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Last updated : Nov 2009
Ireland Social Profile
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Food and Drink

Ireland is a farming country known for its meat, bacon, poultry and dairy produce. The surrounding sea, rivers and inland lakes offer fresh fish including salmon, trout, lobster, Dublin Bay prawns, oysters (served with wholemeal bread and Guinness), mussels and periwinkles.

Dublin has a large selection of restaurants and eating places to suit every pocket, as do the other major towns. Self-service and table are both common. The most typical Irish dishes will be found in a country restaurant, and include corned beef and carrots, Irish stew and boiled bacon and cabbage.

Some other local delicacies are crubeens (pigs' trotters), colcannon (a mixture of potatoes and cabbage cooked together), soda bread and a soufflé made with carrageen (a seaweed variety). Tourists's should note that ‘tea’ is often a full meal with sandwiches and cakes.

Pubs, of which Ireland has many, are sometimes called ‘lounges’ or ‘bars’ and there is often a worded sign rather than the traditional painted boards found in Britain. Pubs and bars have counter service. The measure used for spirits is larger than that used in Britain, an Irish double is equal to a triple in Britain. Irish coffee is popular drink of strong black coffee, brown sugar and whiskey with cream. The two most internationally distinctive products are whiskey (spelt with an ‘e’) and stout.

Guinness, one of the most famous, popular and distinctive beers in the world, is found everywhere and Murphy’s is as widely available. One of the most popular of lighter ales is Smithwick’s or Harp Lager.

Irish whiskey has a unique characteristic flavour and is matured in a wooden barrel for at least 7 years. The most popular brands are Jamesons and John Powers Gold Label, but others include Paddy, Tullamore Dew, Old Bushmills, Midleton, Reserve and Hewitts. As popular as whiskey is stout which is bottled or served from the tap. Liqueurs such as Irish Mist and Bailey’s are both made from Irish whiskey.

Licensing hours: Monday to Wednesday 10:30-23:30 hours. Thursday to Saturday 10:30 to 00:30 hours and Sunday 10:30 to 23:00 hours.

Legal drinking age: 18, although some bars will require that patrons are over 21 and carry ID.


It is common to find pubs holding seisun, playing traditional Irish music with traditional instruments.

The dance halls and discos of previous eras have been replaced with clubs similar to those found in the UK and Western Europe. Special events and themed nights take place at special attractions such as the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. There is a good choice of theatres and cinemas.


Special buys include hand-woven tweed, hand-crocheted woolens and cottons, linen, sheepskin goods, gold and silver jewellery, Aran knitwear, pottery, Irish crystal and basketry.

Shopping hours: Monday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:30/18:00 hours. Many towns have late night opening on Thursday or Friday until 20:00/21:00 hours. Smaller towns have one early closing day a week.

It is possible to claim VAT back on goods bought in Ireland on leaving the EU. For further information, contact the VAT Administration Branch, Stamping Building, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 (telephone: (1) 865 5000; fax: (1) 874 6078; email: vatinfo@revenue.ie).

Special Events

The following are some of the many festivals and events held in Ireland in 2007:
Jan 1 Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Day Parade, Dublin
March Six Nations Championships (rugby union), Dublin
Mar 17 St Patrick’s Day, nationwide
Apr 1-30 Samhlaiocht (Kerry Arts Festival), Tralee
May All Ireland Drama Festival, Athlone
Murphy’s International Mussel Fair, Bantry Bay
International Maytime Festival, Dundalk
Fleadh Nua, Ennis
Entennman’s Irish Guineas Weekend
May-June Sligo Arts Festival
Heineken Green Energy Festival, Cork
May Early Music Festival, Galway
June Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon
Music in Great Irish Homes Festival, nationwide
Bloomsday Festival (celebration of the Irish writer James Joyce), Dublin
Dublin Writer’s Festival
June-Aug Diversions Temple Bar (summer festival of contemporary arts), Dublin
June-July Dublin Pride (gay and lesbian festival)
June Budweiser Irish Derby, Newbridge
July Smurfit European Open (golf tournament), Staffan
Galway Arts Festival; Garland Sunday Climb, Croagh Patrick, Mayo
July James Joyce Summer School, Dublin
July Galway Film Fleadh
July Nissan Irish Open, Portmarnock
August Muff Festival; Puck Fair, Killorglin; Fleadh Cheoil nah Eireann (traditional Irish music competition and festival), Listowel
Aug-Oct Matchmaking Festival, Lisdoonvarna
August Waterford Spraoi Street Festival
August Kilkenny Arts Festival
August Rose of Tralee International Festival
September Galway International Oyster Festival
September Padre Pio Sunday, Knock
Sep-Oct Dublin Theatre Festival
October Wexford Opera Festival
October Guinness Cork Jazz Festival
December Winter Solstice at Bru na Boinne, Slane
Social Conventions

 The Irish are gregarious people, and craic can be heard everywhere. Oscar Wilde claimed: ‘We are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.’

 Close community contact is a part of the Irish way of life and everywhere there is an intimate small-town atmosphere. Pubs are often the heart and soul of a community’s social life.

 Visitors will find the people very friendly and welcoming. A meal in an Irish home is normally a substantial affair and guests will eat well.

 Dinner is the main meal of the day and is eaten in the evening.

 There is less formal wear than in most European countries and casual dress is widely acceptable as in keeping with a largely agricultural community. Women often dress up for smart restaurants and social functions.

 Handshaking is normal practice, and modes of address will often be informal.

 Smoking is acceptable unless otherwise noted.


The customary tip in Ireland is 10 percent. Most hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill.

It is not a custom to tip in bars unless you have table service when a small tip is advised. Tipping porters, taxi drivers, hairdressers is customary but not obligatory.
Useful travel links
Ireland dining guide Guide and tips to dining in Ireland