If you’re planning to fit in seamlessly in Ireland this year during The Gathering Ireland 2013 then “How To be Irish: Uncovering the Curiosities of Irish Behaviour” is essential reading.
If you are not planning to gather you may want to release your inner Irish person just for the craic.
You might wonder why a guide is needed. Surely, I imagine you saying, Irishness comes naturally. I used to think that myself because I was born and raised in Ireland and therefore took my highly developed skill of being Irish for granted.
As an anthropologist, I decided to take a closer look at myself, my neighbors, and those who come to Ireland in the hope of becoming one of us: I wanted to see if I could distil out of the complex fabric of our culture exactly what makes us so wonderful - I mean what makes us so unique.
I discovered that being Irish is a highly developed art form. There is just so much that has to be learned.
This is most noticeable when you see blow-ins vainly trying to emulate us by failing to master our Hiberno-English language, which is confusing, like English but isn’t. Our obscure Hiberno-English dialect is the language of the pub. It helps us to exaggerate, avoid public demonstrations of our emotions, and manically communicate with each other over a few pints. Mastering pub life is more fun than getting drunk, which is just a fortunate by-product of spending so much quality time in the pub.
Along with fuelling talk with drink, we have other distinctive dietary requirements, like Tayto crisps, Clonakilty black puddings, and Kimberly and Mikado biscuits, without which we would fade away like Pandas deprived of bamboo shoots.
From my research, I discovered that one of the defining attributes of Irishness is learning how to die an Irish death, which usually takes the forms of peacefully, suddenly, or unexpectedly, as defined by the local newspapers. But if you really must postpone dying you should master the essential skill of attending funerals.
In my book, I show you how to fit in with your fellow mourners, especially if you are expecting a large inheritance. Remember, attending funerals with élan is the hallmark of Irishness. But in Ireland, weddings tend to be a greater source of stress and grief than an Irish funeral. As grumbling guests at both social events point out, you don’t have to bring presents to a funeral. My book provides essential practical tips on how to pose for family photographs while drunk, how to avoid embarrassing speeches if possible, and when is the best time to start that inevitable fight: in other words, how to cope with the Irish wedding in general.
An essential attribute of Irishness that is often taken for granted is the need to learn how to be sick Irish-style. In Ireland illness has been developed into an art form involving distinct interactions with our doctors. There is also that related skill to be mastered – complaining. I provide practical advice on a range of typically Irish ways of being sick including a valuable 12 step guide on how to have that most Irish of experiences, a heart attack. Don’t just be sick in any old way: be sick like an Irish person.
Business people who work in an international context know that cultural differences impact on commerce. My guide to the Irish workplace shows how to get to the top of your chosen field by combining looking stressed with looking important. In Ireland, we know that work can be fun if it is kept out of the workplace. One of the most popular forms of Irish work is building: Irishness can almost be defined by our relationship to building. To be truly Irish one must go through what we anthropologists call a rite of passage: you must survive a relationship with an Irish builder who attempts to attach an extension to your house.
My guide also helps you to navigate your way through the extended holiday that is the Irish Christmas. You will learn how to make polite dinner conversation, comment favourably on the turkey, and remain upright while privately drunk. Irish Christmas can be a time when you have a near-fatal exposure to your Irish family, especially your mammy. If you don’t have an Irish mammy, one will adopt you if you ask politely.
In Ireland, all politics are local, most especially our national politics. I navigate through our complex political campaigns, which are not about espousing grandiose ideologies but are about shouting at each other in doors during campaigns. Happily, we have the most complex voting system in the world in the form of the proportional representation single transferrable vote system that guarantees we won’t know who won until a week after the election. The complex workings of this system are explained here for the first time, ever.
But it is not all about ancient rituals and traditions. We have young generations of Irish people who are helping shape a new identity for the future. You can learn how to be a young chic Irish hipster regardless of you age. Or if you want to resist new trends you can learn how to be an uncool GAA fan.
All these skills and more are provided in my life-saving, essential guide for anyone planning to fit in at our gathering for 2013.
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** David Slattery is a full-time writer and an Associate Fellow at the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin.