The language of love can very, very easily get lost in translation. What may be perfectly acceptable when dating in Ireland can warrant a well-aimed slap in the face in the U.S.
Remember: it was America that invented “dating.” It’s not an Irish concept – but one that has been imported from across the Atlantic.
And even though it’s an American import, the rules for dating in the U.S. differ vastly in many ways than the rules for dating in Ireland.
As such, this brief guide is intended for the Irish male who finds himself at a loss at what to do when dating an American girl.
(We at Irishcentral.com take no responsibility for possible assaults, drinks over the head, etc. that can happen in the application of this guide. Use at your own risk!)
1. Try not to get too drunk
This especially applies when you are on a first date. Although Irish girls are often fairly unimpressed at the sight of their date slurring his words and talking to inanimate objects, in many cases, it is the Irish girl who is even more drunk than her partner for the evening, so this problem can be avoided, and the Irish male doesn’t have to be as careful in not getting too hammered. In general, however, American girls drink far, far less than Irish girls. And they can get pretty disgusted at the sight of their date making a total fool of himself.
This rule is probably the most critical in this guide – but is one that the Irish male typically grapples with the most. Remember: Americans often go on dates that are non-alcohol related – which can involve things such as “cups of coffee” and not going to the pub. The standard response from the Irish male to this activity in this situation might be: But where will my confidence come from?
It must come from within. When the date does take place in a pub or bar, the Irish male should take care to remember that the graph showing the relationship between pints and charm looks like this: it goes upwards initially, levels off after about three or four, and then at about six pints it takes a dramatic nosedive. In other words, it usually takes about six drinks before charm turns into sleaze.
2. Pay for everything
The U.S. may be the birthplace of the modern feminist movement, but when it comes to picking up the tab for drinks and dinner, American females are thoroughly old-fashioned. American girls will inevitably expect you to at least offer to pay for dinner, and if you do offer, most will gladly accept. The same goes for drinks. If you are on a first date, and you don’t offer to foot the bill, don’t expect a second. It doesn’t matter that she is better educated than you, earns more than you and is likely to outlive you. She'll still expect you to pay. That’s just how it is.
4. Play up the accent
If you have a fairly neutral Irish accent, then scrap it quickly – you won’t sound very “Irish” to the American girl you are trying to impress. Go and watch “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” and try to talk like some of the characters in that movie. Sure, you won’t sound genuinely Irish – simply because no one in Ireland talks like that – but the girl you are on a date with won’t know that, and probably thinks that everyone in Ireland talks like Sean Connery in the 1959 classic.
Throw in a few Irish expressions here and there – even ones we don’t really use, like, “To be sure, To be sure.” Add a few more that you know the girl won’t understand, thus making her curious, playing up your Irishness and impressing her.
5. Think of non-alcohol related date activities
Be creative in where you take her. Remember (as per point one) that Americans are not nearly as pub-centric as Irish people and don’t need alcohol at every social occasion. Take her to an art exhibition and impress her with your knowledge of the early modernist period…
6. Be chivalrous
You don’t have to put your coat over a puddle of water on the sidewalk so she doesn’t wet her shoes, but you do have to hold doors open, pay for drinks (see point two), pull out her chair and so on. As a rule, you can’t go wrong with chivalry with American women.
7. Try not to talk about your mother
Yes, it is hard being away from home and yes, no one makes bacon and cabbage like your mother can, but try to keep these details to yourself. If you go on too much about your mother, you will reconfirm a stereotype that your date probably already has about Irish guys and their mammies. So keep the mum discussion to a minimum. On the other hand, your date may be relieved to hear that your mother has no interest in being her new best friend.
8. Make vague references to a troubled past
Some Americans have a romantic idea of Irish people as inherently troubled. This may make you seem more attractive in the eyes of the American you are pursuing, so play this up. If you had quite an idyllic childhood, then fabricate. Come out with lines like: "I remember the day the soldiers came to the village...They took every last man, woman and child...The screams, I still hear the screams...” before gazing away sadly into the distance. Refuse to elaborate, adding to your mystique.
9. Don't forget where you are from
Your true Irish character might frighten them, but that’s okay. You do not need to pretend you are the personality that they would imagine an Irish person to be. Let your bitterness, begrudgery and down-to-earthiness shine. You might lose her, but you will still be YOU.
*Originally published February 14, 2011