Ireland Gift Giving Customs

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Flag of Ireland: Vertical tricolor of green, white and orange

Capital: Dublin

Currency: Euro

Official Religion: Catholicism

Government: Republic, Parliamentary Democracy

Ireland is a popular destination with a history dating back as far as 6000 BC, Ireland is a country full of traditions. From Irish dancing and leprechauns, to cabbage and mashed potatoes... for the Irish, family is everything. Dedicated to a slower lifestyle, the Irish prioritize time for friends and family. The children are always included when entertaining. Even when family members move away, their ties to home remain strong.

How you speak says a lot about you in Ireland. For the lyrical and poetic Irish, speaking is an art form. Known for their quick wit, the Irish pride themselves on finding humor in all situations. Insults are often traded among friends. If you will be visiting Ireland, expect to be teased. And if you are, don't take it personally! Know that it is acceptable to tease back if done so in a good-natured way.

Gift Giving in Ireland

  • When giving flowers, don't give lilies as they are for religious occasions only. White flowers symbolize death and are used for funerals.
  • Gifts are usually opened in front of the giver. When receiving a gift it is customary to politely refuse a gift when it is first offered. When giving a gift to someone, expect him or her to do the same.
  • The same is true when offered a gift of hospitality: refuse it once and maybe twice. The third time it is offered, you should accept. This custom may have come from the days of the Potato Famine. Although people had nothing to offer, they could offer the hospitality of a cup of tea or other without embarrassment. By offering a third time, the recipient was assured that accepting the gift would not cause the giver hardship.

Business Gift Giving

Corporate gifts are typically not exchanged in the Irish business culture. However, for business social events, small gifts are appropriate – a bottle of wine or a gift from your home country. Most Irish businessmen are golfers, and business is often conducted on the golf course, so golf gifts are popular. The gift is even more appreciated when customized with the logo or identity of your club or hometown.

Saint Patrick's Day


Ireland's largest festival in March, the Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, includes colorful parades, traditional music and Irish dancing all around the country. The Irish love to party and people fill the streets. It is no wonder that on Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone claims to be Irish -- opting for the green of the Irish flag to express their "Irishness" wearing green hats, green attire and shamrocks.

Saint Patrick, although Ireland's patron saint, is actually not from Ireland, but from Britain. He was taken prisoner from his home by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland to work as a shepherd. After escaping and returning to Britain, he received a vision from God telling him to return to Ireland to spread Christianity. The story of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland was most likely symbolic of putting an end to pagan practices, which disappeared from Ireland in the centuries after St. Patrick's missionary work.

Why the Shamrock?


In an attempt to explain the Holy Trinity - The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit - Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain how they could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. Thus, the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

Irish Pubs

The Irish love their pubs. Not only a place for a drink, the pub is at the center of their social culture. The national drink is Guinness stout. It is usually served cool, as opposed to most other beers, which are served at room temperature. Beer usually comes in pints or half-pints and a "pint of plain" is a pint of Guinness. Whiskey spelled with an "e" means Irish whiskey and is usually drunk neat or with water - never over ice. Refusing a drink can be perceived as an insult in Ireland. Be sure to buy a round of drinks, a common courtesy in Ireland.

If you are planning a trip to Ireland, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • A firm handshake with a smile is the common greeting.
  • Always be sincere. The Irish dislike pretentious behavior and do not trust people who lavish excessive praise.
  • Direct eye contact is important. People who avoid eye contact may not be perceived as trustworthy.
  • Avoid controversial topics in Ireland: the English and immigrants, the Americans and the Irish, and religion - a sensitive subject with the issue of Protestants and Catholics.
  • Blend in! Don’t wear bright colors – opt for conservative wool and tweed.
  • Don’t forget your raincoat – you will need it year-round.
  • For the Irish, work can be perceived as a 'necessary evil.'
  • When in Ireland, do as the Irish do.

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