Happy New Year everyone! Wow, a new decade has begun. It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since the turn of the millennium. It’s just as difficult for us to understand how much time has passed since we returned from Ireland. Especially at the beginning we noticed the differences between Ireland and Germany very consciously. Our new, somewhat different post deals with the mostly funny and entertaining differences between Ireland and Germany.
Before that, we would like to recommend our Ireland calendar for 2020. It was designed with a lot of love and passion. Each photo was taken by us in the respective month and carefully selected. We’d like to carry you off to Ireland’s different places of longing a little, so that you can daydream and relax in your every day life again and again. The calendar has already found its way into our circle of family and friends and caused a lot of joy and enthusiasm. The new year is still young. So if you’re still interested in getting your own copy, just write us a comment, an email or on Instagram.
Well, enough self-promotion – let’s start with the actual topic. 😉 Already during our time in Ireland we kept a list of the “peculiarities” that the Irish have from the German perspective. Now it’s time to share our observations with the world. Here are our Top 15 cultural shocks or rather differences between Ireland and Germany:
Howaye, Howayi or just Hiya – this is how you’re greeted everywhere on the green island, be it in a shop or just on the street. The abbreviation stands for “How are you” and simply means: “Hello!” Everyone who crosses one’s way is greeted warmly. In the beginning back in Germany we still greeted or smiled friendly at everyone. A habit that you picked up for more than 1 year doesn’t end immediately. In Berlin however, you rather receive confused looks and shakes of the head for that.
Speaking of greeting – if you’re traveling through Ireland by car, you’ll quickly be (positively) surprised that oncoming traffic greets you all the time. Since there are many narrow streets, you often have to swerve to let the other person through. But even for no apparent reason, you’re often greeted from car drivers, even if you’re only a pedestrian or cyclist. And it goes like this: You simply raise your pointer finger while the rest of your hand is still on the steering wheel, and you do that with every passing road user. Driving a car can be so beautiful! So much politeness and friendliness is often missed in Germany.
3. Car instead of Sea
Especially on beach car parks, we noticed that every second Irish car remained occupied. Instead of going out, going for a swim, a walk on the beach or just breathing in the fresh air, many Irish people simply stayed in their car to read the newspaper, have a coffee or even take a nap. That was one of the first peculiarities we noticed and it has happened again and again, regardless of the season. Can someone explain to us what this is about? 😆 We never really understood it and had to grin every time we saw it.
4. Car Driving in Ireland
Speaking of cars, let’s take a look at Irish driving skills. It’s particularly noteworthy that they’re not very good or safe, but really considerate drivers who are in no hurry at all and most likely will let you go first. In other words, they don’t always know the applicable right of way and just let you go ahead, plus they often don’t drive the stated maximum speed, not even on the motorway, where you’re only allowed to drive at 120 kmh. Of course this is unusual for a German car driver. In Germany things cannot go fast enough and if you’re too slow, people with honk directly at you or tailgate you. Also everyone in Germany insists on their right of way.
There are also some skulkers on Irish country roads. One of the reasons for this is that you can’t get anywhere without a car and therefor even very old people drive a car. In addition it occasionally happens that the traffic jams because a driver stops to have a chat with another driver from the contraflow. However, this is commonly accepted. No Irishman or woman would ever think of getting out of the car furiously and complaining or even honking.
Honking! – a no-go on Irish roads. The only ones honking here are (probably German) tourists. Honking just has no space in Ireland, after all it’s rude and a sign of hectic, hurry and time pressure – foreign words in Ireland. Well, in a country where being late isn’t an unreasonable trivial offense, it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in traffic for 10 minutes because Paddy and John are talking about the weather in the middle of the road. 😉
The common Irishman or woman doesn’t like to be rushed at the supermarket checkout either. Small talk with the cashier isn’t unusual, people just know each other and like to chat. Nobody is pushing impatiently from behind. People wait and smile patiently. Unthinkable in Germany! To be fair though, it has to be admitted that you have to wait a lot longer in German supermarkets because there are never enough cashiers. Things are different in Ireland, where there’s a lot more emphasis on enough staff and short queues.
6. Tell me when!
After a short while of everyday life in Ireland, at the latest when our car had to be repaired for the first time, we came into contact with the following “problem”: Anyone who speaks a little English knows that half-hour times are expressed like that: “Half past 3”. In order to make an appointment though, we heard time specifications like “half 3”. In Germany “half 3” means 2:30 p.m. In Ireland however, “half 3” is synonymous with “half past 3”, ie 3:30 p.m. – that kept us confused. 🙄 Wondering whether this only applies to Ireland, or is it that confusing in other English-speaking countries, too?
7. Radio Gaga
Anyone who ever went on a road trip through Ireland by car, sooner or later turned on the radio. We weren’t the only ones to notice it, but in Irish radio – no matter which channel – there’s only talking! Where’s the music? Sometimes you have to wait an hour between two songs. There’s simply more talking than usual. On German radio the moderators only briefly tell something inbetween two songs, maybe there are brief news, traffic reports or a caller. But Irish radio is the exact opposite. If you’re used to just listening to music and singing along all the time and suddenly having to listen to endless discussions about the pros and cons of cycling on Irish roads, it can be really exhausting. But over time you get used to everything and somehow it’s comforting to hear someone talk all the time. However, if you love music, I’d recommend bringing your own music for your next road trip. 😉
8. Small Talk
Besides the already learned “Howaye” and the following answer “Not too bad”, the small talk in Ireland in 99.9% is dominated by an exchange about the weather. For example, to a “Nice morning” you get a confirmation in the form of “Lovely morning” in response. If it’s warmer than usual, people say things like “It’s roastin ‘today, isn’t it?” – “The weather is deadly!”. When it’s very cold, you’ll hear something like “Jesus, it’s freezing out” – “Yeah, it’s baltic”. This can be continued almost endlessly.
While the small talk topic of weather in Germany is rather regarded as a clumsy attempt to talk because you can’t think of anything better, it’s the typical icebreaker in Ireland. But why is that? Quite simply: Because the rainy, Atlantic weather has always shaped Irish (post-)agricultural life and continues to do so until today. It’s so changeable and diverse – it’s not for nothing that one speaks of “four seasons in one day” – that you simply never run out of things to talk about.
9. Irish Living
The weather influences not only the topics of conversation in Ireland but also how people live. So you hardly see any terraces or balconies on the rainy island – instead there are plenty of conservatories, called “sun rooms” in Ireland.
In addition, an Irish home almost always has a fire place that’s fired either with wood (a rather rare raw material in Ireland) or especially with turf. We also had a cozy fireplace in our Irish cottage. However, the open fire has given way to a closable stove. Of course it usually looks different in German houses. A fireplace is a rare luxury that arouses nostalgic feelings, and sitting outside on the terrace from spring to autumn is a matter of course.
Another difference is the size of the beds. Irish beds are a lot smaller than we are used to and you have to learn to cope with them. While a double bed in Germany usually measures 1.80 by 2 meters, in Ireland you move closer together at around 1.35 by 1.90 meters – cozy! Is that due to the cooler weather? Heating blankets aren’t uncommon in Irish beds, too. Our old stone cottage was always hard to get warm, so I made use of it almost all year round.
Another specialty is wearing street shoes in your own four walls. Is it an East German phenomenon to wear home slippers or is it only Irish people who carry their dirt into the apartment? Anyway, my Irish friend laughed when we asked her to take off her shoes and put on our guest slippers when she visited us. 😆
It may sound exaggerated, but safety vests can be lifesavers in Ireland. Many roads, especially in the countryside, are narrow, winding and poorly observable. There are no cycle or foot paths here. When cycling or even walking, it’s extremely advisable to wear a safety vest, especially when it’s getting dark.
At the beginning of our move into the cottage, when we first wanted to explore our neighborhood by foot, a car suddenly stopped next to us. We thought a neighbor wanted to greet us, instead a senior citizen shaking her head asked us why we don’t wear a safety vest. Admittedly – since we were only outdoors in daylight, we never started wearing one. But other pedestrians have always worn safety vests in rural areas. An unusual sight for the German eye.
11. Where is everyone?
We feel like we were the only ones in our neighborhood who were ever outside to sit in the garden, go for a walk or jog, and to ride a bike. We were often outside, but apart from oncoming vehicles, who were wondering who was walking/jogging/cycling in the middle of the road – without a safety vest, mind you – we never saw anyone outside their houses – except for children who occasionally played on their lawn maybe. We found that really odd. No one ever went for a walk with his dog. The dogs in our neighborhood just ran around freely – straying from house to house without an owner nearby. No wonder as in Ireland nobody has fences to stop them. The properties are all freely accessible. Is anyone ever home? Is everyone at work all the time? Where is everyone? 😕 ❓
12. Irish Basic Trust
The Germans are a nation that loves security above everything else. It’s not for nothing that we have insurance for everything, everything is meticulously locked or secured. The Irish people couldn’t be more different in this respect. Several times we have observed that Irish people simply left their wallets and cell phones unattended on a counter without fear of someone stealing them. We have also seen more than once, that bicycles were left unlocked outside the door. That would never happen in Germany! Well, not without a reason – especially in German cities the cell phone, wallet or bike would be stolen in the next best moment. Where do the Irish have this basic trust in the good in people from? Are the Irish just more honest and less kleptomaniac? I wish it was the same with us. It’s refreshingly naive and soothing when you can trust your fellow human beings so much.
13. Unnecessary Accessory
Another point that caught our eye: Irish women almost never seem to use handbags – cell phones, wallets and keys are better held in the hand and put down somewhere (as mentioned in the last point). Why is that? We would like to know that! If you ask us Germans, the handbag cannot be worn close enough to the body and ideally as a breast bag so that nobody can steal anything from it. In addition, handbags are a fashion statement and you can collect them pretty nicely. 😉
14. Clothing Shock
We have sharpened this point a bit, we hope nobody feels offended. But how people dress in Ireland differs significantly from the German clothing style. We noticed quite early on – in Ireland there seem to be essentially only two styles of clothing: very sporty and extremely rigged. In Germany you wear casual clothes for everyday life, sporty ones for sports and relatively chic clothes for going out. We haven’t seen the everyday mean clothing in Ireland. In everyday Irish life, if only for a walk on the beach, women wear a complete sports outfit consisting of leggings, sports jackets and sneakers, and men wear tracksuits with sports shoes. When it comes to going out, even if only in the old pub next door, the tightest dresses, the highest high heels and the thickest make-up are fished out of the drawer, so that it really stands out for the German eyes. We are used to more natural outfits and make-ups. But that doesn’t have to mean anything bad, it’s just unusual.
15. Bitte, Danke & Entschuldigung
It’s common knowledge that the Irish are very friendly and polite folks. Everyone who has been in Ireland for a few days knows the extent of this nice way of dealing with people. For every little thing, one is to blame or not, you’ll hear an exuberant apology, even if nothing at all has happened. In Germany people unwillingly squeeze out a “Sorry!” The millionfold thanks for nullities, such as letting a person go ahead at a supermarket checkout, is also funny. You’ll hear “Thanks a million” everywhere, but you shouldn’t be vain about it. It is and remains a polite phrase, like the other idioms already presented, but it somehow makes you happy and always leaves you in a good mood. 🙂 We Germans really could take a leaf out of their book!
We hope you could pick up some new and entertaining insights. However, we shouldn’t forget the many similarities between our two countries, which have led to many emigration and intercultural exchanges. 😉
Now we are excited to see what observations you have made! Did we forget something? Did you have any other experiences? Or can you even answer our open questions? We look forward to exchange opinions and experiences with you in the comments. 😀