All Ireland visits are as different as night and day depending on the perspective. Most peoples first impression of Ireland is the postcard view and the guide book narrative. This first visit to Ireland is filled with faulty assumptions, wondrous sites, treacherous driving, and surprising discoveries. If your first Irish trip is through a guided tour, you will be slow fed your Irish etiquette by your tour operator. These Irish tour operators are used to the tourist crowd and won’t shun you when you flash your money around, or insist on a picture, or invite yourself into the conversation. The tour operators will provide “Irish music dinner shows” so you can believe you are part of the Irish culture, probably some Irish step dancing thrown in for good measure. But inevitably you will stray from the pack and find yourself in a small pub where Irish pub etiquette is expected, it’s at this moment (hopefully) you will know you are a foreigner in a foreign land. A good friend of mine was offered employment from one of the universities in Ireland. He relayed this story to me to show how the same thing can be very different. My friend Pat arrived at University and there was a reception party to be held, not yet having a car to get around in he required assistance.
Pats co-workers ” Hi Pat did you have any trouble getting here?”
Pat———– ”No Colleen gave me a ride ”
Co-workers– “Really” (snickering and muffled laughter)
Pat———- “Yes it was a fine ride out, she’s was very nice to help me out” “and she said she could give me a ride all the way back”
Co-workers in full laughter- ” Really”.
Pat——— “What’s so funny?” (confused)
Well his co-workers eventually told him that he probably got a lift not a ride, as “a ride” in Ireland has a different meaning, and they didn’t want to besmirch Colleens reputation. Hopefully you have figured out what the difference is.
Another type of Irish visit and one of my favorite trips to Ireland is the family visit. The hospitality offered can be overwhelming, but it’s sincere, and it’s not unusual for a quick visit to last several hours. It’s important to accept the hospitality given. The three cups of Barry’s tea with biscuits and the answering of questions with the offer of further assistance every five minutes. An example; I had stopped by my cousin’s In-laws and had almost made it out under 2 hours when I was asked where I was staying. That year I had a nice B&B near the R.D.S. in Dublin, so I told them I was staying in a B&B in Dublin. “Oh Brian what are you doing paying for a place, you’re family, (I’m the cousin of this fellows niece’s husband) you could have stayed with uncle Mike, he lives just down the road from the R.D.S., I thanked him for the thought and that next time I would be sure to stay at Mikes, but the rooms been paid for and it would be a waste to not use it. No matter what, you are treated like royalty, like a guest should be treated. It’s always nice to have a guide, show you the coziest pubs and the decent restaurants. I don’t think I can convey the warmth and welcoming feeling when you are invited into an Irish home.
The most adventurous and tricky trip to ireland would be the self directed or self catered tour. You make your own itinerary and are a stranger to each town you enter. This is my favorite Irish trip, each town can be a craicin good time or a quite night out. You need to read the crowd, practice perfect pub etiquette, waiting for the invitation to join the conversation and be content if no invitation is extended. I remember a quiet night spent in Bantry, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary in a nice little restaurant, the only other people in the place were the owners and the chef. We had a pleasant conversation after dinner and it was really very pleasant. The next night we end up in Kinsale, the only tourists in the pub,we are invited into the group, and have a blast singing and carrying on till the wee hours.
When visiting Ireland take your time, you will not see it all, no matter how many times you go, you will not see it all, so take your time. The Irish Blessing gives good advise, enjoy the simple pleasures and blessings are present in each day, just know enough to appreciate them.