There are a great many wondrous things to enjoy about being Irish and living in America. We are forever complimented on our accent; I’ve had somebody want to hug me simply for being Irish; and of course, although immigrants, we are a highly privileged nationality in the US when compared to other immigrant nationalities.
While the undocumented Irish or those with other visa issues have their own concerns, for the rest of us, apart from the occasional bout of homesickness, living with Americans can be great, just as long as they don’t bring up any of these mind-numbing questions that is.
What’s the deal with Northern Ireland then?
I have found myself in the corner of a bar or house party many a time boring someone to tears with my spiraling answer to this question. There’s just no succinct way to describe the history of Ireland and England, the creation of a six-county Northern Ireland, and everything that came with it, especially now that everything is so unpredictable with Brexit. It’s great that someone is showing an interest and goodness knows we could talk about it for days if asked, but unless you want to hear the in and outs of how Martin Luther King Jr inspired the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, or all the ways that a hard border could spell disaster for the country, just do your own research.
Aren’t you part of the UK though?
Yet another very loaded question and one that can draw out a wide variety of disgusted answers depending on the Irish person in question's own relationship with England and its history of colonization and abuse. Honestly, we understand that you can’t always know everything about every country but just think about it for a second. We have our own President and a Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who rocks up to the White House every St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know what else we’d need to make it very obvious we’re our own country.
You must love St. Patty’s Day, no?
First off, get your phrasing right. There is only a day known as St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, we don’t know what day this mystical St. Patty’s Day falls on (Paddy being the shortened version of Patrick). Of course, we love March 17, and it’s incredible to see what an impact our little island has had on the world and our far-flung influence but most of us don’t just engage with our music, dance, and language once a year. In fact, seeing people come out of the woodwork to celebrate “Irishness” can be slightly infuriating for people hoping to engage others in the arts and in Irish culture all through the rest of the year. If you love Irish music and dance so much, pick up and instrument and learn, support your local musicians and artists, and do something to make sure we always have great St. Patrick’s Day entertainment when the time comes around.
Do you just drink Guinness?
I will admit to being extremely fond of a pint of the black stuff and would not often turn one down if a kindly American stranger offered to buy me one but we also have other great drinks and food products. Even within the Guinness brand themselves, they offer up other summer ales that would suit much better to hot sunny days. Save your regular pints for the cold winter days and try out something new.
Can you translate/pronounce this for me?
Especially as an Irish speaker, it can be extremely frustrating to be constantly asked to translate something to Irish or to walk somebody through the way to pronounce something. Again, while it’s absolutely delightful that you want to include a cúpla focal in a presentation or want to get an Irish-language tattoo, the language needs more than lip service. It feels just like an empty nod to Irish unless you go about supporting Irish language organizations and clubs or promoting the language in any other way you can all year round, even if you feel learning another language is not quite for you.
Do you know [insert person’s name]?
Even within New York City, there are tens of thousands of Irish people here and we certainly don’t all know each other. Please don’t call or text me from the bar asking me if I know the person who works there.
Do you like U2?
As the old Irish traditional saying goes, “Bono is a pox.” U2 are great, absolute rock Gods and legends and although we do call Bono a pox quite a bit, he’s really not all that bad. We have so many other great musicians and artist to offer, however, and I can honestly say that I’ve never even listened to more than two U2 songs together in a row. Check out our list of top Irish acts you should know or get to know the man curating Dublin’s soundtrack to see what we mean.
Do I sound Irish?
Honestly, I’d rather listen to a full U2 album than hear your Irish accent.
Do you live on a farm?
I am from the lovely green Kildare flatlands on the border of a bog and while I was surrounded by fields and cows while living there, I have never worked a day on a farm in my life. I am as clueless as any city slicker when it comes to farm life although always regret that I don’t know more about the struggles Irish farming faces as one of our larger industries.
How many cousins do you have?
Please, don’t even ask me to count. I can’t even tell who’s my first cousin, my second cousin, or who’s just a cousin of a cousin anymore the family is so large and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is a certain embarrassment that comes with being asked this in the US, however, as it feels that our former Catholic tendency to have large families is being poked fun when the influence of the Church has had some horrible effects on Ireland as a society, the realities of which are only just beginning to come to light.
Think I need to relax and take these questions with a pinch of salt? Have you had any other annoying questions posed to you as an Irish person living abroad? Let us know about it all in the comments section.