The Irish goodbye

I’ve just learned what an Irish goodbye is! Until now, if you’d asked me, I would have probably shrugged and mentioned John McCormack’s wonderful song, Terence’s farewell to Kathleen.


But, apparently, an Irish goodbye isn’t the romantic, moving affair I was imagining. Quite the opposite. It’s when someone just buggers off from an event without saying a word to anyone. People don’t habitually do this in Ireland, so I have no idea of the origins of the phrase, but being half Irish myself I feel entitled to incorporate it into my vocabulary.

It will no doubt prove to be useful because I am quite the fan of this method of leave-taking. Sometimes I just need to be at home right NOW and find myself incapable of performing the standard social niceties.

In Barcelona, this is has proved to be something of a problem. What we might call the ‘Mediterranean goodbye’ is a process. First, you must say goodbye. To everyone. Individually. With kisses. Not to mention the other expressions of well-wishing and the required see-you-soon-isms. Do do anything else would be the height of rudeness.

I actually think this is an admirable custom, demonstrating a touching respect and warmth towards others, but when you’re standing on the Ramblas at 4am in a group of 20 people, half of the names of whom you can’t remember, it does lose its sheen somewhat.

The key to a well-executed Irish goodbye is, of course, to slip away completely unnoticed. You can’t pretend to be nipping to the bar or the bog, you can’t say ciao to some people and not others, you can’t be seen scrabbling around in the coat pile for your umbrella. You must, quite simply, disappear.

*Update* It has been drawn to my attention that the Spanish call this the ‘despedida a la francesa,’ or ‘french goodbye.’ It is clearly one of those undesireable character traits universally attributed to one’s unfortunate foreign neighbours, whomever they may be…

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