Ireland vs. United States Comparison

What makes Ireland so unique compared to the U.S.?



One of Ireland’s most beautiful sites.

Elesia Guerra, Editor-in-Chief

Ireland is known for being home to the Cliffs of Moher, but it’s also famous for the Book of Kells and the Blarney Castle and Irish brown bread and Butlers chocolate and the Guinness Storehouse. While visiting Ireland for the first time over spring break, I experienced these treasures. They are unique places and delicacies that I will never be able to encounter in the States. These weren’t the only things that were specific to Ireland. There were many cultural differences that I noticed between the United States and Ireland. If you are thinking about visiting Ireland, these are the differences that you should keep in mind. 

One of the main differences in Ireland compared to the U.S. are the cars and the roads. In the U.S., we drive on the right side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the left side. Well, in Ireland, you drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right side. During my visit to Ireland with my family, we rented a car, which my mom drove. When my mom was setting up the details for renting the car before the trip, she requested the bigger option for a car. That bigger option was not that big compared to cars in the U.S. Luckily, it did fit suitcases for five people which we were grateful for because most cars in Ireland are much smaller. We picked up the car in Dublin, a busy city filled with taxis. My mom was figuring out how to drive on a different side and with different street rules that she didn’t know, such as which streets she could and couldn’t turn on. At one stoplight, she was trying to turn but there were cars coming, so we didn’t know if she could actually turn. Immediately, a taxi driver behind her started non-stop honking at her until she just drove straight. The city drivers, especially taxi drivers, were not friendly. We ended up driving around in a circle twice because the streets were confusing. As we drove on the highway and in the countryside, my mom got the hang of driving and people in other cars were not as harsh towards her. The only issue with driving in the country was that the roads were very narrow. At times, one car would have to stop so that the other car could go before continuing. The roads weren’t the only difference because they also had to tape signs with a letter in their cars. There was the letter “N” for novice taped onto cars for drivers in their first two years of driving. The letter “L” for learner was taped onto cars for drivers that had their permits and needed an adult in the passenger seat. 

Another main difference is the lifestyle between the people in Ireland and the people in the U.S. The people that live in Ireland have a slow-paced lifestyle. They take their time in enjoying whatever they are doing. Each time that we went out to eat, throughout the different counties we visited in Ireland, people savor their meals. They make eating out an experience. My family had to ask for the bill after we finished our meals. In the U.S., I feel like we have more of a fast-paced lifestyle. We are always in a rush and are not patient. Whenever we eat out, the waiter brings the check to the table as soon as we are done eating or asks if we want it. I feel like eating out is just eating food in the U.S. and not really enjoying other people’s company. The staff at the different restaurants in Ireland were giving us the time to appreciate who we were eating with and savor delicious food. All of the food we ate in Ireland tasted impeccable. The ingredients were fresh and not made with the artificial ingredients that are used in the U.S. In Galway, my family ate at a McDonald’s because we wanted to try the different foods that they had there. I ordered a chicken wrap meal with fries and a diet coke. It was superior to the McDonald’s in the U.S. in the way that it tasted healthier. The fries did not have the same salt that is lathered on them in the U.S. and the ingredients like the lettuce and tomatoes tasted fresh. Also, there was no fountain drink station so you could not re-fill your drink. The large-size cup was what the medium-sized cup would be in the U.S. That was a common difference that I noticed in Ireland because in the U.S. we are used to large cups, fountain drinks, and refills. When I went to a restaurant in Ireland for dinner, I ordered a diet coke to drink. The diet coke that came was from a glass bottle that was poured into a cup with ice and again there were no refills. I appreciated the fact that they were making our dining experience more exquisite. Also, I reveled in following a healthy lifestyle because I don’t get it in the U.S. 

A difference that I also noticed was how people acted in Ireland versus the U.S. While in Ireland, the locals were very nice and welcoming. When we were visiting Cashel, a woman stopped us in her car and gave us a card for the restaurant that her daughter owns in town. We ended up going there and had a very pleasant eating experience where we appreciated our time together. In Dublin, however, some of the other foreigners—people from other countries—were not so friendly. They would not make room for us to walk on sidewalks and did not care if they bumped into us. In the U.S., we usually say sorry to other people if we accidentally bump into them, but that was not the case for the other foreigners in Dublin. It was hard for us to be not as nice as we usually are because it was not a mannerism that people had there. 

All of these differences were very eye-opening to me. I am very grateful to have gotten to experience the culture in Ireland because I didn’t realize how different their culture was in comparison to the U.S. This travel experience allowed me to think about how I want to live a more healthy lifestyle where I embrace moments with others. Ireland holds unique treasures that you should try to experience at some point in your life because, like me, you could be positively affected.