I know quite a few native Irish people, in particular, my husband of nine years, his family, his friends, and many of our mutual friends. Like most Europeans, the Irish find the United States fascinating because of the sheer volume of people, diversity of cultures, consumer products, the prevalence of gun violence, and the fact that everything is on sale, all the time. Large cars (anything bigger than a Honda CRV) scare them. They move here to achieve the American Dream, which includes owning an American-sized refrigerator. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I've created this list of 26 things Irish born people uniquely find fascinating about America.
1. The entire mixed-sex public school system, from riding the bus to being able to wear whatever you want. In Ireland, the majority of high schools are single-sex and Catholic, so their high school experiences vastly differ from Americans'.
2. Relatedly, movies and television shows about American high school. Girls showering together after gym class, violent crime committed by high schoolers, and sexual intercourse among teenagers, in general, all fascinate.
3. American women.
4. American weddings, including the short best man speech and the open bar. In Ireland, after the wine served with dinner, guests pay for their own alcohol. Additionally, the speeches (yes, plural) typically last over an hour.
5. Baby showers, wedding showers, and rehearsal dinners, which simply do not exist in Ireland.
6. Tipping -- who and how much. Not just at restaurants, but taxi drivers, bartenders, and hotel staff.
7. American beer. Men drinking light beer. In Ireland, only women drink Coors Light beer, on the rocks.
8. Eating sweet things for breakfast, i.e., whipped cream on waffles or pancakes. Pancakes.
9. Other food that doesn't exist in Ireland: the many forms of pretzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and iced tea or coffee.
10. How many selections it takes to order breakfast at a restaurant: how would you like your eggs, which type of toast, which type of potatoes, sausage links, sausage patty, or bacon, and how would you like your coffee? Very few places in Ireland serve breakfast and when one does, you're simply asked, "Do you want the full breakfast" and you answer "yes" because you're curious as to what exactly you'll be served. Usually, it's two eggs over medium, white toast, sausage links, baked beans, bacon, and pudding, called a fry-up.
11. Why it took Americans forever to text. Texting in Ireland was popular in the late 1990s, well before Americans took to it.
12. Not being able to get into bars until age 21. The legal drinking age is 18. In reality, the actual drinking age (for getting into bars) is 16.
13. One-page résumés. In Ireland, CVs are pages long, and include obscure hobbies.
14. The number of hours Americans work and the lack of vacation weeks given for holidays.
15. American sports, including American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. The length of baseball's season -- is 162 regular-season games necessary?
16. American slang, including the usage of the words awesome, dude, and ride (a ride in Ireland is a shag, while a lift is a car ride).
17. Why Americans find the use of the Irish words massive (anything big, like a massive sale, a massive night out, a massive house), craic (pronounced crack, but means news, gossip, fun, or a good time, but not drugs), and lovely (the weather, a meal, an outfit, all can be described as lovely) confusing.
18. Bill Clinton, who, coincidentally, was one of the few American Presidents that doesn't claim to be Irish.
19. Things Americans think are Irish, but are not, such as Killian's beer, kilts and bagpipes, and Lucky Charms cereal.
20. Claiming that trendy baby names are real Irish names. For instance, Nolan, Kennedy, and Rylan are not Irish first names, while Caoimhe, Siobhan, and Cian are. Pronounce those.
21. Air conditioning, forced air heating, and basements.
22. Thanksgiving, fireworks, hatred for immigrants (wasn't America founded by immigrants?), and Americans' lack of geography knowledge.
23. Being ¼ Irish. If you have a mixture of nationalities, you are, by definition, an American.
24. Your need to tell an Irish person about an aunt or grannie that was born in County Kerry.
25. The amount of people claiming to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. The number of people wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. Dyeing a perfectly good beer green. Despite these minor complaints, they love celebrating St. Patrick's Day like the rest of us. It is, after all, a holiday centered around drinking and socializing.
26. Americans' fascination with the Irish accent. In my experience, they all love to throw it on to impress. Just compliment it, and they're be sure to lay it on even thicker. They are rightfully known as a culture that is rich in storytelling, folklore, and exaggeration.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.