by Stacey Malaniff

When we say the “Irish”, who is it we are talking about? Is it the regulars singing down the local pub, feeling united through the songs of a painful past? Or is it those who fled the small towns to break the mold? When we think of Irish, do we think of the people who call Ireland home, no matter where they were born?

Trying to define what it means to be “Irish” and who can call themselves that is arguably a lunatic’s endeavour. Instead, I’m going to use this blog post to look at just some of the things which connect us.

*Warning: this article may include some generalisations, but hopefully, no harmful ones. Enjoy!*

The Sense of Humour

 “I think there’s something about the Irish experience — that we had to have a sense of humor or die. That’s what kept us going — a sense of absurdity, rather than humor.” — Frank McCourt

 Oh, it’s wicked! No matter the situation, we can always laugh at the absurdity of it all. It’s ever present now more than ever with the outbreak of COVID-19 sparking a collective worry across the globe. But you can be sure that the Irish are out in full force to bring a smile in times of stress.  

The Love For Music

“I’m not so much a rock star, d’ya know what I mean? I play Irish music. There’s really no age when you stop playing Irish music. Even if I retired from playing onstage, I’d still be singing in pubs.” Shane MacGowan

Music plays a massive part in Irish culture. Through traditional Irish music, we relay the stories of our tragic past and we remember what it means to live on and be a part of this green isle. Hopefully, it inspires us to operate with openness towards those who, now, seek refuge from their own troubles in their native land. It can be so easy to forget times when we needed the help of others and many of those songs remind us of those times in Ireland. 

Our appreciation and passion for music goes far beyond the trad songs and sessions in pubs. Our recent history is also steeped in music greats who are renowned all over the world. It must be all the rain giving us time for reflection and expression through music. 

Our Ability to Adapt

“Irishness is not primarily a question of birth, blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually being mauled by it.” Conor Cruise O’Brien

Being Irish no longer exclusively means having been born in Ireland to Irish parents. We now accept that ‘Irishness’ is evolving. But you can be sure that the ‘proud Irish’ love nothing more than sharing their “Irishness” -our humour, our slang, our way of being – we want everyone to be in on the joke. According to the CSO, 12% of all Irish households are headed by a non-Irish national. That’s roughly 204,000 households. Polish people are heading that number with almost 130,000 calling Ireland home since the boom of Polish people coming to Ireland in the 00s.

I can’t help but feel that the Irish pride may have been caught by a big number of them too! This funny video seems to sum it up quite nicely. Of course, it also reflects on the fantastic Polish spirit as well. Just check out the comments on the videos for some wholesome love shared between Polish and Irish.

Our Lighthearted Conversations

“This [the Irish] is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” Sigmund Freud

Only in Ireland can you answer “How are you?” with “How are you?”. It sounds cruel and disingenuous to say that mostly, we are not actually asking you how you are – we probably don’t have time or the emotional wherewithal to get into the reality of your well-being in the moment we are asking. This is something difficult for non-Irish people to grasp at first. You’ll get used to it. 

Acceptable answers to the tricky question, “How are you?” include: “Good. Yourself?”; “You know yourself. You?”; “Ah, pushing on. Yourself?”; “Not a bother, thanks. Yourself?” 

You get the idea. 

Our lack of depth in general chit chat extends, of course, to the weather. The Irish get a lot of stick for their ability to talk so much about the weather. To be fair, when you’ve been forecast sunshine and you look out your window and see hailstones, you’d want to talk about it too. I’ve lived here my whole life and I still get surprised by how much the weather can change in one day. But, if you’re not Irish and have come from a country with better weather, you are not allowed to complain about ours.

I’m sorry, they’re just the rules!

via MEME

Ireland is a small country and especially in the country where there seems to be no strangers, we are often reared with the idea of less is more when it comes to what we share and the depth to which we share it – even to those closest to us. We do not want to burden – as we have all our own crosses to bear. Hence why you will be hard pushed to find a genuine answer to the “How are you?” question.

At the Conversation Salons we like to create a space for those who call Ireland home to come and discuss the deeper aspects of life. That is not to take away from the value of those weak ties we all have in our lives – those moments when we can just have a lighthearted exchange and a little chuckle. It reminds us that not everything in life has to be taken so seriously, and here on the our emerald isle, we are just a little bit more comfortable putting the sunny side out.

read more: The Value of Weak Ties

There is so much more that goes into connecting people which are a part of one nation, a lot more than I could put into this post. Please humour my attempt. I look forward to hearing what you think connects Irish people, abroad and at home, and those who call Ireland home. Please leave your comments below!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!