With Dublin about to collapse under the weight of tourists (mostly of the oversized American variety) its worth re-examining some of the old stereotypes about the Emerald Isle . So many people who have never set foot in Ireland have an image in their head of what the place is like, whether its cheery leprechauns, fiery, red-headed women or an old man playing the fiddle. This little article (part analysis, part city-guide, part self-indulgent memoir) aims to uncover the truth behind the clichs
Clich 1: All Irish people are friendly
For the most part yes, they are, but dont let this lull you into a false sense of security.
I recently heard a story about an American woman who got on so well with a pub landlord in Dublin that he let her do the washing up. She found washing up in an Irish pub charming, much more charming than doing her regular washing up back home in America. The moral here is not to be fooled by a friendly exterior, certainly not to the point where youre doing slave labour in return. You have been warned.
Verdict: Correct (but be careful)
Clich 2: Irish people cant give directions
Technically they can, its just that you wont be able to follow them. If anything, the directions you get will be too elaborate. A ten minute long, beautifully evocative description of a Georgian house will be followd by and if you see that building youve gone too far. Buy a map instead.
Clich 3: Irish people say things likewhats the craic?, grand!, begorra! and top of the morning to ya! Also, they swear a lot.
Yes and no. Grand and whats the craic? are still in heavy rotation. However, you wont hear anyone in Dublin say begorra or top of the morning to ya unless, a) theyre being ironic or b) youre watching a very old film. More importantly, its just Colin Farrell that swears that much, not everyone else. Also, remember that fek isnt really a swear word.
Clich 4: All Irish people are musical
Some of the entrants for last years "Youre A Star" (like an Irish Pop Idol) proved that not all Irish people are musical, but a surprisingly high number of people are willing to try. If youre looking for music in Dublin you could do worse than go to Wexford Street. Here youll find both Whelans and The Village, two midsize venues who showcase amix of native talent and upcoming/leftfield international acts.
A word to the wise: dont see Catpower, ever. She's a talented singer/songwriters and her albums are great, but when I saw her at Whelans she was so full of heroin that she played just four songs in two hours (finishing none of them) and had to be escorted off stage. At one point she thought she was in London.
If youre after more stereotypical music then go to ODonoghues on Merrion Row. Theres a group of men there who convene round the corner table of this narrow old pub to play traditional music. Whether this is a genuinely spontaneous impromptu performance or just a horribly cynical tourist trap is open to debate, but either way theyre pretty good.
Verdict: Incorrect (but there is good music if you want it)
Clich 5: All Irish people are drunks.
The word drunks is so negative; I prefer the word sociable. The Irish capital has more pubs per square metre than anywhere youve ever seen, and none of them are short of business. So in the best if you cant beat em, join em tradition heres my quick guide to damaging your brain cells in Dublin:
Caf en-Seine (luxurious but expensive), Thomas Reads (classy but relaxed) ONeills (hearty pub food) Kehoes (undecorated heaven) Porter House (every drink in the world except Guinness) The Globe (trendy European style bar) Hogans (the same but with big dance-floor) The George (the place to be if youre gay, apparently. Giant pink tea-cup outside just to make sure no one gets confused) The Turks Head (crazy Eastern dcor upstairs, dance-floor and meat market downstairs)
Then theres the Temple Bar area. By all means its worth visiting but dont make the classic mistake of spending all your time there, its mostly full of drunken English people being sick on themselves.
Verdict: Correct (but in a good way)
Clich 6: Irish people are stupid
Verdict: My parents have a novelty teacup they brought back from Ireland many years ago, when I was just a twinkle in my fathers well-groomed moustache. On the outside is a shamrock and the words an Irish mug, on the inside is -- wait for it -- the handle. To this day I cant decide whether this is hilarious or racist. It may be both.
Irish people are not stupid, but they are a little illogical which is probably where the stereotype originates from.
For example, if you visit Dublin right now, youll see workmen outside the lush St. Stephenss Green laying down tracks for a new tram system called The Luis. At a photography exhibition showing Dublin in 1900 you will see photos of workmen outside the lush (though black-and-white) St. Stephens Green laying down tracks for a new tram system. The decision to lay down these tracks, then remove them in favour of buses in the 1960s, then replace buses with trams again in the 21st Century is uniquely Irish.
Verdict: Incorrect (but close)
Clich 7: Irish women are all red-headed fire brands with a short temper like in The Quiet Man
The Maureen OHara look is out. Fake is in. Everywhere you look in Dublin youll find bottle blondes and fake tans. Occasionally it all goes wrong - jet black eyebrows visible beneath a yellow fringe, or too much fake tan creating an Oompah-Loompah like orange skin tone - but for the most part it makes the fair city even fairer
Verdict: Incorrect (the reality is far nicer)
So, what have we learned today? Weve confirmed some clichs:
1) Irish people are friendly
2) Irish people like to drink
And weve debunked some:
3) Irish people arent stupid
4) Not all Irish girls have red hair.
But if you only learn one thing from this article then make sure its this:
5) Dont pay money to see Catpower. Ever.