EUROPE

10 Truths and Myths about Ireland

Many people seem to have stereotypical views of Ireland and the Irish people in general. When you think of the Emerald Isle, do you think of rainbows, leprechauns, and an obsession with potatoes? Many people seem to have these hilarious thoughts so it is time to debunk or verify some of the common ideas people have when it comes to life in Ireland.

1. People greet each other with phrases like “Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!”

Not one time during my year abroad did any Irish person say this phrase, not even jokingly. If you say this, you may either offend someone or cause them to laugh at you and think you’re an “eejit”. Instead, a lot of people, particularly college students, will greet each other with the phrase, “What’s the craic?”(Pronounced ‘crack’). This can basically be translated to asking “What’s up?”

2. It rains constantly in Ireland.

When I first arrived in Ireland in early September, the weather was mild and sunny every day. I began to believe it was never going to rain and that everything I heard about the weather was a myth. Then after about a month, I learned that rain is usually a daily occurrence and can come in many forms. The rain can fall as a mist, which is described as being a “soft” day, or it can pour down heavily and you would say that “it’s absolutely lashing!” As a result, one of the favorite topics of conversation for the Irish is to discuss the weather so if you want to start up a chat with a local, nothing is simpler.

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Trying to stay warm and dry after rain moved in out of nowhere.

3. Most Irish people have red hair.

I’m not going to lie, before getting to Ireland, I assumed many Irish people would be redheads. While it is true that about 10% of the population has red hair, it was never something that stuck out to me while studying there. I actually found at times that I was the only redheaded female around which surprised me.

4. Everything is green.

The images I had in my head before coming to Ireland were those of lush green fields and rolling hills that go on for miles. This is very much the reality in many areas outside of bigger cities which can be quite urban. The landscape is absolutely stunning and more untouched than you’d find in many places in the U.S.

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The rural landscape often has fields lined with stone walls that go on for miles.

5. There is an obsession with potatoes.

While “obsession” may be a bit of a strong word, I would definitely say that the Irish do have a great love for the spuds. Potatoes are staples in many meals and are served very plentifully. Sometimes I would order a meal that would strangely include multiple variations such as mashed, roasted, and fried potatoes.  I will say I never complained about it once!

6. Rainbows are everywhere.

I wouldn’t say that I saw a rainbow every single day, but I would usually see one several times a week which is way more often than I ever saw them at home. Because it often showers briefly throughout the day, seeing them is pretty common. Despite how often they appeared, I was always just as mesmerized at their beauty.

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A bright rainbow appeared as I walked from my flat to go grocery shopping.

7. The Irish are friendly.

I was absolutely blown away about how friendly the Irish are as a culture. My first day in town I was invited to hang out with locals and they were very excited to welcome me to Ireland. Everyone I met abroad seemed happy to talk to me and I instantly felt like I belonged. My Irish housemate Emma who I became very close with, invited me to stay with her family over Christmas break since I would not be able to make it back to Kentucky. I was overcome with emotion due to their generosity and they made me feel like a part of the family.

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Emma showing me around town in Kilkenny.

8. Tea is the drink of choice.

While many people do enjoy coffee, tea is one of the most popular beverages. In fact, the Irish drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world, with the average person drinking about four cups a day. It is near impossible to not immediately be offered a cup of tea upon entering an Irish household and even if you decline, you will very soon be asked again. Irish tea is rather strong and is often drank with milk and sugar, and I think it’s best when accompanied by a digestive biscuit or two!

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Barry’s Tea became my obsession while abroad.

9. Irish food is bland.

While traditional foods like fish and chips and Guinness stew are quite popular, I found that Irish food culture is much more diverse than I would have guessed. In towns and especially in larger cities like Dublin, you can find any type of food imaginable, from Thai, to Japanese, to Mexican. I also found that everything there is much fresher. Most of the time local, organic ingredients are used and you can definitely taste the difference.

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A plethora of fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood are available at local outdoor markets.

10. Leprechauns.

I feel like this may be one of the things people think of the most when they think of Ireland, but it was rare for me to ever see or hear a reference to these mythical beings. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I never saw one, not even at the end of one of the many rainbows I admired (there was sadly never a pot of gold there either). I found that mentioning them to locals meant receiving a laugh and an eye roll due to how stereotypical they are portrayed. However, I will mention that in Dublin there is actually a National Leprechaun Museum for tourists if you’re still curious about them.

Photos courtesy of Danielle Beam.

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Danielle Beam is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying Psychology. Danielle participated in the Celtic Blue program at Arcadia University and National University of Ireland Galway during the 2014-2015 academic year.