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What to Know and Expect as an American Traveling to Ireland, Based on My Own Experiences

As an American engaged to an Irish man, re-locating to Ireland and in the process of a marriage visa, I've got a lot to share with others!

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As an American traveling and re-locating to Ireland to be with my Irish spouse, there have been MANY things I've had to learn along the way, and many things I'm still learning. However, what I do currently have knowledge of, I'd love to share with any and all other Americans making their way to Ireland. Whether it be to live or to visit, you will be more prepared and aware than I originally was and you'll thank me later...

There are two main spoken languages in Ireland that include English and Irish. Interesting fact: the Irish language is still taught in primary schools and is a required part of the curriculum! However, there are many, many different words and slang terms that any normal American wouldn't understand, so I'll include some that I've learned as well as their definitions. I'll also use these words in a sentence for you as an added bonus. Here are the top 75 Irish words and some slang everyone should know when in Ireland. Take notes!

  1. Quare: very, extremely ("The weather was quare cold.")
  2. Bold: naughty, bad, fearless ("His behavior today is quare bold, don't you think?")
  3. Eejit: idiot ("You're such an eejit!")
  4. Biscuit: cookie ("Would you like a biscuit with your tea?")
  5. Crisps: chips ("Doritos are my favorite type of crisps.")
  6. Shite: shit ("Those chips were shite, absolutely disgusting.")
  7. Minced beef: ground beef ("I'm making tacos with minced beef for dinner.")
  8. Bet: tired, exhausted ("I'm quare bet after working all day.")
  9. Craic: fun, a good time ("Last night was mighty craic with the boys.")
  10. Pram: stroller ("Me and baby went for a walk in her new pram.")
  11. Boot: trunk of car ("Please unload the groceries from the boot.")
  12. Fair play/Fair fucks: well done ("Fair fucks to you, Dermot.")
  13. Slainte: used when clinking glasses to 'cheers' ("Slainte, friends!")
  14. Plaster: band-aid ("Go grab a plaster if you're bleeding.")
  15. Yoke: a thing, contraption, whatnot, event, etc. ("Can you hand me that yoke over there, please?)
  16. Runners: tennis shoes, sneakers, gym shoes ("I can't wait to get the new Jordan runners coming out next month.")
  17. I'm After: a completed action ("I'm just after having my dinner.")
  18. Tinker: gypsy (They closed down all the shops and bars in town for a tinker wedding.) note: derogatory word, not to be used casually or when generally speaking of travelers as it's discriminatory
  19. Fag: cigarette ("I'm stepping outside for a quick fag.")
  20. Press: kitchen cabinet ("The canned soup is in the press.")
  21. Grand: great, wonderful ("We had a sandwich in a grand cheap place.")
  22. Mott: girlfriend (Me mott is the most beautiful girl in the world.")
  23. Thick: stupid, unintelligent ("Have you talked to her? She's absolutely thick.")
  24. Jumper: sweater ("It's cold outside, you should wear a jumper.")
  25. Half 4/5/6 etc: 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 ("I should be done around half 4.")
  26. Footpath: sidewalk ("Stay off the street and use the footpath when riding your bike.")
  27. Take away: food to go ("Ordering take away for dinner tonight, Chinese or chipper?")
  28. Chipper: a fish and chip shop, cheap fast food outlet typically selling chips and other deep fried foods ("Wanna head over to the chipper after work?")
  29. Raging: angry, annoyed ("I'm absolutely raging now, can't believe he said that!")
  30. Bobbin: scrunchie, hair tie ("Do you have an extra bobbin I can use for a ponytail?")
  31. Nappy: diaper ("Change that baby's nappy, would ya?")
  32. Garda: police ("If you get into a car accident, you need to call the garda.")
  33. Chips: fries, french fries ("I'd like to order a chicken filet roll with chips.")
  34. Knickers: panties, underwear ("Are you wearing knickers under that skirt?")
  35. Take the piss: to mock, rile, or be a jerk to another person ("He thought I was serious, but I really was just takin' the piss.")
  36. Rubbish: garbage, trash ("Rubbish day is Thursday, don't forget.")
  37. Vested top: tank top ("I love when he wears a vested top, I can see his muscles then.")
  38. Your man/Your one: an informal way of referring to a person ("Your one better get a move on.")
  39. See ya after: see you later, talk to you another time ("Okay, bye! See ya after!")
  40. Cheers: thank you, thanks ("Cheers, my man. Appreciate it.")
  41. What's the story: what's up, what's going on, what's happening ("What's the story with you and your mott?")
  42. Maths: math (I'm getting an A in maths this semester.")
  43. Howya: how are you, how's it going ("Howya! Nice to see you!")
  44. Knackered: tired, exhausted (I'm absolutely knackered, going to bed now.")
  45. Give it a lash: give it a go ("Come on, you can do it, give it a lash.")
  46. Football: American's version of soccer ("Football in America is football, football in Ireland is soccer.")
  47. Hurling: an Irish game resembling field hockey, played with a shorter stick and a broader blade. National game of Ireland ("We're headed to the hurling match this weekend, wanna come?")
  48. Bank holiday: 3-day weekend ("This weekend I'm off work for the bank holiday.")
  49. Euro: main currency used in Ireland ("That apple is one euro.")
  50. Kilometers: distance used in Ireland ("We're about 40 kilometers away from our destination.")
  51. Stones: weight measured in Ireland ("I've lost about 2 stones since I began my diet.")
  52. Cheeky: fun-loving, likes to challenge things and people in a fun way ("Someone's feeling rather cheeky today, I see.")
  53. Bollox: testicles, bullshit, bollox ("Aaargh, right in the bollox!"), ("What a load of bollox!"), ("You made me spill my drink, ye little bollox!")
  54. Arsehole: asshole ("You're crabby today, stop being such an arsehole.")
  55. Narky: irritated, in a bad mood, disparaging ("What a narky, miserable bunch of sods.")
  56. Bate: beat ("I tried to bate a bit of sense into her.")
  57. Bird: term of endearment/affection for a female ("That bird over there is absolutely beautiful.")
  58. Call up/calling up/called around/came round: came over, coming over, come over ("Nancy will be calling up later on tonight", ("Thanks for calling round, May,") ("While you were gone, Kathy came round.")
  59. Cop on: get a grip ("Cop on to yourself, would ya?")
  60. Cut of him: sorry looking state ("Just look at the cut of him, I almost feel bad.")
  61. Da: dad, father ("Me da will be home soon.")
  62. Mum/Ma: mom, mother ("Me ma made beef stew for dinner tonight.")
  63. Me: may be used in a sentence instead of 'my' ("Me head is pounding.")
  64. Fecking/Feck: fucking, fuck ("Your bedroom is a fecking mess.")
  65. In bits: in pieces, very upset ("She's in bits about her recent breakup.")
  66. Jayzus: Jesus ("Jayzuz, you're late!")
  67. Losin' the head, lose the head, lost the head: getting upset, get upset, got upset ("I feel guilty for losin' the head at him.")
  68. Wee: pee, piss, potty ("I'll be right back, have to wee.")
  69. Nail jelly to the wall: so difficult, almost impossible ("Getting them to go to bed was like trying to nail jelly to the wall.")
  70. Pain in the hole: pain in the ass ("My kid is really being a pain in the hole today.")
  71. Pissed: drunk, intoxicated ("I saw him at the bar and he was absolutely pissed.")
  72. Rashers: bacon ("Pancakes and a few rashers please.")
  73. Scuttered: drunk, intoxicated ("We were scuttered after the bar last night.")
  74. Bonnet: hood of car ("Lift the bonnet to fill up the washer fluid.")
  75. Well for it: up for it ("I think she's really well up for it.")

Now that we've learned some of the most commonly used Irish words and slang terms for casual conversation, you should feel even more prepared for your travels within Ireland and more confident that you'll understand what's being said, implied, or asked of you so you don't feel like a completely quare eeijit!

 Henrique Craveiro.

Henrique Craveiro.

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Read More from WanderWisdom

I'm not going to give you all of the answers or all of my knowledge, because there are some things you should learn on your own and experience first hand, just as I did once upon a time. However, I will list for you some of what I've learned. In some cases, these examples were taught to me the "hard way" or following particularly embarrassing moments, that you now will hopefully be immune to. You may also avoid arguments or misunderstandings with loved ones and those close to you when you learn some of these phrases that when spoken shouldn't be taken literally!

For example: when your spouse/partner has a quick chat at the shop with a girl you're unfamiliar with and tells her "see ya after..." He doesn't actually mean that! It's actually just a casual, and polite way of saying what Americans often mean when we use the term "see you later," when saying goodbye to someone we recognize.

Most of what I'll share with you may not be as serious a misunderstanding as my example just expressed. However, my random experiences turned into learning experiences may spare you from situations that leave you embarrassed feeling like you look "thick". Perhaps my knowledge won't even apply to you. or maybe my opinions aren't ones that you agree with, but if that's the case, just simply omit it from your note taking and move on to the next provided lesson. After all, what I'm sharing with you are situations I've experienced, and are examples, phrases, definitions, facts, and knowledge taught or explained to me by some close family members and friends (some of whom possess no filter). It's to be understood that these factoids do not apply to everyone and do not define or label anyone with one sole standard, definition, or opinion. So, don't take everything I say completely seriously or consider anything to be totally factual. All thoughts, experiences, feelings and opinions are mine, and shouldn't be considered anything other than that. The only exceptions are when I attempt to be funny, witty, or just full of shite. So sit back, pour a pint, and enjoy the read. If I've learned anything from the Irish during the time I've spent in my new home, it's to slow down, enjoy the moment, be more present, and for fuck sake, have a good time! So long as you can laugh, know how to take/tell a good joke, and you can keep up with the banter, (especially when it's directed at you) you'll be just fine and you'll fit in right on the beautiful Emerald Isle.

Ready?

Here goes:

  1. Chicken filet rolls are a common food item that you'll order in a shop or chipper, etc. However, "filet" is not pronounced in Ireland the same as we Americans pronounce it. It's to be spoken like "fillett," the t is not silent. If you try and order a chicken filet and say it "filay" you will get looked at funny and everyone will think you're thick.
  2. No one in Ireland says, "Top of the mornin' to you." Total stereotype and something in the movies that doesn't actually exist. It's not a funny joke. Same with leprechauns, they don't exist, and Lucky Charms are expensive and hard to find because they're imported from... guess where? The USA. (Also, when and if a certain individual asks you what you think of his accent, it's probably best you don't tell him you think it's "what you consider the stereotypical leprechaun sounds like.")
  3. Ireland is split into TWO different countries... The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, taken over by the English, and just about everyone in the Republic of Ireland dislikes the English and the Irish people that live there. It's best not to bring this up at all, especially when at the pub because the conversation could go from pleasant to controversial in an instant, or you'll have accidentally signed yourself up for an hour-long history lesson and rant you don't dare to interrupt, dismiss, or disagree. Oh, and unless you want to make enemies, you probably shouldn't wear a Manchester jersey on your lad's night out.
  4. Another difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is religion. Both countries have been at war with each other for a very long time. Catholics versus Protestants. If you're visiting the Republic of Ireland, just avoid speaking of Protestants or admitting that you're Protestant if that applies, or that you prefer Protestants over Catholics, if that's how you feel. To be on the safe side and to avoid an argument, history lesson or heated rant about religion, just avoid the entire topic altogether. That, and politics. Conversation and appropriate topics for casual and polite interactions and communication are universal. The rules we have in America as far as what to avoid bringing up or talking about if you prefer to keep your friends, remain the same no matter what and no matter where you are.
  5. If you're to order Chinese, your meal will also include fries (chips in Irish) and I have no idea why. Also, eggrolls like we have in the US, are NON-EXISTENT. I've called every Chinese takeaway in Wexford County and the closest thing that I've found are spring rolls and not an appropriate or comparable substitute. Someone interested in the industry should use this information and make a fortune creating an Irish eggroll takeaway place. This person wouldn't even have to credit me or my potentially genius business plan. All that I ask is for your sauce supply to include the *good* soy sauce and the *correct* hot mustard, not the wrong and cheap option.
  6. As soon as you're in a social situation and an Irish individual finds out that you're American, the conversation immediately goes into politics. This never fails. When Trump was President, I would be asked questions and talked to as if he was someone I knew personally and intimately. There were the jokes and shame, as well as the long conversations about all the current events and the detailed coverage of whatever the USA was on the news for at that moment. It's suddenly assumed that you're a politician yourself, knowledgeable and aware of everything going on in the USA and that you're either responsible for what's happening, or that you are directly involved and would absolutely love talking about it with anyone and everyone who for whatever reason, genuinely enjoys the conversation and the opportunity to discuss it with a real and actual American. I clearly recall being asked about Trump so many times that I actually had to come up with a designated smart-ass response to use and have ready and on repeat, thus avoiding and deading the whole political conversation altogether through distracting the person with the perfect combination of witt, humor, banter, with a little dash of American girl charm. I have yet to come up with a new script since Biden took office. Perfecting something that you use so often that you almost feel it defines you, takes time. Maybe I'll finalize it before the next election.
  7. The legal drinking age is 18, not 21. Don't be surprised when you're sitting in the bar next to 18 and 19 year old's, because they're actually fully following the law, as crazy as that sounds to us. I personally don't think I'll ever get used to going on a night out and being sat next to lads the same age as my son and finding comfort in that "normalcy". I did however gift my daughter a trip to Ireland for her 18th birthday with the incentive and intent to take her for her first legal drink in a real Irish pub. I'm allowed to change my mind on my stance on situations when and if it benefits me. I'm the writer in this story, after all!
  8. Obtaining and having a driver's license isn't as common a practice or teenage milestone as it is here in the USA. Not everyone gets one, not everyone needs one. Especially in small towns, you're walking or biking anyway, because everywhere you need to go is so close from home. I'm even considering getting rid of my car and buying two mopeds instead, my partner and I having matching helmets. Wouldn't that be adorable? Too bad the reality of that happening is just as possible as finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
  9. When at a restaurant or a pub, the tip is included in the bill. You do not need to tip your waiter, waitress, bartender anything else additional from your bill. However, you do still need to tip your hairdressers, barbers, salon and spa workers.
  10. Beans on toast is a common meal, it's literally just beans on toast. I've never tried it, and I refuse to ever try it. However, you should probably give it a shot just once, and when you do, let me know if you'll be adding more cans of beans to your grocery store list or not. I can personally attest to the foods guaranteed to be the top of anyone's list, however, are 1) baked potatoes, and 2) fresh Wexford strawberries. I could live the rest of my life eating only those and die completely happy and satisfied having had nothing else. Try them, trust me.
  11. When you ask an Irish individual their name, they will respond with their first name, middle name, their Catholic Confirmation chosen name, and their last name (surname). I had to ask my mom what my chosen Confirmation name was because I couldn't remember and wasn't able to participate in the fun. Apparently I chose the Saint Monica and must have either liked the name at the time or I closed my eyes and pointed randomly, choosing a Saint wherever my finger stopped once I opened my eyes. That's my only explanation for that decision which at the time clearly wasn't of much religious or significant importance to me, and to which has come back to bite me in the ass, some 20 years later. St. Monica is known as the patron saint of abuse victims, wives, alcoholics, and widows.
  12. When placing an order for pizza, Irish staples include sweet corn and mushrooms, while our typical American staples are pepperoni and sausage. I am not a pork eater in general and I refuse to eat pizza with corn. I swear that it isn't the Chicagoan in me fighting the battle for best pizza in the world. Corn just doesn't belong anywhere near any decent slice of pie and definitely shouldn't be in the same category as the good ole deep dish!
  13. The steering wheel/driver's side of the car is on the right side of the vehicle and when driving a car, you do so on the left side of the road which is much more difficult than you can imagine getting used to. Also, most road signs are in English and in Irish, sometimes only Irish. Even more than that, Automatic transmission cars aren't as common or available as in the USA so hopefully you're skilled and experienced driving stick shift. I don't know about you, but those mopeds are sounding better and better by the minute.
  14. Some homes are still heated by coal and fire and the coal and sticks are delivered by coal men weekly or as scheduled. Side note: It is more than likely that if you happen to mention how this part of their normal daily life reminds you of Mary Poppins, it will NOT make anyone laugh. Also, If the fireplace isn't lit, especially in the winter, you'll freeze to death. Lastly, however, a small admission... one of my favorite personal past times is supervising and ogling over the sight of my partner when he's chopping up sticks and bringing in the coal to keep us and our home cozy and warm.
  15. It hardly ever snows, and every Irish individual I know wishes for it every year. When it snows here in Chicago, they all tell me how lucky I am and how much they would enjoy having it for themselves. I hate snow and they can have it. However, when in Ireland, what they consider to be a cold day and are all bundled up in a heavy winter coat, I'm out there in a sweatshirt saying, "It's a beautiful spring day!"
  16. Don't touch a nettle. If you don't know what a nettle is, know that it's a plant worse than Poison Ivy and anything else I can think of. I don't remember what nettles look like, but know that they actually sting and it hurts very much and for a substantial amount of time too! If someone uses the word nettle to describe something or someone, it's basically them calling them a huge and terrible pain in the you know what.
  17. When adding the date to something, the day goes first, then the month, and the year. (example: 21/04/2022) I'm still writing out 2021 and it's May. I'll never get used to the different arrangement of the month and day and I'm sure I'll make a few mistakes over the years and that I have quite a few moments of embarrassment that I'll be experiencing within that time. I'll either look like an idiot or I'll be brushed off and assumed as being a typical ignorant American incapable of even correctly writing or knowing something as simple as the date.
  18. I don't care what you or anyone else says.... Sheep in Ireland are not the same as any other sheep I've seen on any other farm or petting zoo in the USA. There is something magical and special about Irish sheep and this is expressed through the multitude of Irish sheep pictures I currently have saved on my phone.

Congratulations! Ireland is ready for your arrival! You're officially as prepared to fit in that one can be after only reading one amazing yet hilarious online article by yours truly!! Hopefully you learned a thing or two, took a few notes from my expertise, or at least you've been entertained! It is likely I can take credit at some point in your travels for saving you from some sort of situation with my advice that otherwise would have left you feeling and looking worse than the bold cu*t who shows up to the pub wearing a Manchester jersey during a Wexford game. If nothing else, you have most definitely learned material all about me and all the random and crazy that goes along with it, which unfortunately will probably never be useful to you. However, if you want to learn more and you're ever in Wexford, look me up and we'll have a pint and share some fish and chips! Cheers! Slainte!

© 2022 Jessica Murphy-Doyle

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