I tend to avoid stereotypes the best I can because, for the most part, they create artificial and unnecessary separations between people, and the majority of stereotypes are negative. Lumping huge groups of people together under one or two defining characteristics seems rather preposterous if you really take a moment to think about it. And although stereotypes are generally rooted in some distant truth, I have found it easier to to disprove them then the contrary. The Irish, however, have lived up to one stereotype in particular that I very much had hoped was true.
Ever since I made the decision to study abroad at UCD in Dublin, many people have told me time and time again that the Irish were an exceptionally gracious and welcoming people. I’ve had no real reason not to believe this to be true, but I kept my reservations. As it turns out, every Irish person I’ve met in the few days since I arrived has been exceedingly nice and hospitable. In interactions as simple and fleeting as checking out at the local market or handing the bus driver a few coins, I’ve noticed a significant difference from those same interactions in America. Very few words are said in such instances, but the way in which the Irish look at you straight in the eye and ask, “Hey, how are you,” carries a warmth and sincerity that I am certainly not accustomed to.
I think America’s intense focus on individuality has dampened our natural human connection. It’s a very simple thing to do to extend a genuinely friendly “hello” to a stranger walking down the street, and that simple kindness could pull an individual out of a dark state of mind or simply improve his or her day. The unsolicited kindliness of the Irish has reminded me that I belong in this world simply because I exist. And this is true for every person in the world. I don’t mean to say that I have never met a friendly stranger in America, but I have yet to meet an unfriendly stranger in Ireland, and I came here without knowing a single person.
As for the other Irish stereotypes, I think I’ve gathered enough information to weigh in on a few of them. They do, in fact, love their potatoes; any Irish person will not hesitate to verify that stereotype. They literally have potatoes with every meal. I’m not afraid to try new things, but I decided to pass when I was offered a certain type of potato sandwich the other day that is, apparently, very popular over here (bread, potatoes, mayonnaise). And I would be remiss not to mention the pride of Dublin: the Guinness. I’ve tasted Guinness a handful of times in the States, but I didn’t find it to be anything special. In Dublin, however, the Guinness is a cold, creamy deliciousness that tastes a bit like chocolate milk. The pubs are just as I’ve imagined them, and there is wonderful live music in most of them. Overall, I’ve found several of the stereotypes about Irish folk to be quite true (the positive ones), but I will continue to explore and observe.
I’ve only scratched the surface over here in Ireland, and I intend to make the most of my time here. The other thing I wanted to mention was that the Irish call their language, which I knew to be Gaelic, simply “Irish”. I’ve learned a few Irish words since I’ve been here, and I’ll leave you with this one.. Slainte! (means good health and is commonly used when raising a pint)