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Common cultural misconceptions about Ireland

Known for its dark beer and red heads of hair, Ireland unfortunately falls prey to a number of negative stereotypes. Let this list of falsities help set the record straight.

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Everyone knows the stereotypes of the Irish: a green clad, beer drinking, fighting lot who speak in an indecipherable code we aren’t quite sure is English. The Irish are amongst the most stereotyped people in the world, and despite the nation’s rich history, unique culture and high ranking in international quality of life indexes, it is these falsehoods that sadly cloud perceptions of them. But not to fear: we’re put together a list of the most common misconceptions about the Irish to clear the air.

 

Drinking Culture

The most commonly held stereotype about the Irish is, of course, that they love to drink. Whilst a study by OECD in 2012 found the Irish to be amongst the highest consumers of alcohol per capita, the nation only placed 6th at 11.9 litres per capita, trailing France’s 12 and Luxembourg’s 15.3. According to Ireland’s National Documentation Centre on Drugs, Irish alcohol consumption per capita peaked in 2001 and has been in steady decline since.  What’s caught the world’s attention then is not much the Irish drink, but the jovial and vibrant Irish pub culture.

 

The word ‘pub’ is short for ‘public house,’ and is a social concept deeply rooted in the Irish psyche. Irish is an incredibly social culture, and pubs act as central meeting points where it’s perfectly fine to tea-total, so long as you’re socialising. When drinking, the Irish usually buy in ‘rounds’, which means that they will take turns buying a drink for everyone in the group. If you’re included in the round, it’s considered very rude to not buy a round yourself or to change drinks so someone has to buy you a more expensive drink on their round.

 

Broke

Whilst Ireland is historically one of Europe’s poorest countries, in the 1980s and 1990s the nation’s economy transformed into one of the fastest growing in Europe.  Following a 2008 financial crisis, the Irish economy has been projected grow due to its highly skilled, educated workforce in sectors such as ICT, financial services and media.  Higher education in Ireland is heavily funded, and in 2004 the nation came out on top in a quality of life survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, scoring a whopping 8.33 over Switzerland’s 8.07. The amount of Irish people who said they were satisfied with their lives was higher than the OECD average, with 84% of respondents saying they have more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones.

 

60% of people aged 15 to 64 have a paid job, slightly below the average of 66%. However, this is hardly enough of a discrepancy to warrant the vindictive stereotypes of Irish people not having a penny to their names.  

 

Red Hair

A much less vicious misconception about the Irish is that they all have red hair. An estimated 10% of the population have hair that classifies as ‘red,’ which whilst not quite as high as Scotland’s 13%, is still way above average.  However, 10% of a population is far from ‘all’ or ‘most’ of a population.

 

Yorkshire and Humberside in the north of England have the same proportion of redheads as in Ireland, whilst 20 million people across both the UK and Ireland were found to have the genes responsible for red hair. A study by commercial research company IrelandsDNA found that whilst about 35% of Irish people carry a red-hair gene variant, it did not match Scotland’s 36.5%, Wales’ 38% or Edinburgh’s whopping 40%.  So whilst red hair is common in Ireland, it is nowhere near common enough to explain away this misconception.

 

Now that you concerns for the Irish economy and any sort of “beer culture” are settled, start browsing courses in Ireland now and enjoy the quality of life on offer.

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.