Ireland is known for its pubs and chances are that you will be spending quite a bit of your time in those pubs during your Irish vacation. However, while it may seem easy to just pop into a pub for a pint, there are quite a few unspoken rules regarding pub culture in Ireland. When I moved to Ireland, I was lucky enough to have some locals explain them to me (although a few things I had to figure out on my own). Most tourists aren’t that lucky, and end up blundering those rules and looking like fools or worse. So, save face the next time you visit an Irish pub by knowing proper Irish pub Etiquette. Here are 6 unspoken rules of Irish pub culture.
Buy a Round
Buying a round is probably the most important part of Irish pub culture and not following this unspoken rule is an easy way to get the locals on your bad side. The Irish are fun and friendly, so there’s a pretty good chance that during one of your pub sessions you’ll end up drinking with a couple of locals. When everyone is done their drink, one person will go up to the bar and buy for everyone in the group. When that round is over, the next person buys and so on. DO NOT SKIP YOUR ROUND. A lot of tourists tend to think that the locals are just being friendly and buying them a drink as a sort of welcome. This is not the case, so pony up when it’s your turn or you will quickly lose your new friends.
Tip: Couples do not count as one; you are each having a drink so you each need to buy a round.
Be Patient with the Guinness
If you’ve been to Ireland before or know anything about Guinness, then this one is probably obvious but it needs to be on this list. Guinness is poured in two stages and needs to sit for about a minute between stage one and stage two. So if you order a pint of Guinness at the bar and see the barman fill up the pint glass most of the way then leave it and move on to something else- just hold on. He’ll be back to top it up and hand it over when it’s time. Don’t try reaching around to grab it or yell at him for leaving your order unfinished.
Always Ask Before Taking a Bar Stool or Chair
Pub stools or chairs can seem like gold on a busy night in a pub. There are always way more bodies than seats which can make things a little bit competitive. If you’re lucky enough to have one, keep it. If you spot an empty one, make your way over but don’t just take it. Ask those sitting at the table or at the bar beside it if it’s free first. Not asking, even if nobody is using it, makes you an arse. It may seem silly, but this is an important part of Irish pub etiquette.
Figuring out tipping in a new country is confusing, and figuring out tipping in Irish pub culture can be tricky too. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and tipping isn’t necessarily required, but it is appreciated. If you are getting table service, Irish pub etiquette is to leave 10-15% at the end of the night. If you’re at the bar, tipping is not expected. However, if you spent a few hours at the pub and had good service from a particular bartender, you can leave them with some extra and invite them to have one on you. It’s by no means required, but it is much appreciated.
Getting the Bartender’s Attention
Getting your order to the bartender can take a while, especially on a busy night. But, there are right and wrong ways to get the bartender’s attention. Getting as close to the bar as possible is a good start. From here, try to catch the bartender’s eye. If you’ve been waiting a while, lift a finger. But be patient, your turn will come. What you don’t want to do is start sticking your arm out of waving money in the air. That’s just not cool; the Irish look down upon those who like to show their money. When the bartender does get to you, make sure you are ready and know what you want or you’ll end up waiting again, probably for even longer.
Drinking in an Irish Pub isn’t a Race
North Americans, especially the young ones, tend to think that drinking is a race to see who can get drunk the fastest. This is not the case in Ireland. Irish pub etiquette is to drink slowly. It’s a social experience to be enjoyed with friends, there’s no rush. So, slow down or else you’ll just stick out as a tourist.
Ireland’s pubs are a ton of fun, but to really get the best experience you’ll need to be aware of Irish pub etiquette. Knowing these unspoken rules about the pub culture will only better your Irish experience.
Here are Some More Things to Know About Irish Pub Etiquette and Pub Culture
- You don’t need to dress up to go to the pub (unless it’s for a special event) but try not to look like a bum either. Jeans and a nicer shirt will be fine, but keep an eye on your footwear as well; ditch the grimy sneakers.
- The drinking age in Ireland is 18. That being said, depending on the pub, you may still see young children in the pubs, especially around meal times. It’s normal.
- Closing times may surprise you. A lot of pubs close before midnight, even on weekend and especially outside of Dublin. It varies depending on the pub, but don’t be too surprised.
- If you just order a ‘pint’ you will be given a Guinness
- You can get a ‘pint’ or a ‘glass’. A glass is half of a pint.
- You’ll need to pay after ordering every drink. Tabs are not common in Ireland.