Ireland and Lisbon

No does not always mean No

“Soyez bienvenue! Je peux vous offrir un cafĂ©, un verre peut-etre?

No, merci, c’est gentil.

D’accord. Asseyez-vous”.

This was a typical greeting from friendly Belgian people, when I first moved to Brussels in 1990, but it was a culture shock for me.

Things are different in Ireland.

In Ireland, the conversation would go like this.

“Come in, you’re welcome, can I get you something?

No, no I’m fine thank you very much.

Are you sure? Have a cup of tea, or coffee if you prefer.

No, I…..

Ah go on, I’ll put the kettle on.

Thanks very much.

When offered a drink or other hospitality in Ireland, it is normal to refuse at first. Your host or hostess will then insist and, depending on the situation, you might say no again, only finally to succumb to the third or fourth offer.

(If you really do not want anything, by the way, you will have to have a very good excuse – best to ask at least for a glass of water.

Hence, my dilemma when I moved to Belgium. When offered hospitality I refused at first, like any well-mannered Irish boy, and they took me at my word! I had to learn to adapt very quickly, to avoid going thirsty.

You can see where this is heading. Irish people often EXPECT TO BE ASKED TWICE!

PS. As implied above, Irish people may sometimes expect to be asked even three times before accepting hospitality. Here, the analogy with Lisbon Treaty referendum breaks down. There will not be a third referendum! Unlike the article above, this is not a joke.

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  1. Wonderful story, and so true. As a continental European, I have experienced this many times in the 32+ years of living in Ireland. Best illustrated in Father Ted by the housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle and her offers of tea……

  2. Thanks for this. Indeed I had Mrs O’Brien in mind when I wrote the piece but I was not sure if the cultural reference would mean anything to the readers outside Ireland (if, as I hope, I have any).

  3. RE No does not always mean No…

    I just posted this on a different entry, but I see it belongs more here 🙂

    An Irish Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults

    The Happy Family

    Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
    On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
    Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
    “So”, said Daddy Brusselsprout “Let’s all go for a picnic!”
    “No”, said Aunt Erin, “I don’t want to”.
    Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
    Oh yes they did?
    Oh no they didn’t!
    Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to the park and eat out of a lunch basket….

    Kids, we’ll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!

  4. This is the third time in the short life of this blog that I have accepted this same comment/story/fable for publication. The next time I get the exact same comment I will reject it, not to censor anyone but out of boredom.

  5. While I enjoyed both jokes, I fully understand Jim’s response.

    By the way, I hope he won’t mind my pointing to this:
    ‘Europe for Ireland’ has a website here, and notably this page that I encourage others to use if they can:

    Jim, you may also RSS syndicate your blog and others onto that website if you wish: technicaly simple.

    Some people say that the EU doesn’t take no for an answer.

    This time, let’s not take yes for granted either!


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