6 Stereotypes About Ireland You Should Rethink
Ireland is a dream destination for many to visit, study, live, intern, work, and play. Sometimes, I wonder why I was first drawn to Ireland. I can never seem to pinpoint what it was exactly, other than a strong longing for this place I had never been. That “longing” led me to study abroad here, come back for graduate school, and return yet again for love. The reasons behind others’ desire for Ireland ranges from discovering family histories, gazing at those green hills you’ve only seen in photos, golfing some of the world’s best courses, experiencing traditional Irish music, or studying a particularly Irish subject, to the more adventurous surfing off the Atlantic coast, drinking a fresh (properly poured) pint of the black stuff, enjoying the warmth of the people of Ireland, or simply taking in the breathtaking views only to be had along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Some of these reasons are stereotypical ones. I suppose Ireland’s more positive stereotypes have attracted many visitors for years. However, one of my biggest pet-peeves—“pet-hates” if you’re Irish—is when visitors mock Ireland for stereotypical reasons. This disturbs me on several levels:
1) Perpetuating stereotypes is not OK, even if they are seemingly harmless.
2) In most cases those doing the perpetuating have spent only a short amount of time in Ireland, if any.
3) If you don’t have anything positive to say, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything at all.
It is about time to debunk these stereotypes about my adopted home country, once and for all.
Stereotype #1: Irish food is boring/bad/bland.
When visitors tell me this, I am always puzzled and immediately want to know every food establishment they visited, because this could not be further from the truth. Sure, pub grub in the form of fish and chips, Guinness stew, and a heavy emphasis on meat and potatoes does exist—I should add that they all are must-haves for any visitor—but there is so much more to Ireland’s food scene than its traditional offerings. The push for locally-sourced, fresh food ingredients is strong here. New food and farmer’s markets pop up constantly. Cafés and restaurants cater to those who care about what they eat, where it comes from, and the history/culture behind what is on their plate. Irish-made and artisan-produced food products like Improper Butter, Wild About Foods, and Keen Nut Butters are popping up everywhere. Chefs like Kevin Dundon and Donal Skehan are becoming globally recognized ambassadors for Irish food. In the larger cities, such as Dublin and Cork (the food capital of Ireland), there is a huge variety in ethnic food choices, organic shops, pop-up cafés, and gastropubs. For more foodie inspiration while in Ireland, check out French Foodie In Dublin, Kate’s Kabin, and the more mainstream site, Lovin Dublin.
Stereotype #2: The Irish are drunk all the time.
First off, incredibly offensive. Secondly, very misinformed. There is no doubt that many folks in Ireland enjoy the occasional drink and/or night out. Students, young people in general, may go a bit cracked on the drink, as is the case in many places around the globe. And in Ireland, the pub is part of the culture; it’s THE social gathering spot. Even so, not all Irish partake in alcohol consumption at these gatherings. Something that is even more integral to Irish life than drink, is tea. It has an astounding presence in all social settings and is a source of comfort throughout the day. According to many, there’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a cup of scald in hand!
Stereotype #3: Irish art consists of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and U2.
Not so fast. Ireland has definitely produced some amazing writers and musicians, but also many filmmakers, dancers, painters, sculptors, etc. And Ireland continues to foster creativity from the buskers and street art popping up all over the big cities, small towns, and villages, to the designated artists’ spaces and residences at places like The Mart, The Cube Creative Hub, and the Temple Bar Cultural Trust. The Irish are achieving major global accreditation for journalism, filmmaking, and acting in comedy and drama these days, both on the large and small screens.
Stereotype #4: Ireland is stuck in the past.
There have been and are some arcane social laws in this country but, in many ways, the population is ahead of its legislation. And change will come. In fact a referendum on marriage equality will be held this May and is expected to pass with 75% of the vote. However, one area that Ireland is forging ahead is innovation and technology. It is a huge part of Ireland’s culture (and economy!). Large tech companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, HubSpot, Yelp, and more have all elected to set up their European Headquarters in Dublin, most choosing the Grand Canal Dock locale, nicknamed Silicon Docks. These spaces are changing the way people work and live. They are beacons that prove Ireland is anything but stuck in the past.
Stereotype #5: St. Patrick’s Day is pure CRAZINESS in Ireland.
Maybe so, if you choose to celebrate Paddy’s Day in Temple Bar. But overall, it’s a rather tame day with family-friendly parades honoring Irish Culture across the country and celebrations of Irish life in the days leading up to March 17th. It’s also a national holiday, so many folks are off work and elect to have a chill day to relax and enjoy some traditional food and drink with family and friends.
Stereotype #6: Ireland is mostly rock-wall-fenced, green pastures filled with sheep among thatched-roof homes and cosy, quaint pubs with roaring fireplaces.
OK, so this stereotype is quite true. In many parts of the country you will find these scenes, which are part of the reason so many love the beauty that is Ireland. But this isn’t all there is. And if you spend the majority of your time meandering throughout the countryside during your visit, you will certainly miss out. Many visitors to Dublin, Cork, or Belfast are first shocked and later impressed by how modern these cities are. Yes, they still have the charm of centuries-old-landmarks, cobblestone streets, and historical buildings, but they are duly mixed with many modern features and architectural gems that make these cities unique, such as Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Bridge, the Spire, The Marker Hotel, and The Convention Center; Belfast’s Titanic Museum, Victoria Square Mall, and Beacon of Hope Sculpture; or Cork’s Opera House.
Make your dreams of Ireland a reality. Come to visit, study, live, intern, work, or play. Just keep an open mind, explore beyond the stereotypes, and have a bit of craic.
Sarah Dilworth is the founder of dilpatrick media, a social media marketing and freelancing company that focuses on sharing ideas, promoting small businesses, and exploring culture through media connections. Sarah’s professional and personal interests collide in international education, travel, art and culture. She studied abroad in Limerick and returned to Ireland to complete her master’s degree in Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. Sarah lives with her diplomat husband in Dublin, Ireland. Connect with her on Twitter @sarahdil or follow her expat adventures on her blog, Cultural Eclecticism.
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