Surprising Facts about Ireland

Posted by Madeline M on the 20th of February 2012 at 16:07:11

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This is my 4th month in Ireland now. I came over from Germany in October ’11 and – probably like everyone who hasn’t been in Ireland before – I came here with certain expectations and, of course, a basic knowledge about the country. Time passed and day after day I found out that some of the stereotypes we have about the Emerald Isle and its inhabitants are absolutely true, whereas others... as you might guess, proved to be entirely false. The Irish love drinking beer... but you won’t see them more drunk than Germans (or any other nationality) at the weekends. They love green clothes... but only during rugby or soccer games. They are famous for whiskey and Guinness... but there’s actually more on the menu that’s worth trying.
During my time here I learned a lot about Ireland, its people and its culture. There were a few things I knew before, there were many I didn’t know, and there were some that absolutely surprised me when I heard about them. Well... I don’t want to deprive you of what I found out:^^


Guinness Nigeria1. The Irish love their Guinness, but...

...there are other countries that consume even more of that black stuff. On the list of the “No. 1 Guinness Drinkers” Ireland only ranks at number 3. It used to be the second largest market for Guinness behind the undisputed number 1 - the United Kingdom, but was overtaken by Nigeria in 2007!

Who would have guessed that?! Although there are no precise numbers, it’s said that net sales of Guinness in that year were up 18% in Nigeria whereas sales in Ireland have been slipping for several years. It’s even expected that Nigeria will finally overtake the UK and become the largest stout market globally in 2014! Guinness is one of the most successful and best known beers worldwide and therefore it’s not only brewed exclusively in Ireland. Guinness breweries are spread all over the world – one of them is to be found in Nigeria. The fourth largest consumer of Guinness is the US whilst Cameroon is fifth. If you want to know more about Guinness, make sure you visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin City.


Saint Patrick2. St. Patrick – A true Irishman?

Ireland is the native country of some of history’s most famous figures both ancient and modern. It created names like Joyce, Wilde and J.P. Holland as well as – more recently – Colin Farrell, Bono and Michael Flatley. We all know people linked to this island, but there’s one name that forms a big blinking “Ireland” in the head of each of us: Saint Patrick! Who wouldn’t think of the Emerald Isle, St. Patrick’s Day, shamrocks and leprechauns when hearing that name!?

Well, I’ve got some shocking news for you now: St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish!!!
St. Patrick was born in Britain around 390 A.D. to an aristocratic Christian family. His original name was Maewyn Succat and obviously he hadn’t shown any interest in Christianity until he was 16. That was his age when he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. After working as a shepherd for six years – he was said to have prayed daily and that’s what made him survive – he was able to escape and he managed to return back to his family in Britain. However, a vision he had a few years later told him to go back to Ireland as a missionary. He began religious studies and after his ordination as a priest 15 years later he was sent to Ireland. Today, St. Patrick is the patron saint of the country and celebrated as the man who brought Christianity to the Irish.


Barack Obama on his visit in Moneygall3. The roots of Barack Obama

“Barack Obama is the first African American President of the United States of America.” True! But did you know that he has Irish ancestors as well?
Barack Obama's great-great-great grandfather was a shoemaker in Moneygall, a small village in County Offaly, and his son, Falmouth Kearney, left for New York in 1850. So when Obama visited Ireland in May 2011, he surely couldn’t resist the invitation to visit his ancestor’s hometown. Since the recession hit Moneygall as much as the rest of Ireland, the village was rather poor-looking before the prominent visit. But after several Irish companies had donated paint etc., houses have been given a fresh coat of paint, potholes have been filled, buildings pressure-hosed and pavements replaced.

Eventually, Barack Obama’s visit was a full on success!
When you drive through Moneygall today, it offers a beautiful (though unusual) image: the whole village is dominated by the Star Spangled Banner. You can see it everywhere – on houses, in window displays... There is even one house that has the American flag painted on it! If you find yourself in the Offaly area one day, you really should take a few minutes and visit Moneygall. I’m sure it’ll bring a little smile to your face! :-)


Sign with Guinness Advertisement4. Blood Donation in Ireland – “Guinness is good for you!"

This one is my absolute favourite: Just until recently you got a free pint of Guinness after donating blood! Wasn’t that the best idea ever? A pint for a pint! ;-)
However, in November 2009 Guinness’s parent company Diageo finally ended this unusual tradition and stopped providing complimentary pints to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS). The end of an era. Diageo declared that this tradition wouldn’t suit the “Guinness style” any longer as the company had abandoned promoting the black stuff as a health benefit a long time ago.
Instead, blood donors are now offered a cup of tea or a non-alcoholic drink, along with biscuits and small presents for their kids, like pens or key-rings. And fortunately, the number of people volunteering to give blood hasn’t decreased since the decision to scrap the bonus pint, although… in my opinion, it’s a pity! It seems so typically Irish…


Irish Coffee5. Irish Coffee & the Americans

Irish Coffee – the ideal drink while spending a relaxing evening with friends or to warm up your bones on a cold and rainy day… I love it (though I’m usually left feeling tipsy after one glass)!

Just last week I found out about its origins: it was invented “with the help” of Americans! According to sources the story of Irish Coffee began on a winter’s night in 1943 in Foynes, Co. Limerick. Foynes was an airbase – the precursor to Shannon Airport – and it was on a particularly cold and miserable night when a group of Americans landed there after a long Pan Am flight across the Atlantic Ocean… longing for a hot and strengthening cup of coffee. As back then they were in the middle of the 2nd world war, coffee was quiterareand the head chef at Foynes only had bad coffee left. Desperately looking for a solution he finally got an idea: he poured whiskey in the watery coffee, added some sugar to conceal the bitter taste and served the coffee. The American passengers loved it! When one of them asked if it was Brazilian Coffee, the head chef just answered: “No, it’s Irish Coffee!” Isn’t that a nice story? :-)

Foynes airbase doesn't exist anymore. The former terminal buildings are now hometo the Foynes Flying Boat Museum which holds an amazing range of exhibits and illustrations of times when Foynes was the centre of the aviation world.

So, what do you think? Did you know all of that already? Or do you know a funny and surprising fact about Ireland yourself? Why don't you read about some of Ireland's interesting wedding traditions?!

Please feel free to add as much facts, news, etc. as you want! I’d love to hear your stories…

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