If you’ve spent a decent amount of time with anyone from Ireland, you are likely well aware that they’re a straight-up bunch of lads and lassies. Unless there’s good craic to be had, or a bar stool to keep warm, the Irish just don’t have time to beat around the bush. Maybe it’s the ever-present threat of rain, or the need to get to the punchline before someone else comes out with a better joke. Who knows? Either way, the Irish get to the point and they do it quickly.
While it’s a little difficult to validate such a sweeping claim (and one that I make with love, to be clear), here are a few contrasting examples to clarify my point:
Irish greeting: What’s the story?
– meaning: Tell me something interesting
North American greeting: How are you?
– meaning: I don’t really care how you are, but social rules dictate I ask this every time we meet
Irish illness: I have the vomiting bug
– meaning: I have a virus that makes you vomit
North American illness: I have the stomach flu
– meaning: Something nasty has befallen me, but let’s not explicitly discuss the details
Irish statement: It’s a lovely day, so it is
– meaning: The weather is nice, and I agree with my own statement that the weather is nice
North American statement: Nice day, isn’t it?
– meaning: I think the weather is fine today, but I need to know if you agree with me so I can be certain of my own assumption
You see what I mean? The Irish don’t have time to mess around, so they don’t. North Americans, on the other hand, clearly have all the time in the world to dance around a subject. What a frustrating group we must be when you first encounter us.
But the differences between Irish and North Americans don’t end with our speech quirks. In fact, I think the best example of our direct versus vague attitudes lies in our licence plates. Strange example to pick, I know, but bear with me.
You see, in North America we have a licence plate system that is utterly random. Our plates are composed of a combination of letters and numbers that only let you know where and in what order the plate was produced. Informative? Nope, not really.
Here’s a few examples of American licence plates to demonstrate:
You see what I mean by uninformative? None of those letters or numbers actually means anything. And that’s not really something you would care about or notice, unless you’ve been exposed to the Emerald Isle’s licence plate system. Here’s an example of their plates:
At first glance, the Irish plate seems to meaningless too. But that’s only because you don’t know the secret yet. Here’s how to decode the plate above:
- the first two numbers (00) indicate the year the car was made
- the “D” means this car was registered in County Dublin (this is also indicated by “Baile Atha Cliath” at the top of the place, which means Dublin in Irish)
- the second set of numbers (73453) indicates how many cars were registered in Dublin before this one in the year it was made
Mind-blowing, right?! Who knew you could fit so much information on to one little metal rectangle?
But I do have to admit that my argument tends to fall apart when it comes to Irish signposts, as evidence in the image below. Although, on second thought, they’re probably designed to keep you where you are so you don’t miss out a minute of good craic…