After just two short weeks in the Big Apple I decided I needed a break!
Perhaps it’s the fact that I come from a mere city of roughly a quarter of a million (Cork), or because New York is just that hectic, but for whatever reason I decided that for two days I wanted to move beyond the isle of Manhattan, see some open space again and breathe some fresh air.
So because I have friends doing a J1 there, I headed to Montauk, Long Island.
The first thing I noticed about Montauk (besides the relative quietness, of course), was the whiffs of the Irish and Irish culture that seemed to be everywhere. Besides the obligatory Irish pubs and bars (which are stock in trade all across America, it seems), there are Irish accents, shamrocks, and Guinness at literally every street corner.
And typically, I stayed in the centre of it all, at the Tipperary Inn, a veritable Mecca for Irish J1ers.
And without wishing to sound like a conceited Manhattanite, it was just a little too Irish for even my liking.
I wrote last week about how one’s Irishness seems to come to the fore when one leaves Ireland; how Gaeilge, Guinness and GAA take on a new coolness just because you’re no longer stuck ‘at home’, but I think there’s only so much re-connecting that’s truly necessary for an Irish person to do, and much of being an Irish J1er in America actually detracts from some of the amazing multi-culturalism that America has to offer.
Where I’m staying in the city I have a healthy though not over-bearing dose of Irishness.
I work - of course - at an Irish-American newspaper, spend my time here fairly immersed in the Irish-Amreican scene, but our office is also a surprisingly diverse blend of people from varying nationalities and backgrounds. Desptie their differences they share some connection or affinity to Ireland, but the office still feels like a microcosmic melting pot in itself,
This is good, though, and it's what I actually like about New York in general.
My room-mate’s Korean and you’re as likely to catch me drinking a bowl of Mekgeolli as you are to catch me drinking a pint of Guinness. But I like that.
The ‘Tipp’ Inn, without disrespecting the place, or the lovely people there, is really in effect a little colony. From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave all you’ll see or hear is Mayo GAA shorts, ‘the lads’ boozing by the pool, and maybe even the girls you knew from school (or who went out with your friend).
But that's not really America.
I wouldn't suggest for a minute that the Irish shirk all ties to our wonderful homeland.
That would be terrible.
Part of being Irish abroad involves being nostalgic and reminiscent in Irish bars, but if there comes a point when the amount of Irish you know abroad begins to exceed the number of Americans (or Koreans, they're great!), then it’s probably time to get out of Dempseys and make some American friends!
I think that the ideal situation is to have a bit of both, but having just spent two days in a place that bore a stronger resemblance to an Irish college than some Irish colleges themselves, I see that some people perhaps have a point when they begin to get wary of the yearly Irish influx to places like Montauk.
Being Irish in America is well and good, in fact it’s great, but foregoing the chance to meet some truly amazing peoples and cultures to spend more time with the lads from back home probably isn’t going to serve anyone any good!