The Irish take pride in and passion for their culture, in sports, art, and the gorgeous natural landscapes. Most of all, they take pride in family and are welcoming to those that want to be a part of theirs. From the Cliffs of Moher to Wicklow Mountains National Park, international visitors will always be welcomed into Irish culture. Ireland is also known as the “The Land of Saints and Scholars;” while the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, Ireland was living in a cohesive civilization run by monks. The Book of Kells, which is on display on the Trinity College campus in Dublin, illuminated the culture of Ireland and Europe during this time. Many important writers and artists have come from Ireland, such as the Yeats brothers, the painter Jack Butler, poet William Butler, and C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Geography & Demographics
Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is actually a part of the United Kingdom. The total population is around 6.4 million people and it is the 3rd largest island in Europe. Ireland is divided into 32 counties with 26 of those making up the Republic of Ireland. Each county has its own cultural and historical sites to visit, but all carry the same Irish pride and hospitality.
Trains and cars are the most practical forms of transportation between the counties, but ferry boats play an important role as well. Ferries bring visitors to the Aran Islands just off the coast of County Clare, for example, where many people visit to purchase Aran sweaters made locally from the sheep on the islands and experience traditional Irish culture. There is interesting ancestry for many Irish people. Irish with black hair and dark eyes are thought to be descended from the Spanish, from the Armada that invaded Ireland in 1588. There is a heavy Spanish influence when it comes to the coastal history of Ireland. Shipwrecks and ruins can still be seen especially around the counties of Galway, Clare, and Limerick.
In the Spring, from February to April, temperature highs are from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. While there is a lot of rain in Ireland (which is why it is so green) the rain does not last long. Many people often go into the nearest pub or shop to wait the rain out. Ireland is very windy, especially in the spring, so a windbreaker jacket is a must, though, it is not always a cold wind. In late spring some individuals begin to surf in the ocean, while wearing full body wetsuits of course.
April marks the beginning of the more pleasant months, but July and August are the warmest months with 18 hours of daylight. Summer is usually the time when tourists come to enjoy the warm weather and many festivals. While it may seem like sunscreen is not needed, the sun can be pretty harsh in the summer so a hat is also advised.
Autumn is from August to October, when the highest temperatures are in the low 60s. Ireland is full of natural landscapes so autumn is a great time to see the colors change. Layering clothes is necessary because the weather can change very quickly; having a sweater and umbrella can be useful even on a warm day.
As far as winter goes, it does not snow very much in Ireland in the winter compared to other places. Although, temperatures don’t rise above 50 degrees frequently.
Food & Culture
Known as “The Emerald Isle,” the color green can be seen anywhere and everywhere in Ireland, from the lush landscapes to the many Irish flags waving over buildings and houses to the national emblem, the shamrock. The capital city of Dublin hosts some of the most famous emblems of Irish culture, such as the Guinness Storehouse, the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, and the neighborhoods where the rock band U2 was formed.
In the 20th century, much of the population was fluent in Gaelic Irish but now only a small portion of people use it as their first language. Ireland, like most other countries, has a general slang. Irish say “grand” instead of fine or okay, and “going to the pictures” means going to see a movie. There are some expressions that may seem normal, such as thanking someone for a ride home, but be aware that some have alternative meanings (“ride” is slang for having a sexual relationship with someone). If the word “crack” is heard, it does not refer to drugs or a split between two parts; craic is the Gaelic word for fun.
Being an island, good seafood is not hard to find in Ireland. Fish stew is a popular dish served in a bread bowl and can be great for chilly nights. Potatoes are the biggest staple and it is common to see them as a side dish for any meal. The Irish are also known for Guinness and whiskey, which is sometimes even used in cooking. Gaelic steak is steak marinated in whiskey, and Dublin Coddle is a pork and potato dish; both are popular in Ireland.
Irish sports culture is high on the list of passions of the Irish. One of the biggest sports in Ireland, besides football (soccer), is cycling. The Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle is one of the largest cycling charity races in Ireland, but there are many cycling events all around the country in the spring. The Gaelic Games celebrate Irish sport culture with competitions in Gaelic football, hurling (a combination of field hockey and baseball), and rounders (similar to softball).
Traditional Irish folk music can be heard live in many pubs in Dublin but mostly in pubs and restaurants outside the city. Live performances often include only a few musicians playing the fiddle, a flute or pipe, accordion, banjo or guitar, and bodhrán, a type of hand drum. Many rock bands, such as U2, Snow Patrol, Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly, are Irish in heritage.
Ireland is part of the European Union and uses the Euro for currency. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted in Ireland.
Things to Do
The best thing to do in Ireland is to take a stroll through the countryside or to sit in a pub and have a friendly conversation with a local. The Irish are humble and do not like to rush; even eating on the go is considered rude. Appreciating the little things and laughing with good friends is what the Irish have always been all about.
Teaching in Ireland
In order to teach English as a second language in Ireland, teaching candidates must have a CELTA, TEFL, or TESOL certification. Teaching English in Ireland may be working with children, but also older adults who speak Irish as their first language. Programs offer certification and teaching training often;. While some programs cannot guarantee placement, program advisors can help place individuals and acquire hands on teaching opportunities. In order to do paid work or volunteer as a teacher in Ireland, foreign visitors must have a work visa. A non-EEA (European Economic Area) applicant will first need to acquire an employment permit and then apply for the visa at the Irish Embassy or Consulate, which requires a passport, finished application, and proof of Irish employment. It can be quite a process, but well worth it.