Visiting Ireland is essential for curious travelers, bookworms, and historical enthusiasts.
The “Emerald Isle” beckons with ancient culture and traditions, natural beauty, and some big surprises. You may have studied up about Irish culture, but there are some common assumptions about Ireland that may not be right.
From shamrocks to shillelaghs, here are some things you didn’t know about Irish culture:
1. The National Symbol of Ireland is a Harp
The shamrock has reached iconic status as a symbol of Ireland, but the official national symbol is a harp. Ireland adopted “The Coat of Arms” harp as its symbol in 1922, after achieving independence.
2. Nigerians Buy More Guinness Than is Sold in Ireland
Nigerians adopted St. Patrick as their nation’s patron saint in 1961 and Guinness sells more of its brew in Nigeria than it does in Ireland. Still, you’re bound to find the famous drink in any pub you enter.
3. The Irish Drink More Tea than Beer
The Irish actually drink more tea than the British, and they are second only to Turkey in tea consumption. You’re bound to find the kettle on in any Irish home you enter.
4. Ireland is a Tech Haven
Ireland produces 25 percent of all computers in Europe. The nation is one of the largest software exporters in the world. For a country that’s so rich with history, they certainly have made their technological mark.
5. Shillelaghs Were Made for Fighting
If you have ever heard of the Irish shillelagh, you probably think of it as a walking stick. But shillelagh sticks were originally for fighting and self-defense.
6. Most People of Irish Descent Don’t Live in Ireland
Eighty million people of Irish descent live someplace other than Ireland. The world’s population of citizens who trace their roots to Ireland is 14 times greater than Ireland’s population.
7. St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish
Ireland’s patron saint was probably Welsh, and came from across the Irish sea, taken as a prisoner by Irish pirates. Legend has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland—and it’s true that Ireland has no snakes.
[Be sure to check out our post on St. Patrick’s Day history, traditions, and customs!]
8. Ireland’s Newgrange is Older Than the Pyramids
Stone Age people built Newgrange, a tomb in the Boyne Valley, before Stonehenge existed and even before the Egyptians constructed the pyramids. Clearly, when it comes to historical marvels, the Emerald Isle has it in spades.
9. The Irish Language Has No Word for “Yes” or “No”
There is no way to translate “yes” or “no” into Irish. An Irish-speaker answers a “yes” or “no” question with words that translate as forms of verbs—the answer to “do you want to go out to dinner” would translate as “I do/I do not,” or “I would/I would not.”
10. Artists and Writers Can Sell Their Work Tax-Free
According to Irish tax law, in some circumstances, writers, composers, and visual artists don’t have to pay tax on income from the sale of their work. “Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 allows the Revenue Commissioners to determine that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Earnings from these works are exempt from income tax from the year in which the claim is made.”
There’s so much wonder to discover in Ireland, along with many more surprises. A trek to the “auld sod” should be on any devoted traveler’s life list. Thanks for reading!