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Wondering What It's Like to Date in Ireland? Get Insider Tips, Tricks and Advice

 

It's a bit surreal to write an article about Irish dating from the oldest internet cafe in the world in Cambridge, England. Actually, let me correct that: the whole experience of travelling to Ireland while hearing, seeing and experiencing first-hand how people relate romantically was surreal, beautiful, and life-changing. With little hyperbole, I fell in love with almost everyone I interacted with on more than a superficial level. A part of my heart will forever be lodged in some medieval alleyway in some singsong town, where the whiskey flows as easily as the words, and a new friend is rarely more than a smile away.

So, should you visit Ireland with the express purpose to meet someone? I'd give that a wholehearted yes, even more so if you're under 35, heterosexual, enjoy being appreciated wholeheartedly, like beer and eat meat, and willing to go out of your comfort zone to meet people. Single parents, LGBT folk and older singles might struggle a bit to meet someone outside of Dublin though.Of course, this is merely a brief summary; read on for more details and must-know information.


Meeting People
If you're single and looking for a fling, romance, or possibly even a marriage proposal, the only place to go is truly traditional -- the pub or bar/disco, depending on how big a community you're in. Don't scoff at the marriage proposal idea either! In my first 28 day tour of Ireland, I received two serious marriage proposals, as well as a handful offered in jest.

Pub crawls are a great way to meet other folks exploring Ireland if you're travelling solo (as I was), otherwise, head out with your friends. Just make sure you're socializing with a mixed-gender group (or all the same gender as you if you're heterosexual); people will assume a male-female couple are partnered up and will leave you alone completely. I found going out by myself was hit or miss with regards to meeting someone, yet every time I headed out with another woman, we both invariably had success. Sometimes, overwhelmingly so.

If in the cities of Dublin, Cork, and possibly Limerick, Galway and Kilkenny, you can try dating sites, however most of the folks I found in the smaller towns primarily use them for foreigners to date, or are foreigners themselves. POF followed by Tindr house the most singles in Ireland, although you'll find a good solid base on OkCupid as well. Mind you when I was in Dingle in the fall, only one person showed up in my matches: a gay woman. (She was lovely!)

I spoke to a handful of gay, lesbian and transgendered folks while in Ireland as well, all of whom gave me the impression they felt welcome in their respective communities. Most larger cities have a gay club or bar, and I heard zero stories of violence towards anyone. Interestingly, there seemed a bigger stigma with being older (35+) and single than anything else, except for those with kids. Of the handful of single parents I did encounter (almost all male), the information was shared with a whisper and a knowing glance. One guy, trying to tease me, shared he had "two illegitimate children". I shrugged like this was no big deal, yet a nearby British man later told me that it was a huge deal in Ireland for many and that I should feign shock.


Dating
I overheard a conversation on a bus between Tralee and Limerick amongst several early twenty-something's that quite accurately described dating in Ireland. "He's doing WHAT tonight? He said he has a date?!" The girls then burst out laughing as if that was the most absurd thing they'd ever heard. To further expand, a 28-year-old male on OkCupid shared, "Dating doesn't exist here. Just random romance. Irish people somehow stumble into relationships and aren't quite sure how they got there".

If it weren't for my having spent a few weeks in Ireland exploring such concepts, I probably would've scoffed at the idea that no one dates in Ireland. "How do people get to know one another?" asked many of my North American friends, with some form of incredulous laughter. I posed the same question countless times during my trip in various ways. Oftentimes, people looked at me quizzically. One 30-year-old man in Galway told me he "had to get to know me a bit" before he was willing to get involved (in his case, that took five hours). Another man in the same town on another night was so infatuated, he kissed me without asking or even an introduction. In both cases, it was assumed we were in a relationship afterwards. One woman whispered to me to explain, "If you exchanged phone numbers? it's like a marriage proposal here. Am I joking? Well, maybe, but only a little."


Relationships
I met a surprisingly small number of couples under 40 while in Ireland. One person suggested it was because most were married and living in the country, raising their family. I did talk to many couples whose kids were grown, often with them starting the conversation by mistaking me for a local (until I opened my mouth). Once we talked a minute or two however, it was like we were old friends, and the women would frequently offer to introduce me to a "nice young man". A handful of times I walked away with an address and phone number, and the instructions to go knock on his door and introduce myself. When a bunch of these scribbled notes fell out of my pocket during lunch at a restaurant, the gay waitress told me she would have said hello, albeit perhaps with another reason than, "Mary up the street said so". When I asked why, she answered with a shrug, "Well, what if they were the love of my life?"

Another evening found me with a group of friends that included a couple very much in love, even though they didn't show it outwardly. I asked the table, "So, do Irish men cheat?" and received two answers simultaneously. "Of course!" came from the man with two girlfriends, both unaware of the other, while a lusty, "No!" came from the director with his partner standing next to him. Later in the evening, the French female of the couple gushed about Irish men. "They know how to laugh at themselves, and how to make you laugh. It's never dull," she commented, as her guy proceeded to tease me about his friend towering over me.

I'm not sure I can comment any further about relationships in Ireland, only because I had so few to draw upon. I did however find myself in one sort of accidentally more often than not, unaware that if I spent time with someone outside our initial meeting, we were considered together. Yet even with this amazingly quick and assumed bond that seemed commonplace in every town I went to, most of the folks I talked to in a relationship shared openly they were happy. The only exception I found was Dublin, where due to the sheer size of the city seemed more of a casual relationship focused community. "You can easily meet someone and never run into them again," said one Dubliner.


Must-Know Concepts and Slang
As a North American exploring Ireland, I came across a lot of dating slang, language and concepts that I had to clarify. Here are just some I found crucial in my journey.
  • Concept: teasing, swearing, and sarcasm -- an online admirer in Maynooth, just outside Dublin, summed this up nicely for me. "... if someone is overly polite with you in Ireland, they either don't know you or don't like you. If they call you a bollux they generally like you". This advice served me well during my first month of explorations, and I'd suggest keeping this in mind to anyone planning on explore this beautiful isle.
     
  • Slang: you're fit --  In North America, if someone told me I was "fit" I'd assume they were referring to my level of fitness positively, as if I were in shape. When someone from Ireland or England tells you "you're fit", they're saying you're beautiful, sexy, attractive, and showing their appreciation in a very flirty, forward way. I heard this at least six times before I thought of asking someone if it meant something different; I would blush and get embarrassed up until this point, thinking people were making fun of my weight. Little did I know, they were complimenting me (albeit in a randy, very cheeky fashion).
     
  • Slang: sound --  Depending on where you are in Ireland, this can mean different things. An endearing gent in Galway told me "it's like 'cool' at the end of a sentence, the closest approximation there is", whereas a gaggle of giggling teenage girls in Limerick said it was more along the lines of "you're cool, or solid".
     
  • Concept: extreme friendliness -- While perhaps not completely dating-related, I'd say it's a pretty important thing to understand about Irish culture regardless. On a daily, sometimes hourly basis, complete strangers would go out of their way to help me. So as an example: my first day in Dublin I got horribly lost due to the lack of street signs, Google maps misdirection, and the bus system's assumed familiarity with each and every stop. A random young man asked me if I was lost, and when I explained where I was trying to go, offered to take me there and show me around. Initially, I thought he was trying to make his interest known, but I quickly learned that while he may have found me interesting, he was really just wanting to help. By the end of the day we were having tea and talking like old friends, and I'd gotten a tour of the city by a local, for free. Almost every day in Ireland found myself in a similar situation, and I learned to look forward to these random acts of kindness, conversation and education.
     
  • Slang: shifting -- I need to explain the concept of shifting fully, which will take an article of its own: What Does Shifting Mean in Terms of Irish Slang?



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