As a second-generation Irish American growing up in the US, I was lucky to get to spend every summer and Christmas with my cousins in Ireland. We’re all a bit weird – we’re family, after all! But here are a few differences my Irish cousins have pointed out.
1. We pronounce the same words differently.
“Tomayto,” “Tomahto.” “Book,” “Booek.” And they’re forever asking me were the “T” goes when I say the word “water.”
2. We have different words for the same things.
Fringe? Bangs. Boot? Trunk. Tip-ex? White-out. Runners? Sneakers. It can make for some funny miscommunications. Don’t even get me started on “fanny pack” (bum bag).
3. I don’t put butter on my sandwiches.
A healthy slathering of butter is a central ingredient to the Irish sandwich, but it’s never really caught on here in the US, where we prefer our mayonnaise and mustard.
4. I prefer coffee to tea.
I have no problem knocking back the cuppas when tea is what’s on the table, but if given the choice I will always opt for coffee. And honestly? I can’t taste the difference between Barry’s and Lyon’s!
5. I don’t get very dressed up for a night out.
The first time I was in Ireland and of drinking age, my cousin asked me if I wanted to go with her to the local one night. I watched in fascination as she spent two hours running a straightening iron through her hair, applying a full face of makeup and a layer of spray tan, strapping on high heels, and picking out a dress I would have deemed suitable for my senior prom in high school. I, on the other hand, left on the top and jeans I’d been wearing all day and half-heartedly dabbed on some lipstick. You know what? I was definitely the odd one out that night as all the girls in the pub were dressed to the nines.
6. I think I’m Irish.
To my Irish relatives, I’m their American cousin. But having grown up second-generation Irish American, I also embrace my identity as an Irish person. When we were younger, this led to some screaming debates, with them telling me I’m American and me asserting my Irishness. We’ve since learned to agree to disagree, and it’s all in good humor.
7. I love Taytos more than they do.
Maybe it’s the unusual (to an American, at least) flavors like Cheese and Onion and Smoky Bacon, but I’ve loved Taytos since I was about four years old. They’re one of the first things I eat upon landing in Dublin, and my family humors me by always buying me a massive 24-pack bag for Christmas. It’s impossible for me to reciprocate because they do not feel nearly that degree of passion for any American snack foods.
8. I forget about buying rounds.
On a night out in the US, when it comes to drinks, it’s every man and woman for themselves (unless someone is trying to pick you up, of course). In Ireland, friends out together will buy drinks for the group in rounds. While I really admire this system, it still baffles me slightly (what if everyone’s drinks cost different amounts!) and I always forget about it. There’ve been so many times I’ve felt very rude for coming back to the table with just a drink for myself.
9. I’m into American food fads before they get to Ireland.
Coconut water, kale, quinoa, goji berries, Greek yoghurt. I’ll tell my Irish cousins about the latest health food trend from the US and they’ll look at me like I have two heads. One year in Ireland I found edamame in a small health food store, made some as a snack, and was asked why I was eating hairy peas. The next year? Tesco and Marks & Spencer are stocking the shelves with exactly the same.
10. I always try to tip at bars and restaurants.
Call me a creature of habit, but tipping is so ingrained in my brain that I can’t wrap my head around the idea of not giving a bartender or restaurant server a few extra quid. No one has ever protested, but my cousins do often roll their eyes and remind me that I’m not in the US anymore!
Are you an Irish American with Irish cousins? Or an Irish person with cousins in the US? Share some of the differences you’ve noticed in the comment section, below.
* Originally published in August 2015.