Here are some tips for those of you with Irish blood in your veins who are considering making your first trip to Ireland.

This advice is primarily directed at Irish-Americans/American-Irish but in my opinion it should be helpful to first-time visitors from other shards of our Diaspora as well.

This advice on how to make your holiday more enjoyable all round is genuinely offered in a wholesome spirit of truly trying to assist.

1. You are genuinely welcome to a country which has always prided itself on the warmth of its welcome, especially to Our Own. There is nothing false or self-seeking about the Cead Mile Failte that you will get both at the airports and beyond. It is in our nature to smile and greet total strangers with real pleasure and curiosity. We are a tourist country, too, and well aware of the benefits of that. Don't be afraid to respond in kind.

2. And this is especially for those of you who are Irish-American: We do not normally talk quite as loudly as you do. It is a fact. This is a relatively quiet island with only one or two real cities. Listen more than you talk for the first hour and you will find exactly the right volume for the pitch of our conversations. It is easier all round if the most of you turn down your vocal volume.

3.  Look closely throughout your first day and you will see that there are not many thatched cottages any more. Neither are there many donkeys and carts, leprechauns, people using the word "Begorrah", shillelaghs, shebeens, or other such postcarded icons of what we are supposed to be. We have dramatically lurched into the new Millennium atop a new prosperity which has sharply narrowed the gap between your economic realities and ours.

4. Avoid using the phrase "The Ould Sod!" at all times.

5. Do not, for the first three days at least, announce to all and sundry that your great-grandfather was an O'Reilly who emigrated from some rural area of Cavan in the time of the Famine and your great-grandmother was an O'Sullivan from some part of West Cork. We will not remember them. In those years we exported ten million O'Reillys and O'Sullivans.

Just say quietly, when asked, that you have some Irish ancestry and barely develop the information on request. Nothing terrifies us natives as much as the perennial torrent of requests of a Roots nature. There are many professional agencies that you can employ for a relatively small fee who will do this job very well indeed for you. Ideally you should contact them before you come so that you can then go directly to Bawnboy and see the ruins of the very cottage from which Wee Seamus O'Reilly emigrated all those years ago.

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6. Our evenings begin between nine and ten in the evening and last for as long as possible. Try to organise both your biology and your schedule in such a way as to recognise this reality. Nothing is so sad for us as to see you going home to bed before the craic even begins.

7. Our pubs are frequently small and you tend (a) to travel in groups and (b) on average, to be physically larger than we are. It would be good to get into your chosen pub about 8.30pm in order to secure a table that will not be available much after 9.15pm (because of other tourists, frequently Orientals). Also, when selecting early seats, check with the barman that you are not appropriating the seats reserved for the Irish musicians who will begin to straggle in about 9.00pm and then you will have to move.

8. Here you pay for each round of drinks as they arrive. The tab system is not widespread. It is also better not to leave your change on the top of the bar. Put it in your pocket and don't be tempting the weak ones amongst us. We have a few of those amongst all the Saints and Scholars.

9. Don't, for God's sake, try to "do" Ireland from Cork to the Giant's Causeway in two days, sixteen hours, and ten minutes flat. You will miss everything worthwhile that way. Have an elastic schedule, especially in the West, and go with the flow of Life. Genuinely I would recommend that you stay in Galway City for at least two days and nights. And if you go to the Aran Islands do stay overnight.

10. And finally, in relation to your hired car, do fill up in the big towns because it can be very difficult indeed to find a filling station open in many rural areas after eleven in the evening. The paradox is that the supplies of petrol dry up earliest in the very places where the craic and sport tend to run richest and fullest.

I might return to this matter later. In the meantime remember these first tips. And enjoy yourselves.



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