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
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
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-
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)