Recession? What recession?
Living here the last number of years in Ireland has taught me a few things about Irish people. When the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was in full swing here, to say that the Irish became obsessed with the finer things in life is probably an understatement. You could barely make it through a night out with friends without somebody mentioning a second property in Spain, a third vacation in South Africa or their brand new car on order from the local dealership.
Fast forward a few years and according to all of those international reports splashed across CNN and the Wall Street Journal, Ireland is now a desolate and barren place reminiscent of that Les Miserables’ song ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’. Apparently the country is officially in a recession, with job losses, mass emigration and personal debt at its highest in years, but after my latest weekend away in Galway, I am beginning to highly doubt it.
As I entered Galway city, the place was absolutely buzzing with streets filled with buskers, punters and shoppers. Pubs with outdoor seating were packed with happy drinkers and revelers chatting away while the 5 Euro pints and shorts were being ordered as if a ‘drink drought’ was right around the corner.
Listening to the Irish tourism board they will have you believe that hotels all around the country are in ‘deep trouble with customer numbers way down’; however when it took me four attempts to find a hotel with a vacancy in Galway on a non-bank holiday weekend, their credibility went right out the window.
Expecting to find that maybe a spring break was what the Germans and Americans were here for, I was more than surprised to find that it was Irish holidaymakers who were keeping those hotels full to capacity. In the end it was the Galway Bay Hotel with only two rooms vacant that we managed to snatch up. I genuinely cannot believe that I actually felt lucky to get a room in a four star hotel in these ‘recessionary’ times in Ireland.
A quick stroll up the promenade of Salthill on Saturday brought us straight into the city for a spot of shopping around some of the boutiques and small stores. Since living here, I have come to expect that you will just never get the same sales or bargains that you can find in America for shopping; but the optimist in me was hopeful that I would spot some deals I would never have gotten in the ‘boom years’. With a price tag of 150 Euro on a particular dress I wanted, I quickly realized that not only are prices just as expensive as before, but there are still a lot of Irish people out there who will happily pay them.
Heading back to Dublin on Sunday, while listening to the debates of the 100 Euro household charge on the radio, got me thinking about the Irish attitude to this economic downturn. Sure, the bragging about their many vacations and brand new cars may have ceased, but the expensive tastes in food, clothing and beer, that the Irish will willingly part with their cash for, has a long way to go before you can officially say that Ireland is in a recession.