Us Irish are a creature of habit. We have our ways, and are as happy as a pig in s**t when we get them. Whether we travel the world, or stay close to home, there are things that we just can't live without. We love to explore and delve into the unknown, but at the end of the day if we can't throw on the kettle then we're all out of sorts. One must finish one's day off with a cup of Barrys finest, and perhaps a digestive biscuit or two to dunk while discussing the tales of the day. It's the simple things in life after all.
"grand for growing potatoes"
An insular island with a culture dating back thousands of years, after 800 years of oppression by our neighbours and you'll have that - a sheer sense of pride and comfort in our own customs that we associate life wherever we go with these clockwork behaviours. Is that a bad thing? Nah. You can be multi cultured and proud of our own at the same time, which is exactly how we see the world having grown up on our wonderful Irish soil, grand for growing potatoes and the like.
We tend to be proudly patriotic of our country, and jump at the opportunity to celebrate what ever the occasion. You only have to look at Paddy's Day to see that it's a global celebration that people take part in and for no other reason really then to have a good old fashioned time of it.
Sure we're all over the moon that the patron saint of Ireland banished the snakes from the country for us, he's a great old fella for that. But I don't think that's why the people of Argentina, Queensland or even the Carribean Islands are united on the day dressed in green and parading the streets.
Riverdance is another fascination with the world and not only because Michael Flatley is a born performer with golden locks and a colgate smile, but because it's just fun to both watch, and attempt to take part in yourself. Even the concept of Halloween originally came from the Emerald Isle and some how the pagan ritual of dressing in scary satire to warn off evil spirits of the night caught on, and is now found as a very convenient way of getting free sweets.
Why these Irish customs have caught on around the world, I couldn't tell you, but I'm always proud to see a shamrock on the wall, or the green white and gold colours decorated behind a bar on my travels. Here are a few things you can't find anywhere else, things you find everywhere else, and things every Irish expat gets sent on a regular basis, thanks to all the Irish mammies out there.
You can leave Ireland, but you can't leave these behind.
A few boxes of Barrys Tea, the gold blend of course. If Mammy posts you over a few bags of Lyons or anything of the sort, well then you are obviously born somewhere exotic, like France.
Sure what good is the tea without the chocolate to go with it? I've had people tell me they get boxes of dairy milk and cadburys chocolate sent over to them in Canada, America and Australia because once you introduce your taste buds to this chocolate - there is no going back. It can be a burden, but it's a delicious one at that!
The stable snack in Ireland, the crunchy cheese and onion crisp that has your back, the salt and vinegar potatoe chip that brings you through the dark days, and the ultimate tayto sandwich that tastes like home.
Perishable items sent through the post go for a high price in the black market, you may find yourself paying an arm or a leg for those clonakilty sausages, or kilmeadin cheese and lets not even discuss the price tag put on fields bread, the most popular sliced pan known to Irishman.
Traditions from home.
Traditions go a long way in Ireland. We love the routine of everyday life. Sundays are no different. You crawl out of bed struggling after the night before, and head for mass to confess your sins if you can remember them. All you think about is that greasy fry that's waiting for you after mass and that prospect of a cup of tea in 30 minutes gets you through the ordeal.
Get your body of Christ and out the door, straight home to cook up a storm and watch the match. There is nothing better then the lazy routine of a Sunday afternoon. Full fry up to get that hangover happy. Cup of tea, read the paper and bring the dog for a walk while you wait for the lads on the pitch to warm up, and skip the commentators with their pre-game chatter.
Watch the game while you smell the glorious fusion of flavours in the kitchen. No better smell then that Sunday roast flirting with your nostrils and tempting your taste buds. It's Irish tradition in its simplest form, and is probably the comfort of home for us expats abroad miss the most.
Only in Ireland ...
The Cattle Traffic Jam.
I'm not sure if it is a legitimate excuse for being late anywhere else, but back home more often than not you're stuck behind a tractor, or a herd of cows on their way as you head to work. It's Murphy's Law and in Ireland this law never consists of traffic lights. It's those damn cows that get in the way and they are damned if they'll hurry it up for you either! "Sorry I'm late I was stuck behind a tractor". Fair enough, say no more!
Good "pioneer" Friday.
So due to our heavily religious influence on the law, you will find that not only is it frowned upon to drink alcohol on Good Friday, but it's actually illegal to sell it. The only day of the year where off licenses must close, and you must remember to buy your drink prior to pioneer day, or stay off the beer and meat for the day as you wait patiently for those chocolate eggs Easter Sunday.
The plus side of growing up in a richly religious country is that what ever the occasion, the banishment of alcohol or the indulgence of desserts we all take part. So prior to fasting from sugar for forty days and forty nights like Jesus in the dessert, we stuff our faces and eat our hearts out with pancakes galore.
For breakfast, again at school or work, and back for more after dinner. We go to town on those pancakes, and if you find yourself abroad for pancake Tuesday as an Irish person then you better get yourself some batter. It's a tradition! No matter where you are, it's still part of you.
The Ireland abroad.
The Traditional Irish pub.
So we travel the world and jump at the thought of exploring new cultures and customs, not to mention being introduced to what people outside Ireland call, "sunshine". It's an amazing thing getting sunburned for the first time. Most people avoid it but if you ever see a pasty white person with red raw burns and a smile from ear to ear you know they're Irish, "it'll turn into tan sure!" With all that in mind, there is nothing better than stumbling into a familiar feeding ground in the heart of the unknown, and it's something us Irish take full advantage of while abroad.
After a day of taking in a different culture and way of life, take your seat at the comfortable bar while you absorb your new surroundings, safely sipping on a Guinness happy out with life. Birds of a feather, find the first Irish bar and a perch to rest, all the while automatically gravitating towards your fellow Irishman who wouldn't you know is only John and Mary from over the road, Sheila's neighbours the one with the jack russel - yes, we can associate people even through their pets back home.
We all have our own ways, as people and nations. We have mannerisms and social norms, then there are traditions and beliefs that you bring with you no matter where you go. It's nice to know that no matter how long you stay away for, no matter how much alternative cultures and variety in customs you see, your own will always be with you and you never have to worry about losing your own identity, while developing it along the way.