June 1, 2006

Ireland 101

We arrived this morning. I’m in the midst of trying to power through the jet lag and make it til 8 pm tonight without falling asleep. I slept four hours on the plane (thanks to my oh so glamorous padded strapless bra eye mask and ear plugs) but I’m typing through waves of exhaustion at this point.

Our first host is an American woman who has lived here for eight years and for two in Russia. Her mother moved to the States from Ireland so she’s grown up with deep cultural ties here. She’s been giving us a cultural pre-briefing. I’m beginning to realize this trip may not be too much of a cultural stretch after all. You see, the Irish are really just White Koreans (well, if its possible to actually be Korean and not eat spicy food).

It’s better to be humble and self-effacing than bold or ‘confident’.

If someone asks what you want to eat or drink, the ‘proper’ response is, “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”

I started asking things based on my experience of Koreans. “Is it culturally appropriate to refuse twice before saying yes?” She looked at me in surprise, “Well, yes, especially for the older folk. For the younger generation no one has time any longer. They are becoming much more direct.”

If someone on the street asks, “how are you?” one never says, “fine”. Its too optimistic. The Irish are ‘realists’ (what pessimists call themselves. ;-) ) and instead answer, “Not too bad”. I don’t know the on-the-street Korean greeting system. Is it similar? I don’t think Koreans are known for being pessimists. Not likely to do compliments, but not necessarily pessimistic?

She mentioned that Americans are often viewed as very loud and pushy here. She’s been in small groups and had to just bite her tongue to not be the first person to speak. It takes a long time for people to warm up and start talking.

The Irish are a very private people. She mentioned she often has to initiate talking about vulnerablities. One of the couples she knew had to confront the issue of the guy having been abused and then abusing in turn. The hardest thing for him was to go to a counselor. It’s a shameful thing here to discuss private matters with an outsider. Yet at the same time, no one in the family discusses anything either. It seems the Irish have a deeper history of alcohol and related sexual abuse than do the Koreans so the secrets are even deeper and more devastating.

All this is based on her observations. I’ll let you know what it’s like as I live with Irish families for the next two weeks.


Click to enlarge this photo. I love the name! At least they're honest.


weigook saram said...

Great pictures. I love the sign.

I've heard the comparison between the Irish and Koreans before, probably because people from both cultures are stereotyped as "hot-tempered". I don't know about Korean greetings on the street, but they do say, "Work hard," instead of "Have a nice day."

snickollet said...

So glad you're posting from overseas. The Irish/Korean cultural comparision is fascinating. I'll be curious to see how your own observations compare to your host's.

Good luck staying awake.

Anonymous said...

Glad you made it there safe.
I've enjoyed reading your entries and catching up. Looking forward to more. Love jay

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the marvelous insights about the Korean/Irish.

Because they've been liberated from England, the Irish as a whole now have higher per capita annual incomes than the British or Canadians.

Because you're in the less prosperous West Ireland, how much of this economic miracle have you seen?
What kind of impact do the Irish feel this prosperity has had on them? Both for better and worse?

Where do you get time in the day to write both your
marvelous blogs and e-mails?