All countries have a degree of stereotypes. French are supposedly arrogant, always on strike, walk around in stripy shirts with a baguette in one hand, glass of wine in the other, while smoking a “Camel” cigarette. German are very organised and don’t have any sense of humour, and British are… well, Irish people just don’t like them (800 years of oppression, as they like to remind me, is a good reason not to like the Brits).
However, even if there is a certain truth in stereotypes, it cannot define a whole nation (although I do have a stripy shirt, I enjoy baguette and wine, and I used to smoke “Camel” when I was young). My point is, if you’ve never lived in a different country, you will always have a preconceived judgement based on how this country is represented in the media, movies or travel brochures.
In France, and particularly in Brittany, Ireland is portrayed as a mythical land, where time is suspended. The Emerald isle is the country of green valleys, lakes , sheep, wild landscapes, cliffs and medieval castles. It’s the country of red-haired people playing traditional music in a smoky pub, drinking pints of Guinness.
You might laugh, but this is exactly how I pictured Ireland before I moved here. I knew there wouldn’t be that many sheep in the capital, but I thought the city was just like in “The Commitments” movie (well worth a watch by the way!). I basically had a vision of the early 90’s Dublin in mind and didn’t have a clue about the Celtic Tiger.
Needless to say I was a bit shocked when I landed. You might wonder why I didn’t do my research before coming, especially when every expat website tells you it’s the most important thing to do.
Well, I moved to Ireland because I had a job waiting for me. My new employer gave me 2 weeks to organise myself. I was on holidays abroad when he called me. When I came back home, I only had 10 days left to book a flight and get everything sorted (optician, dentist, social security, leaving party…). He got me in touch with an Irish family who was renting rooms, so I also had accommodation secured before the big move.
I didn’t have time to check what Ireland was actually like, and to be honest, I was so sure it was going to be like all of the above, I didn’t feel the need to research anything… In a way it doesn’t matter. I’m happy with what I discovered over the years. There is so much more to Ireland and the Irish than the regular stereotypes.
One of them is true though, Ireland definitely is the “land of a thousand welcomes”, and I will not thank my host family enough for everything they did for me the first few months I was living with them.
What about you ? Did you have a different vision of Ireland before you moved , or did you do some research beforehand ?