What it’s like being Irish in England

I’m alright for the potato jokes, thanks


Every time you say the word “wee” it’s a struggle. That’s something you learn when you’re an Irish person in England, but it’s not the only thing. Prepare yourselves, they are going to judge you.

They think you know every single Irish person they’ve ever met

“Oh my god I’ve actually got an Irish mate. He’s called Sean Smith.” “Oh cool. Is he from Belfast?” “Nah, Dublin.” “Oh, well I’m from Belfast.” “So you know him then?”

Here is a list of people I absolutely do not know: Your mate Sean from Dublin, your mate Frank who lived in halls with you, the guy who works in the pop-up where you buy your lunch, a girl called Clodagh who lives in Brixton, anyone from the cast of Love/Hate, a guy who went to uni with you friend who went to QUB, your distant cousins, or Bono.

And sometimes, it’s worse because you actually do

You know what, I wish I didn’t know your friend Grainne who lives in Canary Wharf. I wish I didn’t. I want you to understand that Ireland is not a small place. That a lot of Irish people move to London, actually. That the job market is not great and the graduate opportunities are better in England. That I have friends from everywhere, not just from my city, county or country. But yes, OK, I fucking know Grainne, we went to school together.

They don’t understand their slurs

Here is a fun story. I had been in England two days, when at a party I was introduced to someone who cheerfully asked me “are you a taig?” moments after meeting me. We’re actually quite good mates now, I don’t think he meant it. You can’t hold it against them, they’re simple folk.

Your St Patrick’s Day celebrations are fucked forever

In Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is a near military operation. Your alcohol has been bought the night before, because every off license will be empty by midday. You have five pots of green face paint. Nobody has gone to class, nobody has gone to work. By 11am you are three drinks deep and feeling tipsy. You take one break to have something to eat at around 4pm, and power through. Most of your day is spent wandering around the streets, singing loudly and without words, frequent breaks to sing Rock the Boat and then throwing up in your bed. This at least, was how I spent my last St Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

This is how I spent my last St Patrick’s Day in England: I went to work, I left at 6.45pm, and I went for two pints. Nobody even wore green. I cried that night.

A rare conscious moment on St Patrick’s Day 2014

They constantly ask about The Troubles

What were they like? Did you ever see anyone die? Is your dad in the IRA? Have you ever been in a bomb?

Know this. I was born in 1991.

You will meet a lot of plastic paddies

Oh, your aunt used to live in Donegal? Your granny was born in Dublin? You spent three years living with your dad in Derry? Sorry – it doesn’t fucking count.

In a passing pub-after-work conversation you tell someone that your street had a party when Maggie Thatcher died and they give you a very dirty look

Look it’s not as if I organised it OK?

Everyone drinks more than you, but they treat you like an alcoholic

This is the thing nobody understands: Irish people drink normally. Heavily, for fun, but normally. We don’t use the word “chunder”, we don’t “bolt”,  we don’t “winepedo”. We just drink like normal people – whole bottles of wine, vomit and pints and everything – and hold it like normal people. But for some reason in England, that makes you the social pariah. You spend one evening drinking with English people and no matter how well you know or love them, they all become the enduring stereotype of pale, fleshy ex-pats, drinking piss beer on St George’s flag towels and ruining your holiday. I’m not going to be sorry that I can have a fun night chasing alcohol poisoning without listening to screams of “see it off” from English people way past their golden days at public school, now too old to find it funny.

Irish people don’t need drinking societies. We are a drinking society.

Just normal, standard, drinking

‘Do the accent for me’

This… this is just my voice. Do you mean say words? Do you mean just say words to you?

One person will always say the find the accent sexy

Which is fine by me, tbh.

Then they’ll do your accent

I once spent a painful twenty minutes (seemed longer) at a party unable to leave a situation where people were having a ridiculous amount of fun “doing my accent”. It was 4am. The party was winding down. I was feeling shit. I should have known better than to ask someone in the kitchen to move so I could get a glass of water. Cue a tortuous Greek chorus of English people crooning “Would ya like a wee glass of water would ya? Sure it’s in the cupboard so it is”. After an experience like that, you don’t find it quite so precious when you hear them throwing words like “grand” and “great craic” into their casual vocabulary while you’re around.

Then when you go home your mum has a go at you for losing your accent

It’s not my fault mummy

‘Can you speak Irish?’

No, and that’s either because ,“I actually wanted to do GCSE French” or “because your people stamped out my native language”, depending on how many vodka lime sodas I’ve had. Or, if I’m really drunk, I’ll sing you the first line of jingle bells in Irish, but only if I like you.

‘Do you know Gerry Adams?’

No, but once he was in the park beside my house and my dad made me ask for his autograph.

After any Irish film/tv show/news story comes out, you will be the first point of contact

Watching this with English friends was a two hour 15 minute ordeal:

Just Wikipedia it.

Watching the rugby is painful

In Ireland, watching the rugby is something I only did because my mum liked it. I would put up with it for her even though the anthem is fake and the rules are really confusing (sometimes she would put our dog in a tiny Ireland shirt). In London, I feel like I have to watch the match. It’s in an awful bar, and I don’t know any of the English players’ names (except Danny Cipriani). It turns out English people take rugby a lot more seriously than you expect.

In London, the “anyone but England” sporting rule does not apply. They do not find it funny when you cheer for France, Scotland, Italy and Wales in the Six Nations games. They see right through your “I just really like the experience of watching the rugby” facade. They know you’re just there to laugh at their misfortune. They hate you, and your only solace is that they hate the Welsh more.