10 typical Irish stereotypes

10 typical Irish stereotypes

by Ciara Gillan

Updated November 8, 2022

Ireland often appears in top ten lists as either the most expensive country in Europe to live in or having some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. But what about the Irish themselves? Is there a typical Irish person? Often depicted as the rowdy, fighting Irish with a greater love for drinking than for working, are these stereotypes really true? We’ve collected the top ten typical Irish and Celtic stereotypes to help you learn more about Ireland.  

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The top Irish stereotypes – are they true?

1. They love to fight.

This is perhaps one of the most famous stereotypes about the Irish. They love to fight. Depicted in many films as the fighting Irish and having won several Olympic medals for boxing, one would be forgiven for thinking this is true. In fact, the Irish are more of a proud nation.  As a former colony, you could say they spent many years fighting against an oppressor. This has perhaps ingrained a need to protect themselves. But they are more of a fun-loving, make peace not war, type of people. But of course, they are very proud of their Olympic boxing heroes, in particular Katie Taylor.

2. They like to drink.

This is a well-known Irish stereotype and one they struggle to dispel. It would be inaccurate to say that the Irish don’t like to drink. The home of Guinness is very proud of their famous export and do enjoy a nice pint at any occasion. But attitudes towards excessive drinking has changed over the past ten to fifteen years. While alcohol is present at many events, changes have been made to disassociate drinking with every day culture, such as sporting events.  All that being said, if an Irish person ever invites you to a drinking competition, watch out. They probably have hollow legs (an Irish phrase for meaning they can drink a lot).

3. They all have red hair.

While Ireland does have the highest percentage of people with red hair per capita, this is in fact only 10% of the population. Back in the day, it may have been a strong indicator that someone was Irish if they had red hair but that’s not the typical Irish person. Nowadays, red hair can be found naturally far across the world in places like Mongolia, Israel and China.  

4. They’re extremely religious (and conservative).

Had you visited Ireland twenty years ago, this stereotype would still have been true. However, these days, Ireland has become a lot less religious and conservative, having recently voted in favour of gay marriage. The Irish were always known for their strong emigration. However, in the nineties due to an upturn in their economy, a lot of Irish people returned home. Bringing with them a stronger desire for separation between the church and the state and more open viewpoints. 

5. They Irish dislike the British.

This is not true. As a former British colony and its closest neighbour, their relationship has at times been fraught (you may be hard pushed to find an Irish person supporting England in football). But this love/hate relationship between Ireland and England is more akin to sibling rivalry than anything else. England being the older sibling and Ireland the younger one trying to prove its coolness.

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6. They’re obsessed with the weather.

This stereotype has a little bit of truth to it. Of course, if you spent three hundred days of the year waiting for warm weather, you would be obsessed too. Irish weather is worthy of a world study. Famous for having four seasons in one day, the weather can be both wild and beautiful at the same time. And sure, it’s a great conversation starter. Who can’t talk about the fine spell we’re having today (an Irish phrase for a few hours of good weather).

7. All they eat is potatoes.

It is fair to say that the Irish do like their potatoes. Being such a versatile vegetable, it has warmed the hearts of many an Irish person. From roast to mashed potatoes, they do enjoy finding different ways to add that vegetable to their plate.  However, to say that’s all they eat is no longer a fair assumption. With a large influx of international communities across the country, the cuisine in Ireland has greatly evolved.

8. They can’t take a compliment.

The Irish are certainly a modest bunch. Many of them struggle to enjoy a compliment, often feeling the need to return the nicety or reduce the compliment to nothing by criticising themselves in response. So when you tell an Irish person you like their outfit, be prepared to hear about how they found this old thing in the bin.

9 . They like to talk and talk and talk.

Yes. Watch out.

10. They are an extremely friendly bunch.

It’s fair to say that the Irish are friendly but there was a period of time during the Celtic Tiger that the Irish lost that natural charm. Thankfully due to a sharp return to reality – amid a financial crisis in 2008 – the Irish regained their loveable and friendly ways. Be prepared to meet inquisitive and talkative – see no 9 above – Irish people wherever you go. 

Some phrases to remember when you meet an Irish person

  • That’s some weather we’re having today. – This can be used when the weather is good or bad. 
  • Are you on for a pint? – Do you want to meet for a drink?
  • You’re looking fierce well! – You look great.
  • That’s deadly! – That’s fantastic.

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Ciara Gillan is an Irish writer living in Berlin. An avid storyteller with a Masters in Creative Writing and love for crime fiction podcasts, she currently works as a copywriter for Lingoda. In her spare time, she writes audio fiction scripts, is brushing up on her high school German and is currently learning Spanish. You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter and on her side hustle website, Reckless Fascination.

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