Saying ‘Hello’ & ‘Goodbye’ in Ireland


Which of the ways below would you normally use to greet someone in your country? (Or would you use something else?)

  1. A kiss on the cheeks
  2. Shaking hands
  3. An embrace
  4. A bow
  5. A nod of the head


Does it depend, for example, on if it’s a formal or informal situation, or would it change if it’s between two males, or between two females, or a male and female?

Which of the ways above do you think Irish people most commonly use to greet each other?


When first meeting someone, Irish people will tend to shake hands. In informal situations, a friendly greeting without a handshake is often enough. Relatives and close friends may kiss each other on one or both cheeks, a habit that has become more widespread in recent years, particularly in cities. This would not be the norm when greeting strangers.


A kiss on the cheeks would not normally happen between two men, but could happen between either a man and a woman or two women. Friends and relatives might hug, particularly if they haven’t seen each other for a while.

If you make eye contact with a stranger on the street it is considered polite to acknowledge them in some way, for example, by saying hello, nodding your head or smiling, particularly in rural areas. If you are driving in the countryside, it is normal to wave or salute at a passing pedestrian or driver.

For the most part, Irish people are relaxed and laid back about rules of how to greet each other, so if you get something slightly wrong, it doesn’t matter so much as long as you are good-natured.


Here are ten colloquial ways to say hello in Ireland!

Try saying hello like an Irish person:
Nod your head, either sideways or upwards.
Click your
tongue, smile or wink.
Say ‘Howya’, ‘Well’ or ‘How’s it goin’?’ or one of the other expressions from the video.
Try it on an Irish person and see if it works!


What situations do you think each form of physical contact below would be appropriate or inappropriate in your culture? It might depend on the social context, the relationship between the people people, differences in gender, in age etc.

  1. Holding hands
  2. Linking arms
  3. High fives
  4. An arm around the shoulder
  5. A pat on the head 


Here are some suggested answers in an Irish context.

Physical Touch 

Common In Ireland

Not Common

1. Holding hands

Between a boyfriend & girlfriend

Between parents & children

Children with each other

Sometimes between female teenage friends

Between adult males or between adult females unless in a homosexual relationship

2. Linking arms

Between female friends

Between family members

With an elderly person

Between adult males

In a business or formal context

3. High fives

Between friends

In a sporting context

Adults to children in a playful manner

In a business or formal context

4. An arm around the shoulder

To comfort somebody who is upset

Adult male friends in a social context

Male to female in a professional work situation

5. A pat on the head

An adult to a child as a sign of affection

To another adult. This would seem condescending

Do you think people use a lot of physical contact in your culture? And, do Irish generally touch more or less than in your culture?

Cultures with concepts of high emotional restraint, such as English, German, Scandinavian, Chinese or Japanese, tend to have less public touch compared to those which encourage emotion and accept frequent touches, such as Latin American, Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean cultures.


Irish people tend towards the ‘high emotional restraint’ end of the spectrum, generally not using a lot of body contact. Irish aren’t generally too comfortable with public displays of affection. Crying in public is not usual. Couples are generally quite discreet in displaying affection for each other. It is impolite to stare.

However, both men and women keep eye contact when they talk to each other and it is a sign of trust and that you are interested in what they are saying. If someone avoids eye contact it is generally interpreted negatively – the person may be lying, have something to hide or be uninterested.


What about you? How do you say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in English? 

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