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This and all photos are by the author.

You’d want to know when you’re being out-of-line in another country, right? Maybe you’ve thought: Gee, it’d be great to get a local’s perspective on etiquette.

No? Well then do us all a favor and park your patoot just where it is, if you don’t mind.

For the non “ugly American,” though, listen up.

To the Irish, drinking is a sacred pastime. Far more than a place for drunkenness or casual hook-ups, pubs have traditionally been the center of the Irish social fabric. In other words, the Irish take their drinking very, very seriously.

Irishmen Thomas and Liam Cleary want to help American travelers avoid pub faux pas. Thomas owns and operates Kennedy’s Pub in Dublin, a popular after-work destination and hangout for students from Trinity College.

Liam is a Ph.D candidate at Trinity. If there’s one thing the Cleary brothers know it’s pubs, and they want to help you avoid some common offenses committed by tourists.

Thomas, who sees Americans all the time at the pub he runs, can be hard on their etiquette. Though the brothers maintain that we have no discernable pub ethic, they are setting out to change that. Thomas says:

They all crave the experience of the Irish pub, but they are clueless about the interaction necessary to get the quintessential Irish pub experience.

Ouch.

Ultimately, though, they’re here to help. Here are the brothers’ tips, broken into categories for easy comprehension:

Entering

- Irish people traditionally always take their hat off at a bar so don’t be surprised if you are asked to do the same. It is rude not to remove your hat upon entering a pub.

- Don’t wait to be seated. Get your ass on the first stool you see.

Ordering

- Spying someone’s else drink and announcing ‘I’ll have what he’s having’ is frowned upon. Make up your own mind.

- There are no good local micro breweries in Dublin. Guinness runs the show, so get used to it.

- ‘A glass’ means ‘half a pint’.

- Keep your paws off the Guinness until the bartender hands it to you.” The “perfect pour” is a time-tested tradition in Ireland, consisting of two pours – one to let the Guinness settle, and another to top it off. Be careful not to jump the gun and grab it too early.

- We do not free-pour liquor — it is against the law. Don’t ask the barman to do it. Accept the legal measure.

- Opening a tab can be done, but we’d rather not.

- No one in this country drinks Irish car bombs, so stop looking so bewildered when this fact is revealed.

- Chips mean hot, thick French Fries not potato chips. These are called crisps and are quite tasty with a pint of anything.

Paying

- Don’t attempt to pay for one drink on a credit card.

- Yes we do use the Euro. No, that’s Britain you’re thinking of.

- If someone buys you a drink, buy them one back — unless he or she is a pervert. In that case, run.

- You do not have to tip bar staff. They get paid enough.

Drinking

- Learn to drink a pint, don’t slam it, chug it or down it. Appreciate it.

- Getting wasted is not a badge of honor to be screamed about, it means you can’t hold your drink and as such is to be frowned upon.

- There is a great Irish saying ‘a bird is known by its song, a man by his conversation.’ Americans are known by trying to incessantly shout over the top of each others’ voices. Obviously this is more prevalent among younger Americans, but it is our first indicator of Americans about etiquette.

- Thomas’ final tip is really more of a plea for human decency. “Nothing to do with pub etiquette,” he says, “but socks and sandals — ouch.”

Community Connection

Ireland on a Budget? Matador’s got you covered. Also of interest might be The Expeditioner Travel Guide to Dublin on MatadorTV which includes footage from inside the Guinness Storehouse.

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About The Author

Steve Holt

  • Helen

    Ha ha! I guess some of these are true, but I’m Irish, and the worst people for getting wasted and being complete assholes are Irish young people (myself not included of course!).
    I wouldn’t say ‘Guinness runs the show’, maybe that’s true in Dublin though.
    I think the most important one though is don’t, for god’s sake, confuse us with the British or compare us in any way. It’s hard not to take offence unless it’s an obvious joke!
    I have to agree though, the Irish pub is an all round experience. I love to go to my favourite watering hole and sit there for hours sipping and having good conversation.
    Not to be missed! Get out of Dublin and see the REAL Ireland! (I’m gonna get in trouble for saying that :P)

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Gawd I love the Irish. Their music and folklore got carried over to Newfoundland, but apparently the drinking etiquette didn’t.

    The tipping thing really confused me. The first time I tipped, not knowing it wasn’t necessary, the bartender seemed thoroughly insulted. Is there a reason for this?

  • http://www.cestchristine.com Christine

    Totally valid tips–although, I will say, as a worker in an Irish pub in France–we definitely don’t mind getting tipped :)

  • Drink up

    Hmmmm… I’m an American who’s lived in Ireland for fifteen years. I think these guys are joking.

    Like the ‘getting wasted’ thing. Em, have they walked down a street at midnight lately? Everyone’s locked. Most of them look quite proud of themselves.

    And the “take off your hat when you enter a pub”, that has to be a piss-take! Have Dublin pubs taken on the customs of Irish churches circa 1959? Are barmen arbiters of fashion now? Come out west – no one in Galway cares what you’re dressing like.

    And as for Americans talking loudly, well, some do, some don’t. Few can match the decibel power of, say, Irish girls on the Saturday morning train to Galway for their hen nights.

  • http://whatsdavedoing.com Dave

    Brilliant article, and one that makes me want to return to Ireland even more than I already did.

    Damnit, where’s that Guinness?

  • kelli

    haha…funny stuff, and TRUE! As an American who’s lived in Dublin for the past 1.5 years, I’d say the Cleary brothers are on the mark. ;) Thanks, Steve.

  • http://www.beatravelbee.com Joya

    I love this article! It makes me miss an Irish pub so bad and a good pint of Guinness.

  • http://pandyapushpendrakumar.blogspot.com/ Pushpendra

    Enjoyed the article many thanks :)

  • http://alainarose.wordpress.com Alaina O’Brien

    Cool article. I could really go for a Guinness now. Mmm

  • Nathan

    Nice entry! As an American who’s been to Ireland, I’d add that if you’re ordering a whiskey on the rocks, don’t ask for it “on the rocks.” Just say “with ice.” We were doing that for a few days until a barman finally corrected us.

  • http://annemerritt.blogspot.com Anne

    Very sound advice. The first time I ordered Guinness at an Irish pub, I leaned over and asked “could I get a FULL pint, please?” when the bartender poured the pint halfway and stopped. They explained the “perfect pour” quite politely, and I felt like a huge idiot.

  • http://shantiwallah.blogspot.com Marie

    Another phenomena that is not only in Ireland, but many countries, is that of the round. You can see the great divide in circles of multicultural expats as the rules are different in various countries. If you’re the last one in the group to buy a round and you don’t buy, OOoooooo, I don’t fancy your chances of being invited out again.

  • http://www.fudryter.blogspot.com Sarah

    Last time I checked, Northern Ireland was still part of Britain.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    I’m Irish, I don’t drink, and I *totally* approve of this article :D You mentioned crisps, but Americans would do right to learn proper Hiberno English if they want to understand us and attempt to blend in.

    I like to explain the perfect pour through Guinness’ funny add campaign a few years back:
    Most people think that 1759 (printed on glasses) is the year that Guinness was founded, but according to legend it’s actually the time that Arthur Guinness poured his first pint. Being a religious man, at exactly 6pm he had to stop (in the middle of pouring it) to say the Angelus (Ireland still does this. We are the only country I’ve ever seen that has “6:01 news” so people can say their prayers at 6pm). In continuing to pour after this he quickly realised that he had discovered the way to pour the perfect pint.

    Fair play to ya!

  • http://theresa.undiscoveredcountry.co.za Theresa

    haha. im a south african who lived in dublin last year and i got fired from my waiteressing job for getting the crisps/ chips thing confused!! eek!
    completely disagree about the irish not getting locked!….. dame and o connell str on a sat night always ends up with girls in non existant skirts vomiting all over the place and strewing burgerking and macdonalds wrappers everywhere!!
    hahahha

  • John

    Re Sarah’s comment – Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of Great Britain.

    • Clovis

      Correct.

  • http://matadortravel.com/traveler/justruss Justruss

    Dear lord this is funny!

    I assume these rules apply only to loud, oafish American tourists visiting Ireland and are instantly abandoned by the Irish who visit Prague by the thousands to puke and piss on every street corner?

  • Keith Coleman

    The one thing we had a hard time figuring out was the fact that a server will not bring you the bill, you must go request it. We sat for a while our first visit and thought we were being ignored like in America. Once I learned it was expected for me to initiate payment all went well. But it had not been explained.Going back for 3rd trip in fall 2010, can’t wait!

  • Rob

    Enlightening article, Steve. I love hearing from a pub owner himself – rather than some random writer’s third-party observations about pub culture. And what a rich topic! An entire book could be (and should be) (and certainly has been) devoted to Irish pub culture. Thanks for bringing me back to Dublin, if only for a little while.

  • Pingback: 75 Best Irish-Interest Articles and Posts of 2010 | Irish Fireside

  • http://www.diaspora.ie Mick

    Quite alright to wear a wooly hat if you’re just keeping your head warm, but leave the stetson to the landlord behind the bar!
    :-)

  • Pingback: A Night Down the Pub in Dublin By the Numbers

  • Pingback: Q & A: Irish Pubs and Etiquette | Irish Fireside

  • Guest

    “I’m Irish by the way, but I am foremost American” soo…. your great grandad’s auntie’s sister in law is from Ireland or something equally ridiculous? It’s a lighthearted article. Lets keep the comments the same way. Calm down.

    • Markstone1908

      No I am 100 percent Irish. There is nothing else in my blood. And on that note, there are more Irish in America than Ireland. It’s not a lighthearted article. 

      • guest

        I’m sorry but if you were Irish, you wouldn’t have posted that first comment. Anyone Irish would know that this is an inside joke with Irish bars and not to be taken too literal. So Fuck off.

        • RSGibson7

          You lot are just mad that you have not managed to get out from under England’s yoke and we have. Just an inside joke, not to be taken too literal. There were about four things in that ‘lecture’ that were useful. The rest was just them trying to be funny and coming off as assholes. If you can’t free pour in Ireland I hope you use small glasses because there are a lot of drinks you just can’t make well with one and a half ounces of liquor. By the way, you don’t even sound Irish. 

          • Emmet-B

            Firstly, the republic are 100% free from British rule. Secondly, your an idiot and you are not Irish. And you can’t sound Irish by typing.. your reading this not hearing it. Now settle down you hotheaded yank fuck.

      • Megan

        Lighthearted means joking. Apparently you didn’t know that, because the article is, in fact, lighthearted.

      • Donkeykong

        here a big irish FUCK YOU.

        • RSGibson7

          You lot are just mad that you have not managed to get out from under England’s yoke and we have. Just an inside joke, not to be taken too literal. There were about four things in that ‘lecture’ that were useful. The rest was just them trying to be funny and coming off as assholes. If you can’t free pour in Ireland I hope you use small glasses because there are a lot of drinks you just can’t make well with one and a half ounces of liquor. By the way, you don’t even sound Irish.

          • RSGibson7

            I take back the last part. I can tell YOU are Irish by your poor grammar. 

      • RSGibson7

        Of Irish descent. Unless you’re born there. You can be proud of your heritage without trying to be something you’re not. 

      • Philip Smith

        Calm down! 100 % is it?  I’m willing to bet my life savings (absolutely nothing but I’m just trying to make a point)  that you do not live in Ireland! More importantly, even if you are 100% Irish doesn’t mean you have to be a bellend.  But regarding this article, among younger generations in Ireland this article is totally irrelevant as traditions are changing

      • dee

        There are more Irish in America? Biggest load of shite I have ever heard! Unless you were born and raised in Ireland, you are not Irish!!

  • Anon

    fuck you you Irish Bitch.

  • Timshub

    The ‘etiquette guidelines’ presented in this article are for the most part behaviors that any decent human being should adhere to.  Ingesting drugs in a public establishment should not be taken so seriously as to have prospective PhD’s outlining the correct drinking method for foreigners. Nationalism and xenophobia are terribly ugly and small traits. Americans are all too often blasted by Europeans and others for their ostensible ignorance about other countries, but what would one call a general view of all Americans as loud, boorish, and uncultured?

  • West is best

    Oh Dear,

    I think  thou protesteth too much on the Irishness issue, and it is such uncouth language, as it is well known that an Irishman could tell you to “go to hell, and you would be looking forward to the journey”
    I think the main issue with our foreign visitors visiting pubs especially when there is music is the very annoying video cameras and flashing photography.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeCjourno Mike Cotton

    You are about as Irish as Tony Cascarino.

  • Guest

    No good microbreweries eh? What about the Porterhouse in Temple Bar? The Porterhouse Red is awesome :)

  • Dingodoyle

    There are micro breweries in Dublin, quite a few of them. And Guinness is not the be all and end all of stout. Porterouse sells local micro beers and another bar down by the GCQ.  But apart from that… do take off the hat when walking into a bar… or a restaurant! Hell, indoors is not a place for hats!

  • JNI Matt

    looking for a job in Ireland? Check this website: http://www.jobsnewsireland.com/

  • Easyeasyeasy

    What a smug condescending xenophobic patronising poorly written ‘article’ (more like a facist Irish pub manifesto), by a man who is about as Irish as Tony Cascarino. Take your hat off? Americans are known for trying to shout over each other…. really? And an Irishman does not get to lecture others about getting wasted, but nice try! I am mildly embarrassed, but mostly annoyed that this silly little bigot has clearly never been to America and possibly Ireland.

    Take your hat off? It’s tradition is it? Seriously!? And not knowing what to give a Yank when they ask for ‘chips’ is a sign of idiocy. We watch American TV all the time; do you think they watch Fair City & Glenroe?

  • Robyn Draughon

    Read and heed. And share.

  • Keith St Clair

    Wow talk about pretentious… It is very funny to me as a student of history to see the Irish lecturing anybody about any form of etiquette. Besides which how dare anyone try to tell me how I am allowed to enjoy a drink, especially if I payed good hard earned money. I certainly do not advocate ruining anyone else’s good time and would grant that most Americans are in fact boorish, but at least we don’t tell people how they are allowed to drink. Cross Ireland off my list of places to visit…

    • You Shook Me All Night Longs 30th Birthday!

      Twat.

    • Grammar Nazi

      paid*

  • Liam Bouquet

    Thank you for this. I am going to Ireland in the Spring for half a semester, and I am reading up on all the traditions and practices so I don’t look like a fool or lose any possible contacts or friends. I generally just don’t want to piss people off.

  • Joey Leckey

    this is truly enjoyable to read, lets hope its rubs off on some people.

  • Anonymous

    I find it odd that people honestly believe that intellectual conversation takes place in an Irish pub. That is fucking HILARIOUS!

  • Dee Imma Newbie Cranney

    disagree with the bar staff earning enough, almost always get paid the minimum wage, or in some cases, way below it.

  • Teresa Fletcher

    Thank you for this list..Even though I am a 2nd generation Irish/ American..My trip to Ireland this coming June will be my first. I was raised by Irish parents and already know of most of the etiquette of Ireland..But since I will be a visitor in another country..wanted to read up on all I can. I do not want to go over to my ancestors homeland and embarrass my family’s name.

  • Boo

    You midget micks, the potato famine left your brains malnourished and you’re a bunch of undeveloped pricks. Get off your high horses

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