Hi! My name is Maria. I was born in Russia, got married to an Irish man Carl several years ago, and moved to Ireland. Honestly, I haven’t regretted my decision once.
I am going to tell Bright Side readers what it’s like to live in the country of elves, ginger men, magnificent castles, and the shamrock (yes, this is what we call clovers). And at the end of the article, there is a small gift — a compilation of useful websites for people who decide to take a cheap vacation in Ireland.
The head of an Irish family is a woman… with a spoon.
Gentle and sensitive girls will probably be disappointed by Irish men. They may go to the pub and not return until lunch the next day, they can lose track of time during a sports competition, or forget to invite their wife to a party.
Strong Irish women have their own friends, plans, and they always have something to do. And also, every one of them has a wooden spoon (it is presented at the wedding). In local families, it is sort of a scepter, the symbol of the power of the mother and the wife. Everyone is afraid of the spoon: husbands, children, dogs. Because if you see your mother or wife in the window with the spoon, this is a sign that means you have to rush home and hope for the best.
If you get the entire family together, there will be enough people for a small village.
No matter what we do, we can’t organize a family party with fewer than 30 people. And these are the closest ones! If Carl’s parents invite only his brothers and sisters with their wives, husbands, and children, it is already 55, and if we wanted to invite all the twice-removed cousins, it would be 80 people. And if we go just a bit further, it’s 120 people!
While you’re just living your life, you don’t even notice that your family is large enough to populate an entire village. But when the time comes to organize a collective holiday or to buy presents, this is the moment you start to worry.
Here, you need to start planning a wedding one or even 2 years in advance.
Good locations are very popular and there are huge waiting lists to have weddings there. This year, it is going to be our 7th wedding anniversary, so we need to start looking for a location right now (and start saving money). In order to organize a wedding celebration in Ireland, you need to spend anywhere from €25,000 to €31,000. An average family could pay their mortgage for about 1.5 years by using this money.
The most expensive things are obviously the rental for the location and the food. The average bill is about €70-80 per person. It is rare to attend an Irish wedding where there are fewer than 100 guests. Live music and a DJ cost about €2,000-3,000, the wedding dress for the bride is around €1,500-2,300, the photoshoot and video cost around €4,000-8,000.
Children and adults are treated by the same doctors.
Pediatricians exist, too, but only in maternity wards and children’s hospitals. For all other cases, you have your family GP. It doesn’t matter what hurts — your head, your leg, or your butt, the first person you see is the GP, and then he or she directs you to a specialist. A good GP in Ireland (or anywhere for that matter) costs a lot. A visit to a doctor in Dublin will cost you €50-80, in other places— €30-60. Children below the age of 6 get free examinations.
GPs are very limited in what they can do for a newborn baby. For example, they can’t prescribe antihistamines or treat babies’ eyes. So, I have a feeling that a GP only looks after children and diagnoses colds.
Fathers take part in childbirth and go on paternity leave.
Men in Ireland are almost required to attend prenatal classes and support their wives during childbirth. Fathers here can easily go on paternity leave, ask for a day off to go to a kindergarten theater play, take time to attend their kid’s sports competition, or get sick leave if their child is sick.
Just 50 years ago, men played golf on the weekends. It didn’t matter if their children were ill — they played golf. But today, leaving your family to go find entertainment elsewhere is considered to be wrong.
Irish mothers-in-law are paid to babysit their grandchildren.
Very often, the bearded descendants of Vikings turn out to be mama’s boys. One way or another, these mothers make you call them twice a week and visit them as often as possible. They ask you to bring your children to them, they find excuses to come to your place, and some even visit you without warning you in advance. Many families even go on vacation together with their mothers.
However, mothers-in-law often have to be paid for spending some time with their grandchildren, even if she asks to see them. Yes, it seems that nobody owes anything to anyone in a family, but babysitting is still a lot of work.
In winter, everyone stocks food in advance.
Once snow appears in the country, the Irish seem to be influenced by the genes of their 19th-century ancestors. They probably remember the Great Famine and they are all scared of it happening again. There is no other explanation for this craze over buying food. Just the other day, the customers at Dunnes Stores were buying 25(!) loaves of bread each!
Our neighbors have already started making a list of foods that are necessary for our neighborhood. We live in hilly terrain and not all cars are able to climb the hills. This is why we have already agreed that, in case of emergency, the men will walk to the nearest town on foot.
You can ask your neighbors for any favor.
Where I live, I have dozens of really great neighbors. Honestly, I know every single one of them, I know some of their birthdays, I know when their vacations are, and I often go over to their places. Sometimes, I let in a plumber or feed a dog. I have so many keys to my neighbors’ places that I look like a concierge. This is how people do it here: they watch over each other’s houses, they help carry in the furniture, they take out trash cans and pick them up if someone is away.
Also, we have a WhatsApp chat that we use as a bulletin board. You can take some chairs from your neighbors, or get some help if you need it. For example, the guys from the 21st house lent Carl a ladder so that he could get on the roof. The neighbor from house 3 will be holding the ladder, but most likely, a whole lot more people will rush over to help.
Things an average Irish person can’t live without:
Life in this country is completely impossible without the following things:
- TV — the Irish are always ready to spend some time watching their favorite series or reality show
- Toaster and kettle — both of them are definitely on the kitchen table (toasts are some kind of national food that treats hangovers, and helps you deal with sadness, hunger, and a lack of food in the fridge)
- Washing machine — the Irish pay a lot of attention to keeping their clothes clean;
- Dryer — clothes will remain wet for weeks without it, and will rot and get covered with mold;
- Dishwasher — we don’t have hot tap water and it costs more to heat some rather than turn on the dishwasher for one cycle (I haven’t done dishes by hand in about 6 years now).
Few people have heard of healthy food here.
The food behavior of the Irish doesn’t really comply with the trendy “healthy food” concept. Of course, they don’t lose consciousness when they see an eggplant, they are okay with cauliflower, and even know the difference between bulgur and quinoa. But Carl’s grandmother still thinks that my salad made of vegetables and parsley is some kind of Indian food. Because only someone who really loves cows can eat a basket of grass.
My people’s freezers are full of frozen foods like: French fries, nuggets, pizza… But the Irish don’t really like freezing meat and prepared foods. It is believed that an average Irish family throws away €700 worth of food. This is because they just can’t use leftovers of food to cook something from them or freeze small portions of food.
The Irish know everything about potatoes and meat.
When you are buying potatoes in the supermarket, you should read very carefully what the bag says. Here, there are different kinds of potatoes for different dishes. The potatoes used for mashing are not used for boiled potatoes. The prices start from €1 (for allegedly new potatoes, but they are just small) to €5 for 6-10 pounds.
The Irish think that they have the best beef in the world. They grow cows on only grass, which makes the meat very tender. I like steaks that are already sorted in vacuum packs. They are sold for about €9-10 each and are packed in pairs. And milk is almost free here — about €0.80-1.20 per liter.
It is easy to find a soulmate on the train.
The passengers that buy tickets online often put their first and last names on the tickets. This date is shown on the screen above the window. The upper line is the window seat, the lower line is the aisle seat.
You can use this information to find out if someone’s wife is sitting right next to a nice-looking man. Couples usually sit right in front of each other. Men should know that very few single Irish women even get on a train without a Starbucks coffee. But her name on the cup may be spelled wrong.
The Irish are famous for their dark humor.
No matter how bad things are, the locals always find something to laugh at. The jokes are usually about everyday life, politics, or sports. The also like pranks and they are not always nice. My husband competed with his ex-colleague in pranks. Once, Carl took a screenshot of the guy’s desktop screen and used it as screen wallpaper. And he made some of the folders invisible every day. The colleague almost went grey that week.
When I worked at a hotel, a fiancé’s friends put a fake arrest sign on his car for improper parking and it was after the ceremony. You should have seen the guy running around his car trying not to get to the party late.
In Ireland, people discuss funerals and memorial services.
The elderly Irish people are crazy about death. “Guess, who died!”, old guys scream when you enter. In other countries, only someone’s pregnancy or divorce get people this interested.
When the bad news comes, the whole next day, people only talk about the memorial services, how much they cost, and about the will. “How much do the coffins cost these days?” You can often hear people asking, “How much did you pay for digging the grave?” And it is not considered rude. What is rude, though, is asking how much you earn.
Workers are not offered tea.
Here, any worker you employ is not some poor guy, but a businessman that works a lot. And this guy doesn’t expect to be fed, to be offered tea, or anything else that is more than you agreed to.
All the interaction with workers here is more professional than friendly. You can offer tea or coffee when you first meet the guy and he examines how much work has to be done. The only exception is when the weather is bad (it’s too cold or too hot). People treat each other in a respectful way, but they don’t cross the line.
Every sheep has its own number.
The minister of agriculture issued a manual on how to label sheep properly. Every sheep has its own tag that was given according to the requirements of the National Sheep Identification System. This code contains a lot of information, including the name of the owner if the sheep gets lost.
Of course, farmers don’t have enough time to chase every single sheep to put a tag on it. So, they are marked with special paint. It all depends on the imagination of the owner. Some mark their sheep with 2 colors, some use just one, some draw patterns. Some do tic-tac-toe, flowers, stripes, the colors of the flag, and so on.
In Ireland, it is hard to not spend a lot of money in pubs.
If you are a tourist, be ready to spend a lot of money in a pub. It is not acceptable to spend hours drinking one glass of beer. You have to drink in big gulps. A pint should be finished in about 6-8 sips, which is about 70-90 ml per one sip. The first sip should cover not only the foam but also some of the beer.
But there are also some life hacks. In small pubs, you should only drink the same beer that most other visitors are drinking. The more alcohol, the fresher the beer. And if I order a Guinness, I look at the foam it has, if a small trace of foam is left on half-empty glasses, if it changes the color, and things like that.
The locals love sincere songs.
Music in the Irish culture is a chance to speak out and talk about what worries you. Whining and sharing your problems is not appropriate here, but you can use a song for this purpose. The sadder the song is, the better. Even after weddings, few people talk about the bride’s dress, the food, or flowers. Everyone talks about musicians, “The wedding was great, the band and the DJ were awesome, we danced all night long.”
Do you know what they play at funerals? In Ireland, they can play anything, it just has to be a song the person loved. Even if it is a funny song. Anyone can sing along if they like it. This is a sign of respect. Here, when a person plans their funeral, they don’t just put money aside, they also choose the song to be played at the ceremony.
Once a year, the entire country is painted green.
It happens during the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. It is amazing, but the person that introduced Christianity to Ireland was a slave. He was brought to the country to be sold and he spent the first 6 years on the island as a shepherd.
The famous Irish parade takes place on March 17, and the preparation starts several days in advance. The buildings are gradually painted green, and shamrocks start appearing everywhere (please, don’t say “clover”). And be attentive: people start drinking as soon as the pubs open on this day. So, by about 5pm, the entire city is wasted.
It is hard to find 10 eggs for Easter here.
The Irish don’t have a tradition of painting eggs on Easter. So, it takes me about a week to find regular white chicken eggs (the local supermarkets mostly have brown eggs). Honestly, it feels like we are looking for pterodactyl eggs. 2 years ago, a Polish store made an announcement, “We have white eggs.” But according to the salesperson, they didn’t have any more of them. And later, we found out that they did have some eggs, but they only sold them to the people they knew.
This year, I was able to find 10 white eggs at a different store. But they had a sticker, “Past expiry day, eggs for decoration only.”
The Irish spend a lot of money on Christmas.
On average, about €450 is spent on presents, and people start buying food about 10-12 weeks in advance. In the end, a regular family spends about €1,300 on Christmas. And it is not surprising because in Ireland, people can’t wait until the holidays, and they often eat everything even before the holidays start.
A lot of money goes abroad. Doing online shopping before Christmas is a regular thing. Retailers really want the money to stay in the country so the “Black Friday” sales actually last the entire weekend. Last year, it was 2 weeks long! The entire country left their villages and farms and they took their children and went to Dublin to buy stuff. By December, all the stores were completely empty.
5 reasons why you should go to Ireland:
- Incredible landscapes. If you drive around the island clockwise, you will see how much the landscape changes. You will start with a never-ending beach, then you’ll drive past cliffs and rocks, and then you’ll return to the incredible beaches of Achill Island.
- History. We have castles, abbeys, and megalithic constructions which are older than Egyptian pyramids. And almost all of the islands here have a centuries-old interesting story.
- Pub culture. In order to really feel it, you should go to some Irish village.
- The Irish people’s charm. For some mysterious reason, the people from this country are loved all around the world, and in North America, every second person tries to prove that they have Irish roots.
- Cuisine. Juicy steaks, Dublin shrimp, food festivals… Ireland is not only about sausages with bacon. It is also about the amazing seafood and great mutton.
How do you understand when you have crossed the border of Northern Ireland?
First of all, you will notice that the speed is measured not in miles but in km/h. Then, you will see the many currency exchange in certain places. In every country of Great Britain, you can use pounds to pay, but in Northern Ireland, they may not accept the English money and will need the local currency.
Also, the British flags. But not always, it depends on where you are. There are towns with hundreds and thousands of British flags. And sometimes, only the green mailboxes and the Irish flags.
Bonus: Useful websites for tourists
Since January 2019, in Ireland, the tourist VAT has increased by 4.5 %. This goes for the prices in the entire industry: restaurants, cafes, hotels. Some owners raise the prices by just a few cents. Some — by €10—12. And don’t forget that Dublin still remains one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
If you are not a millionaire and you have a very limited budget, you will have to be conscious about how much you spend. I have collected local websites where you can find good discounts and offers:
- Thetaste.ie — a blog about food and restaurants
- Groupon.ie — hotels, restaurants, and info for people who are looking for entertainment like exhibitions, museums, theater plays
- Pigsback.com — restaurants, hotels, spas, and golf (there are some weird offers, so make sure you check the reviews)
- Spas.ie — all the spa offers
- Escapes.ie — something like Pigsback but more hotel offers
- Firsttable.ie — for €6, you book a table in a restaurant from the list and get a 50% discount for anything on the menu. The list is not long and the booking time is fixed.
If you don’t want to buy any vouchers, you can always have dinner in the early evening when a lot of restaurants have an Early Bird menu that offers cheap meals.
Would you take the risk and marry an Irish man and move to this country forever?
Preview photo credit masha__white / instagram