5 shocking things you'll discover if you're Irish in the U.S.

TransferWise content team
3 minute read

Thinking of moving to America? You’re not alone. In fact, there are more than 125,000 Irish emigrants currently living in the U.S.

Ireland and the U.S. have a lot of cultural similarities, with both countries boasting friendly people, hard work ethics and beautiful landscapes.

However, there are some differences that Irish TransferWise customers shared they noticed upon moving to the U.S. Here are five valuable lessons that you'll learn when making that big move.

The tipping point


In Ireland, most people round up to tip, with a 10 percent tip only granted at the fanciest of restaurants with exceptional service.

Irish servers are paid a minimum wage that they can live on, so much of their income doesn't depend solely on tips. Yet in America, where the federal minimum wage is just $2.13 an hour for people who recieve at least $30 a month in tips, it is important to always tip 15 to 25 percent of the bill. The total can run closer to 25 percent at fancier establishments or where an extra effort was made in the service.

It is also customary to tip for everyday services such as taxi rides or haircuts, and at the same rate (usually 20 percent) as a good restaurant meal.

The food is actually good


American food may be perceived as being served only in large portions, on large plates, and lean a little towards the greasier side.

In Ireland (and much of the world), American food doesn’t get the best reputation, and for good reason, with 'cheese' slathered on nachos and fries looking and tasting like some chemical experiment, and rubbery hot dogs that are questionably meat.

Yet, with a growing farmers market trend in many cities and a huge diversity of food from every corner of the globe, you can also find some of the tastiest options in the U.S. And several supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s bring you gourmet quality at prices you would associate with Lidl and Aldi back home.

The dining habits


Americans are big on finger food, and rarely will you catch them eating a hamburger, slice of pizza or burrito with anything but their hands.

When they do dine with utensils, they only use a knife if they really need to cut something, like a huge piece of steak. And when they do pick one up, they employ the ‘bait and switch’ method, passing the knife and fork back and forth like it’s a foot - ahem, soccer ball.

Also, noted Ian, an Irish emigrant in New York, 'Americans will call all of their cutlery "silverware" even if it’s made entirely of plastic.'

There's less time off in the workplace


America is the only developed country without paid annual leave, and even national holidays such as Martin Luther King Day and Columbus Day don’t always mean time off, even for blue collar gigs.

Many jobs will offer two to three weeks of paid holidays, but many employees don’t even take this. 'The "American Dream" comes with a work hard mentality, but sometimes people overdo it', says Colleen, an Irish emigrant in San Francisco.

Try to hold back some of those words


Whereas swearing seems to be used really f@&king liberally in Ireland, even between co-workers and especially in the pub, in the U.S. it is not as common.

With exceptions for some parts of the U.S., or after a round of drinks, people are more sensitive to swear words. In Ireland, people also seem to poke fun at each other more, and utilize sarcasm around more readily as a way of showing their fondness for each other. That said, the U.S. is a huge country and the culture you’ll find in Queens, New York is a lot different than what you'll find in the middle of Ohio.

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