The Irish are justly famous for their hospitality but the flip side of this welcoming tradition is that, in every Irish household, there are unwritten, but ironclad, rules of conduct.
Many of these rules seem so normal to Irish people that to see them written down in black and white seems just as hilarious as the fact that we follow them without thinking.
The following list of ten things you should never do in an Irish household by blogger Robbie Dunne will remind Irish people everywhere of the quirks and oddities of growing up in Ireland.
Let the heat get out
When you walk into a room and don't close the door behind you in the middle of winter, you’re asking for “a mouthful of abuse” or “a slap on the side of the head, depending on how close you are to the offended party.”
Let the fire go out
To let the fire go out on your watch is seen as a sign of pure laziness and selfishness. “This might seem a little dramatic but it is true. You will never be able to own your own house or live alone if you can't simply 'throw a few briquettes on the fire'’.
Leave the immersion on
You can go to hell for this one. The ultimate act of laziness and selfish disregard is to leave the immersion on. The usual response from Irish parents are something along the lines of ‘where do you think the money comes from??’ while helpfully informing you that it doesn’t grow on trees.
Leave the curtains pulled later than 9 o’clock in the day.
Leaving the curtains closed usually means no one has bothered getting up yet so the usual Irish mammy response to forgetting to open the curtains in a room is, ‘"They'll think we're sleeping all day"’.
Throw your dinner in the bin
This is something you simply don’t do. Most farm households will have a scrap bucket for their dogs that everything from a leftover potato to the quarter of a dodgy Indian curry you brought home on a night out will make its way into.
Boil the kettle with no water in it
Making the mistake of boiling a kettle without water is simply a waste of good tea-making time not to mention that it turns the mundane kettle into a lethal explosive device according to many Irish parents. After we’ve been warned about the dangers of exploding kettles and picking bits of metal out of our faces for the next month, we learn to pick up that kettle and give it a good shake before boiling.
Make tea for yourself without offering some to the rest of the family
Irish families have a mental scoreboard in their heads, so although you may think you have gotten away with conveniently forgetting the rest of your family while making a lovely cuppa for yourself, it’s been noted, recorded and shelved on the mental scoreboard and Irish grudges are not known for their brevity. The exception to the rule, Robbie reminds us, is the Irish son, whom the Irish mammy could simply never exclude from the tea round.
Eat a sandwich without a bag of crisps (chips)
The Irish sandwich is not something to be messed with but when in another country, one has to settle for adding second-rate crisps with our sandwiches in wistful memory of the King or Tayto taste. The most fulfilling sandwich doesn’t quite hit the spot without a packet of cheese and onion to complete it!
Change the channel when your mother is watching Coronation Street
The Irish mammy is the queen of multitasking and juggles 20 things with one hand and does the ironing with the other while shouting at her children to open the curtains and keep the heat in but when she finally settles in to watch her beloved soap, it’s more than your life’s worth to change that channel.
Never question what your father is doing out in the garden
No matter what bizarre fashion of digging, hammering, and noise-making that your father is putting all of his strength and concentration into, don’t ask why. There will never be a satisfactory answer to this question so it’s better not to ask. Robbie Dunne’s mother would regularly answer his question with ‘“Leave him off, sure he’s happy”’.
Never try and disrupt the natural order by not sitting in the same assigned seats every time you're sitting together
This can often be disturbed by a returning son or daughter who's returned from college for the summer or the like but in general, when families sit down to watch TV together, everyone has their favorite spot and God help you, if you don't stick to yours.
Source: Robbie Dunne article on ‘10 things you don’t do in an Irish house’
* Originally published in 2013, updated in April 2023.