Since the end of September I have been back in college undergoing the ordeal of a postgraduate degree in conflict studies. Most of my fellow students are international (that’s ‘foreigners’ in Ireland) and a good many are also fellow bloggers. It has become something of a thing among the bloggers to publish their impressions of Ireland and life in Dublin. After a month of being here they seem to have mastered the basics in understanding the locals and their Irish ways. After having lived in Dublin for almost two decades I have often thought about the quirky little differences between here and Scotland, but I have never thought about writing them down. It’s about time I did.
Growing up in Scotland the Irishman was almost always the butt of every joke. In fairness, most of the time this was just good old fashioned bigotry, but sometimes these jokes did reflect something of the cultural differences between us.
An Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman were on a flight to Lourdes. Out of the blue the captain comes on the intercom and announces that the plane is going to crash. The Englishman suggests that they should do something religious, and the others agree. He starts to sing ‘Nearer my God to Thee,’ the Scotsman begins to say the Lord’s Prayer, and the Irishman whips out his hat and takes up a collection.
Ireland is weird to Scottish people. Everywhere I have travelled on this island people have been keen to welcome me as a fellow Celt and assure me of how similar our two countries are. They’re not that similar. At bottom the Scots and the Irish think differently. Ireland completely lacks the uptight austerity of Scotland’s Calvinist heritage, and has a cultural gentleness that often bamboozles the shorter tempered Scot. When someone dances in the middle of O’Connell Street I see a mental case, but the locals admire the spectacle of someone who has been touched.
The Norman knights land in Wexford; they meet loads of vikings and irish people "Story boys" "Story" "We are here for fighting" #CelticKings—
Queen Meave (@MeaveofConnaugh) November 07, 2015
The weather’s the same, but where my normal is to see dreary and miserable rain my Irish friends are quite content to say “Ah sure, it’s grand. It could be worse.” Scots aren’t as optimistic as their Irish neighbours. This is the optimism of taking up a collection during a plane crash. When it snows in Scotland people expect the local council to have cleared the roads before they get up in the morning. Nothing is more important to the Scottish soul than to have suffered pure misery – and be able to tell people about it – in a heroic effort to get to an equally miserable job. Here in Dublin the merest flurry of snow shuts the city down. Why would the corporation have any salt?
Big stuff – serious stuff – is always made smaller. Mental cases and catastrophic weather just aren’t a problem. Decades of armed conflict and a bombing campaign gets called The Troubles. Not a war; that would be too serious. The Troubles! Mentalness is on a completely different sliding scale in Ireland. Every bit as much as Irish people have a habit of making big stuff small they make small things big. Have you ever seen the Dublin Mountains? I’ve seen bigger paps on a goldfish. The epic size of these bumps on the landscape is an Irish, or rather a Dublin, imaginative creation; forming more of a psychological impenetrable boundary between the civilisation of Dublin and the Bog.
Scots love coming to visit Ireland. It’s like going to visit your eccentric auntie during the summer holidays. In sometimes quite unquantifiable ways the rules are a wee bit different here. Stop signs are more like sensible advice than orders with legal implications. People give beautiful backhanded compliments and mean them sincerely. I like living here.