Meeting and Greeting
For the most part, Irish people are relaxed, laid back and welcome visitors warmly. But it’s always a good idea, when visiting a foreign country, to know customs and traditions in order to avoid misunderstandings and to make social interaction easy.
When meeting people the best advice is to keep it casual: the Irish are talkative and will chat with complete strangers while waiting for the bus, standing in a queue in a shop or travelling on a train. People will often say “hello” or “nice day” or simply nod and smile while passing on a stranger in the street. Don’t expect this behaviour in crowded places like big cities!
When first meeting someone people may shake hands or even not in formal occasions: a friendly greeting is enough. Friends and relatives often kiss each other, but that would not be the norm when meeting strangers.
When you drive on narrow country roads and meet an oncoming car you may be greeted by a raised hand or just a finger: this doesn’t mean that the driver knows you, it’s just a very common way of greeting and a kind response is expected.
At the pub
Pubs in Ireland are not just places where you can have a drink. It’s a meeting place with lots of regular customers that know each other even if you don’t understand that when you walk in for the first time. People are in the pub for social occasion and are happy to talk to visitors and include them in conversation when they sit at the counter. If you choose to have your drink sitting quiet at a table they will leave you alone.
When in company the usual custom is the “rounds”, that means buying or offer a drink to everyone. Don’t buy a drink for yourself without offering a drink if you don’t want to look like a mean or anti-social person. The best advice is to buy your round as soon as possible: this will give you the chance to avoid drinking a lot more than you want to while waiting for your round.
Tipping in Ireland is not as common as in other places. Very often restaurants apply a service charge which covers tips, but sometimes and if the service has been really good a usual tip of 10-15% is left. Some casual restaurants have a plate or bowl at the cash desk for tips to be redistrubuted among the staff.
Taxi drivers, hairdressers, spa staff and others usually receive a 10% tip. Hotel porters and room service staff will expect something round €2 – €5 depending on the service provided.
Tipping in pubs is very different: while staff who bring drinks to a table may be given a small tip, those serving from behind the counter don’t expect tips and if you leave money on the counter they may think you have forgotten to pick up your change and return it to you.
Since March 2004, smoking in Ireland is illegal in any enclosed public place including pubs, bars, restaurants, shops, offices, public transports.