechauns represent other people not knowing anything about Ireland. Asking about them will generally be seen as a sign of ignorance about the country.

The same can be said for the expression “Top of the Morning”. Most people in Ireland have only really heard this expression from American actors trying to portray Irish characters in TV or movies.

Claim to Know More About Ireland than Locals

Possibly the thing that annoys Irish people the most is when visitors claim to know more about Ireland than then locals. In the previous business news clip, one of the most infuriating things to Irish people is the insistence from the journalist that Ireland should do certain things which are in reality untrue.


Jack Redmond has been a tour guide in Ireland for the past decade. Having received a national guiding qualification, he has brought thousands of travelers all over the island of Ireland.

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