Introduction to Ireland
The Us European project has taken off! I arrived in Ireland earlier today and am eager to find my first victims for an interview. Until today, I have known Ireland as the green and grey island of Guinness. Where the roads are narrow and the speed limits impossible to meet. I gratefully take the opportunity to add some more detail to my frame of knowledge with regards to Ireland and its culture.
David (25) is the first person I address with success. He works as a trainee solicitor and is enjoying his lunch in a sunny park in Cork, together with a friend. He first explains what his job is about. Once he completes his current training program, he will be preparing cases that appear in court. He has not got any specialisation as yet. The job of solicitor will be a well-paid one and the conversation smootlhy turns towards the economic situation of Ireland nowadays.
`Irish life revolves around the pub culture`
Ireland went through periods of tremendous growth during recent years. The EU membership of Ireland has contributed to that a great deal. Infrastructure has been improved and the service industry is flourishing. More than once, David uses the name Celtic tiger to describe this recent economic blossoming. Yet the days of the Celtic tiger seem to be numbered. Prices of real estate are dropping, which indicates that growth is slowing down. David himself is not too worried for himself, because he can count on having a good job in the future.
We then talk about the Irish language. I learn how that is still an important part of some people`s lives, certain areas even speaking Irish as their main language of conversation. Irish is not a very easy language to learn as it is not very similar to English. The word order is different and so is the pronounciation. Irish is taught to children until the age of 17 and you need to have at least a certain command of it to be admitted to university. From then onwards, being able to speak Irish is no longer required nor important. It does have a great cultural value and this is probably why the language is kept alive.
After the language issue, it doesn`t take very long for our conversation to turn to the pub culture and everything related to drinking. David says that it is common for young people to be drunk at least about every weekend and so is he himself. David and his friends may get either `wrecked`, `hammered` or `mouldy` after a typical night out, and what they drink is mostly beer - both Stout and Lager. For women, wine and cocktails also feature among the favourites.
The pub culture is worth further investigation and I decide to ask more people about their pub experiences. Most people I speak to plainly agree to spend at least one drunken night per week. Siobhan (20) explains me that this intentional drunkenness originates from a time when there was simply nothing else to do in Ireland. People were working hard and would go to the pub at the end of the week for relaxation ans socialising. People got a lot richer since then, but kept the habit of going to the pub. Not only on weekends but also during the week, simply because they can afford it now.
What started as almost a form of escapism from the hard work, is now nationally accepted as a part of the culture. It is not very surprising that everybody is sharing in the pub culture. Every occasion of importance is celebrated in the pub, whether that be birthday parties, graduations, weddings and even funerals. I meet Mary O`Connor (over 30) in one of the local pubs and she proudly confirms that the pub is the centre of Irish life. There simply is lot to celebrate and a lot of socialising. And for the funerals, they would rather celebrate the fact that the person had a nice life and is now saved from earthly suffering. It makes a lot more sense to them to complete a period of mourning by a collective pub visit after the actual burial.
Bridget (19) is not a fan of the pub culture. She is performing with a group of gospel singers in the streets of Cork, promoting faith in Jesus Christ. She used to drink when she was younger, but now sees drinking as an obstacle between God and herself. Her friends do drink but she prefers to visit them when they are not drinking. She would like to see them giving up the drinking, but she is not actively telling them so.
Try it yourself
After talking to all these people, I decide that I have to go and experience some pub culture myself. I happen to walk into what is probably the nicest pub in town: situated on the second floor of a corner building. People present tell me that there is a birthday going on and I am invited to take lots of photos. I end up talking with a lot of different people who advise me not to analyse the Irish culture too much and rather enjoy it. Nevertheless, my pub visit proves that Whatever I learnt during the day is true. The pub is all about drinking and socialising and I have seen a lot of that happening today..
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