When in Ireland, Do as Muintir Na hEireann Do

In which are described some of the different words and things to be found on the Green Isle.

As interesting as trips and beautiful sights are, everyday things also keep life in Ireland interesting. Here are some things that it might be handy to know should you ever go to visit.

Irish Words

Footpath: Sidewalk.

Car Park: Parking lot

Term: Semester

Tap: Faucet. One of my friends in the fencing club had apparently never even heard the word “faucet”.

Sweet: Candy. Or, if you are one of my other friends from Tae Kwon Do club, “surprises”.

Fizzy Drink: Soda. You’ll also see them called “minerals” in restaurants and shops, but apparently nobody actually uses that in conversation. :P

Chips: French fries. Most people know that one, but I had to mention it.

Crisps: Potato chips.

Class: As in “That’s class”. Impressive, cool or otherwise really good.

To Let: For rent. Bathroom signs usually read “Ladies/Mens Toilet” and clever university students often scratch or black out the I in “toilet” in an apparent attempt to rent out anybody who goes in.

Cheers: Can be used like “thank you” or “good-bye”.

Ground Floor: The first floor. What we would call the second floor is actually the first floor, etc. I think this is common in European countries.

Craic: Prounounced “crack”, it just means fun. The word “crack” meaning cocaine is also in use, so just make sure you know which was meant.

Trolley: Supermarket cart.

Pissed: Drunk. Different from “pissed off”, which still means angry.

Taking the piss out of you: Teasing, but in fun.

Banter: The kind of talk used when taking the piss out of someone.

Leaving Cert/FYP: Graduation test/Final Year Project.

Laser: Credit/debit card. As in “Will you pay by cash or laser”?

Till: Cash register/check out.

Shopping

Grocery shopping in Ireland can be a complicated affair if you are not properly prepared. People from the United States are spoiled with free carts and their choice of paper or plastic.  Not so in Ireland, but read this and be prepared for anything.

First of all, you need something to put your food in. Some stores have baskets for free use, but not all. Otherwise I hope you have a €1 or €2 coin, because you’ll need it to get a trolley. The trolleys are chained together at the front of the store and you have to insert the proper coin to release one. Sound expensive just to hire a cart? Never fear: upon your safe return of the cart, just connect its chain back to the row of carts and your coin pops out again. Genius, really…you don’t see carts drifting around and putting dents in people’s cars in Irish parking lots. No basket and no change? You’ll just have to go about it the ghetto way: if food is stocked in cardboard boxes, just find one that’s almost empty and steal it to carry your items around in. I’ve done this the last two weeks shopping. >_<

Most grocery stores do not give you bags, so you had better bring your own. If you forget, you can get them at the till, but you will be charged around 40 cents for a plastic bag or more for canvas bags and freezer bags. I usually bring my backpack and a plastic bag or two. By the time you get to check out, you had better be ready to move fast. Cashiers don’t mess around and they whip items across the scanner with blinding speed. If you don’t keep up by packing items as they come across or putting them back in your trolley/box, you’ll have a few awkward minutes holding up the line while you move your stuff.

Bathrooms

Ireland is the nation of dodgy bathrooms. Don’t be surprised to find toilets that don’t flush, soap dispensers with no soap, doors that don’t close and dryers that don’t work in a lot of them. Ireland has increased my frustration with “automatic” dryers and taps due to spending even more time waving my hands around like an idiot trying to get them to function. I can’t really say why bathrooms should be so unsatisfactory regardless of where you go, but it really makes you appreciate the nice bathrooms you find in the better hotels and restaurants.

Food

 Ireland is more known for its beverages than its cuisine, but here are some interesting food items.

Wheat Bisks: Extremely dry ovals of oatmeal-like stuff sold as breakfast cereal. You’re supposed to mix them with milk I think, which results in a brown mush. All I will say is that you had better eat that because I don’t want to clean that stuff out of a bowl.

Fruit Pastilles: An interesting name which just means gummy candies coated in sugar.

Blackcurrant: A flavor that seems to replace grape or blackberry in foods like jam and candy.

Elderflower Soda: Not very common, but I did come across it in Dublin. Tastes kind of like a less-sweet version of sparkling grape juice.

Bulmer’s: A kind of cider that comes in apple, pear and berry flavors. It’s not too strong and you can get it in pubs if you don’t care for “the black stuff” (Guinness, of course). In Northern Ireland you can find a similar cider called Magner’s.

Bacon Ramen: Bacon flavoured instant noodles. What more can you say?

Brown Sauce: A condiment found in most restaurants. What is it, exactly? Well, it’s…uh…brown sauce. The taste evades accurate description, but it’s kind of like less-sweet barbecue sauce.

Soda: Is made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. In other words, Europe is full of “throwback” soda. Don’t be surprised if it tastes different.

Beef Stew and Clam Chowder: Popular “real Irish” dishes.

Digestives: Thin, crunchy cookies. You can find them plain or chocolate-coated.

Titan, Aero, Roar, Romeo, Wacko, Dreemy, Jive bars: Various kinds of candy bars. Of those listed, I like Titan (chocolate-coated nougat and caramel) bars the best.

Yorkie Bars: Another kind of candy bar, but worth mentioning on its own because the packaging is mysteriously labelled “YORKIE: It’s NOT for Girls!!” and I have yet to discover why.

Beans on Toast: A popular, easy breakfast food. Sounds weird, but actually quite tasty.

Black and White Puddings: Not your kindergarten teacher’s pudding. Black pudding is made from blood heated until it congeals and white pudding is made with pork meat, fat and suet. I just put these in here to mention that I did try them and they actually weren’t too bad.

The Irish Language

Still as much of an unpronounceable mystery to me as the day I landed in Dublin. You don’t pick up much Irish unless you’re taking the class since most people don’t actually speak it. Signs are always in both Irish and English, but without knowing pronunciation rules of Irish, I still can’t read it. While people in the U.S. seem to think they’re being “proper” in referring to it as Gaelic, most people in Ireland just call it Irish. Irish is only really spoken in certain towns or areas called Gaeltachtai where language revivalism is big. While efforts are being made to bring Irish back, the official language of Ireland is still English.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “When in Ireland, Do as Muintir Na hEireann Do

  1. Mom

    I am impressed you actually tried Black and White Pudding. I don’t know if I would have done so. >.<

  2. Rae

    I still think Chinese loos beat Irish ones, since they have no seat and are often an open trough which gets flushed once an hour…if you’re lucky. ;-) I love reading about your adventures though. Go Sarah! One day you and I will have to go back to the Emerald Isle.

  3. A lovely list – made me homesick. @Mom black pudding is superb!

  4. Anna

    So all of the supermarkets are like Aldis? Makes sense. Run by the Germans.

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