This year, I spent the first 2 weeks of July in Ireland. I went hoping to escape the baking summer heat of Utah and ended up in the the worst heat wave Ireland has had since 2006. I left temperatures of 105 F with 18% humidity only to suffer in the FAR worse conditions of 82 F with 70% humidity and a country that has no air conditioning. I spent most of my trip with sweat running down my back and giving me rashes from sitting against vinyl car seat too long. (Let's not get too detailed about this part, OK?)
A few days ago, I blogged about driving in Ireland. Today, allow me to tell you what I learned about the people.
1) As a group, the Irish appear to be the friendliest bunch I've ever met. I've been to 23 different countries, 25 US states, and 2 territories (1 US, 1 British) now. Plus, at dozens of UNESCO dance festivals over years of performing/traveling, I've met people from many, many places I've never actually visited (like the Cook Islands, Korea, South Africa, Bulgaria, Thailand, the Philippines, Columbia, Poland, and I could type another 25 or so, but would you bother to read all that?). And I swear the Irish still win on the friendly scale.
Random strangers on the street or in stores would smile and strike up a conversation. When I had trouble finding the stupid lever to open the gas tank of my rental car the first time I had to buy gas, I hadn't been struggling over a minute when 3 guys left their own cars to help me. No one was rude the entire time I was there except for the witch of a lady who owned the B&B in Kenmare.
And, of course, I flew back home with the first stop in NYC. Heh. Yeah. Well, let's just say that New Yorkers aren't going to be challenging the Irish for the world's friendliest group anytime soon. *smirks*
2) Ireland is the palest place I've ever been. And that's saying a LOT because I'm from Utah.
It took a couple of days for me to realize that I was seeing all white, all the time, because, as I just said, I'm from Utah, the palest state in the Union. But eventually, I found myself thinking, "Are there NO brown people in Ireland? Seriously?"
I saw precisely 3 persons who appeared to have African heritage. All 3 were children and they all seemed to be with white parents, so I can only assume it was the Brangelina effect. I saw exactly 2 persons who appeared to have Chinese/Korean/Japanese ethnic background; one was a child with white parents -- so possibly another Brangelina effect going on there -- and the other was a much younger wife/girlfriend/mistress/companion/escort to a 50-something white tourist male. I saw 3 persons who appeared to have Indian or Pakistani background; they all worked in the large chain hotel where I stayed near the Dublin airport.
That was it.
Even the tourists were white, and I mean PALE white. They were German or Swiss or English or white Aussies or Dutch. I met ONE Frenchman of Italian heritage; he stood out with his Mediterranean coloring. There were no busloads of Japanese tourists, no Greeks, no one from an African tribe, no Islanders, nothing. It was a mighty pale place to be.
It was also sort of weird.
3) The Irish still wear Crocs. I found this amusing.
4) The Irish are easier for the average tourist to understand than are the Scots.
When I lived in Scotland, I had to "translate" for other non-Scottish native and non-native English speakers a great deal. No tourists in any of the venues I saw in Ireland seemed to have much trouble with the locals -- even though some of these locals had very regional accents. I think this may be because Irish/Gaelic (note: what the Irish speak is called pronounced "Gay- lick." What the Scots of the Highlands speak is called "Gal- ick." They are both spelled Gaelic, which is confusing to Americans, who usually don't know the difference.) is completely unrelated to English, so the Irish either speak English or Gaelic. They don't mash the two together. Scots, however, is closely related to English -- so close, in fact, that the English have spent centuries trying to stamp it out as "bad English," in the same way the Spanish have tried to stamp out Catalán as "bad Spanish." This means that Scots have a continuum with English, and they may be anywhere on this continuum -- from Broad Scots to complete English -- at any given moment. Plus, the Scots don't use as many American English words as the Irish do. All this means it's easier for foreigners to understand the Irish than the Scots.
(OK, and the Scots seem to have more pride in NOT being understood. :D That's part of it, too.)
5) There are so many ruins of castles and stone age forts and monuments in Ireland that the Irish don't get too excited about them. There are no guidebooks like I've found everywhere else from England to China. And there are tons of roadside ruins that aren't even marked with a sign. They just don't seem to have the time or energy for all of them.
6) I have not been able to verify this, but I suspect there is some secret law in Ireland requiring its most charming young men to work in pubs for a period of time. I'm a non-drinker for religious and health reasons, but, let's face it, pubs are pretty much the only place to get good, inexpensive food in Ireland. So I ate in a fair number of pubs. And in every town, these pubs had the most incredibly charming young men as bartenders/servers. The Irish pubs don't seem to try to put sexy young girls out to lure in customers, but rather, they have über-charismatic 20-something males.
I found this more than acceptable. ;) Really. :D