Ireland’s recession is bringing people closer together
An older gentleman I knew from working in the hotel industry when I was a teenager was also up in a heap. He was let go from his managerial position in a local hotel a few months ago and has not been able to find anything since.
“Go back to America girl,” was his advice to me. “I’d be gone in a shot if I was younger.”
It saddened me to see so much insecurity in their eyes and loss of spirit in their hearts.
When I was last home I was blown away by the amount of immigrants working in my small town. I thought it was wonderful. Tralee was becoming more like New York, a melting pot of cultures.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long. Today as I sit here in the coffee shop I realize all the staff are Irish.
A quick word with the young gentleman behind the counter informs me that when they opened three years ago it was just him, four Polish waitresses, a Lithuanian chef, a part time Irish girl (who was the owner’s niece) and an English hostess.
Today his work colleagues are all from Ireland, Kerry in fact.
“Some of the Polish left to go back home and the chef we had didn’t work out, so John (the boss) hired an Irish chef then,” he explains. “We need to give the jobs to our own now,” he said sternly.
Although I’m only home a week, I’ve had many a lunch and dinner in some of the restaurants in the town. The two most notable changes are, first, the nationality of the staff.
I’d say 90% of them are Irish. Four years ago Irish restaurant workers were nowhere to be seen. They had moved on to bigger and better things, and now four years later they are back.
Secondly, the price of food has reduced dramatically. Lunch, including a soda, is about five or six euro. A three course dinner -- if you get the early bird (and most restaurants are now doing early bird) -- is between 10 and 15 euro (and remember in Ireland that includes the tax and tip).
Prices have been slashed dramatically in an effort to draw in more customers and keep businesses afloat. It’s working for now.
Unlike four years ago people are less busy. Mainly because a lot of people are out of work.
In fact a lot of Irish people don’t have the money to go out on a Saturday night for a meal and a few drinks. But this too has its advantages.
I’m now invited to people’s homes and, like the olden days, we sit around a roaring fire (which I miss about living in New York) and we catch up on our lives. Four years ago all our catching up was done in a restaurant or in a bar. Not as personal, if you ask me.
After my little rendezvous in the café here I plan to do a little bit of shopping. I’ve been into Penny’s -- a popular department store that specializes in affordable clothing -- and couldn’t help dropping my jaw at the prices.
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