The pub is the center of the social universe in Ireland. It's much more than just a drinking place - it's where families mark births, deaths, birthdays and Christenings, and where sports fans come to cheer on their teams. Many an Irish couple first met one another in the pub.
When tourists come to Ireland, they often spend a lot of their time in pubs - so the possibilities for pub etiquette misunderstandings are endless. There are a number of practices to be aware of. With this in mind, Irish Central has come up with a guide to pub etiquette, to help avoid red faces all round!
If you're out with Irish people in Ireland, you'll certainly be offered a drink as one person usually goes to the bar for everyone. This is called "getting your round in." But be warned: that offer is on the unspoken condition that you return the favor.
The problem is that no-one will remind you when it’s your turn. And if you forget to get your round in, people will start talking about what an asshole you are behind your back.
This story illustrates the point. A few years back a new guy, Seamus, started at my brother's company. During his first week on the job, Seamus went out for drinks with his new colleagues. He thought they were all being very generous buying him drinks all round. The following morning, word had gotten out that Seamus didn't buy his round. From there on in, his future prospects were dimmed.
The moral of story? Probably the worst thing you can do in a pub in Ireland (aside from singing a few bars of “God Save the Queen”) is shirking from the responsibility of rounds.
Do this once, and it will take years to redeem yourself. When it comes to drinks – and indeed most things – the Irish have long memories. (Even if these memories are somewhat unreliable, dulled as they are by alcohol.)
Which would explain why Seamus is still floundering in middle management.
Couples are TWO Units!
An important point for couples to note: just because you are together, and you love one another very much, doesn’t mean you are a single entity when it comes to drinking. (Unless of course, you are sharing the same drink.) For the purposes of rounds you are two, distinct people. Meaning you both, not just the boyfriend, have to get a round in.
Tipping in pubs in Ireland is generally only necessary if you have table service. Even then, it’s not as much as in the U.S. Don’t feel bad about tipping less while in Ireland. Remember the person serving you is probably on a decent wage – the minimum wage in Ireland is over $11 per hour. Certainly, if you go to the bar yourself and order drinks – and the majority of bars in Ireland don’t have table service – there is no need to tip.
Especially in rural areas, where there are music sessions on, the pub is a place that all the family enjoy. So don't bother complaining to the barman if you see kids running around the place.
Ireland’s pub closing times are confusing. During the week, pubs serve until 11.30 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, it's 12.30 am. And on Sunday, it's 11.00 pm. In all cases, there is a half hour "drinking up time." At the weekends, because most of the pubs close at the same time, the towns and cities get very crowded at about 1.00 am - making it a challenge to get a taxi home.
Some pubs have a late license allowing them to serve until 2.30 am, the same time as nightclubs must stop serving.
In addition, pubs actually close completely on Good Friday and Christmas Day so be prepared for long lines at the liquor store on Holy Thursday and Christmas Eve. However, there are exceptions; if you're staying in a hotel or traveling on a train on Good Friday you can buy a drink.
Up until 2000, pubs had to close from 2-4 pm on Sundays – the so-called “Holy Hour.” The bizarre thing was that as long as you were already inside the bar before 2 pm you were could stay – the bar just couldn’t let anyone in during these hours.
Another peculiar law concerning drinking in Ireland, is that technically, it’s an offense to be drunk in public. Just thought you should know.
* Originally published in 2010.