Tribe of the Ring Fort

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What 2.217 years in Ireland taught me 23/1/08 22:08 pm

Some of the things I’ve learned while here:

That a smash-up of Celtic-Tiger-generated double-income lives with having kids yields a couple with a saturated life. Meaning a life with no room for new, ex-pat friends.

That the Irish are champion tailgaters.

That Chinese food in Ireland is different than Chinese food in the United States.

That Ireland is dear (expensive).

That U.S. healthcare insurance is very expensive, much more so than in Ireland. However, the overall healthcare-per-cost comparison is not a simple black-and-white.

That Irish institutions have not yest quite accommodated the dual-income family. School events, for example, are scheduled under the assumption that at least one parent can regularly attend such during school hours (8:50am-2:30pm in Cobh where we live). Irish banks also seem to think all banking by couples heading such families can be performed between 10-4 on weekdays.

That the Irish go "emmmm..." where Americans go "ummmm..."

That the Irish have a placename-based way of giving directions. Woe be unto you if you are expecting an efficient route-number-based repartée in which your mention of "oh, so 610 to 569?" will yield a common understanding of the desired route. Even if that Irish person has spent their entire life on and around these routes. You must say "oh, the [destination placename] road and then the [next destination placename] road?" to have any hope.

That rainbows are a dime a dozen in Ireland. After a while, you need a full double rainbow to be even mildly appreciative.

That one acclimates much faster to driving on the left side of the road than looking the correct way when crossing a street.

That they call crossing guards "lolli-pop ladies" here, because of the big round signs they carry.

That I can’t get into concrete-block architecture. Wow, is it drab.

That the thing I like best about Ireland--this is a little hard for me to swallow coming from me, the one behind the whole moving-to-Ireland thing—is that it’s right next to Europe. So many countries, mindsets, cultures, and languages so close. Many of these, packaged together in handy human-shaped packages, have made the trip here to the Cork City environs. We are learning French as a family. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to hear it regularly being spoken by pods of French people passing us by again and again when we’re in the City on Saturdays. I experience French patter with a doppler effect.

And the Cities. London, Paris. Sorry, I’m enamoured of both. I dream of going back to Paris, and know I can, any weekend. That’s existence value for you. Was gonna head to Amsterdam for the weekend because an old friend was gonna be there on a business trip. Didn’t happen because his schedule shifted, but the point stands. I coulda done it, gone to Amsterdam for a daynightday. Existence value.

That Irish schoolkids get in trouble when they say “Oh my God” in class. Well, at least my kid does.
On which subject: currently Irish law says that Catholic children get preference for spots in a school when there’s overcrowding. This is meeting substantial objections/questioning in heavily non-Catholic areas (as they now exist).

That people are basically the same everywhere.

That the United States is isolated. Geographically, physically, linguistically. (This is the converse of the ‘So many countries, mindsets, cultures, and languages so close’ reality over here.) Two oceans on either side. And that’s just for the democratic-voting coastal states. And that this isolation (I will not defend this point here, just make it) is an underlying, cross-cutting element of its ability to elect representatives, including Presidents, who wear their world-ignorance as a merit badge because they know it will be perceived as an asset!

That all Irish license begins with the last 2 digits of the car’s year. So, for example, our 2003 Mazda 6 has the plate ’03-D-35294,’ which tells all that we’ve a 2003 model. Talk about upward socioeconomic pressure…the ‘D’ part says that it was originally registered in Dublin. If it had been registered in, say, Kerry, the plate would be ’03-KY-35294.’

The correct use of ‘ye’ in Irish social discourse. I recently realized I had it down well enough so that I began interspersing it in my texts and speech.

That there are no porches in Ireland. Due to the near-incessantly wet weather? To concrete rather than wood being the dominant residential building material? To the pub being the traditional (traditionally; everything has been changing here) centre of community life? The new estates (i.e. “subdivisions”/”developments”) also have a dearth of porches.

That your basic level of happiness is independent of where you live

That the Irish LOVE Johnny Cash. I hear it on the Tubridy Show like once a month; you hear it on RnaG; in Cobh there’s a Johnny Cash tribute band, “Strictly Cash.”

A greater appreciation of Federalism. The political structure in effect in the U.S. that allows one state to legislate and regulate many aspects of itself. Guess I came to this exciting conclusion as a result of defending my other country against anti-Bush sentiment—not by disagreeing with it, but by pointing out that federalism constrains Bush’s power. Also, I’ve seen certain hidebound insitutions here in Ireland that are so due to national laws. Though there are County Councils, Cork county can’t, say, regulate banks differently than Dublin county.

That the national conversation about drunk driving (“drink driving” in Ireland) is a different beast. Frequent are the open protests on, say, radio talk shows, against not being able to have a few drinks and then drive. Not a stance you’ll hear championed on a talk show in the United States.