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IRISH LIFESTYLE

We won't spoil your fun! Discovering Irish life is an adventure to be personally pursued.

Irish life today is change personified. And finding where it's at and where it's going is a fascinating aspect of moving to and living an Irish life. This section will highlight just a few things to try to give your journey of discovery a head start and some tips to help you along the way.

The first thing to say here is that, depending on your start, you could be in for quite a shock.

Perhaps most shocked will be those who are returning to the island after living elsewhere for the last dozen years or more, or whose impressions of Irish life were formed through a visit or otherwise about that long ago. (Indeed, three years could well be far enough back.) If you've been raised on the stories of emigrant ancestors, you may find the opposite of what you expected. If you're impression of Irish life has been limited to St. Patrick's Day celebration and Darby O'Gill images, forget it.

Ireland now has a dynamic economy; is multi-cultural; and, while increasingly secular, is home to religious faiths of every description. Questioned as being "more Boston, Berlin or Birmingham", Ireland is hugely influenced, economically, by the many US subsidiaries attracted to it by low tax rates and a well-educated, English-speaking work force and US television shows are very popular. At the same time, it is unquestionably European in outlook.

Something that surprises many newly arrived Canadian ex-pats is the extent of the interchange between Ireland and the UK - in tourism (the largest group of visitors to the Republic is from the UK), sport (English teams are avidly supported in Ireland), investment (Ireland's investors are extremely active in the English real estate market), the media (many UK newspapers sell well in Ireland and English 'soaps' and other television programs have large followings), the heavy air traffic between Ireland and England (the busiest routes in Europe), and so on.

Northern Ireland closely tied economically to that of the UK, is being transformed, too. The renaissance of Belfast is especially broad - significant new development and redevelopment has been taking place with striking new shopping center, hotel, apartment, and government buildings blending in with its spectacular city hall and other historic structures. The new Odyssey leisure and entertainment complex, an important example of the growing confidence in Northern Ireland, is of particular interest to Canadians: it's the home of the Canadian-started and mostly Canadian-populated Belfast Giants hockey team. And Canadian-owned, Bombardier Aerospace (Northern Ireland), an active participant in the economies of both Northern Ireland and the Republic, is one of the North's largest industrial employers.

The Bombardier reference is an example of the very considerable economic interaction between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Personal interaction is considerable, too. People cross the virtually invisible border (just some road sign and occasional other landmark changes) all day every day as shoppers and tourists as well as for business reasons. Unlike the case of the Canada - U.S. border, there are NO Customs or Immigration check-points between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Irish Media: Both parts of the island enjoy a strong press in which matters of religion and politics are vigorously reported, analyzed and critiqued. Irish television carries numerous public affairs programs that do the same, as do many films and documentaries. These sources and many books and Web sites (see LINKS) will greatly assist your voyage of Irish life discovery -- and, happily, make it, unnecessary to comment on those subjects here.

The island's natural beauty lives up to the best you've heard about it. Mentioning that here will not raise unreasonable expectations or diminish the pleasure of experiencing it. Majestic mountains, rugged sea views, verdant forests begin the description. There really are '40 shades of green' and in the spring the hillsides are resplendent with golden gorse (which farmers hate) and delightfully enlivened by spring lambs.

After the 'surprise showers' that add variety to a mainly sunny spring day, there are sure to be rainbows, even double ones. And then there are the daffodils. In profusion hard to believe they bloom from late January to the end of April, along highways as well as in home, park and magnificent 'show' gardens throughout the island. Far too numerous to list here, the island's 'show gardens' delight casual viewers and serious gardeners alike with species from around the world.

Sport is a mainstay of Irish life. 'Avid' is scarcely a strong enough descriptor. Committed followers of favorite teams, the Irish are also active players at amateur levels - year 'round and in all kinds of weather. The sports played and the teams followed remind one that the island is European. Except for golf (where the Irish have a passionate interest in the Ryder Cup), Canadian newcomers have to get used to the lack of Irish interest in most of the sports that interest North Americans.

When it comes to 'hockey' no less than three versions are played on the island. The term hockey, used alone, would be understood to mean field hockey. The game played on bladed skates is called ice hockey. And then there is inline hockey for which there is even a league. For ice hockey, take in a Belfast Giants game (www.belfastgiants.com). To play/watch inline hockey, check out the Dublin City inline hockey team at www.riothockey.tk.

Craic: The Irish reputation for friendliness and humour deserves a special mention. The Irish reputation for 'craic', the word for witty, fun-filled socializing, is well deserved. Good-humoured and articulate, the Irish are genuinely friendly and always ready to chat. Consider yourself privileged, however, if you're invited to an Irish home. Perhaps a continuation of the historical practice of getting together in local pubs (partly because homes were small and devoted to family life), Irish socializing continues to be pub- and-restaurant-oriented today.

Entertainment in all forms deserves a mention, too. From traditional music and dancing, solo and group, to local and traveling plays, to book readings, there's entertainment in every corner of the island. Dublin is renowned for theatre and it and Belfast are regularly visited by world-tour performers, who occasionally also perform in smaller centers. And, of course, the Irish have no lack of world-class performers of their own. (See ENTERTAINMENT)

 
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