Margaret tells her story about Ireland
Margaret is from Ireland and would like to share her story with you! "The most common misconception about Irish people is that we are British. We are not, thank God."
The year is 2004. The city: Hyderabad, India. I hail an auto rickshaw to take me back to my lodgings.
‘Where are you from?’ the rickshaw driver asks.
‘Ireland,’ I tell him.
‘Ireland. It’s an island in Western Europe.’
Confusion furrows his brow.
‘It’s near Britain,’ I say. ‘West of Britain.’
Nothing. Not a hint of recognition. ‘Do you use dollars?’ he asks.
‘No, we use Euros.’
‘Ah! Holland,’ he says, delighted to have figured it out.
‘Yes,’ I concede in defeat. ‘Holland.’
You see, far from having stereotypes about Ireland, many of the world’s citizens have no notion whatever about my homeland. In Japan, when people learned I came from Ireland, they would say, ‘Ah, Reykjavik,’ To which I would reply, ‘No, Dublin.’ Or they might say, ‘Ah! Björk.’ And as much as I would love to claim Björk for Ireland, I would admit, ‘No, U2.’
The most common misconception about Irish people is that we are British. We are not, thank God. But this misconception persists even amongst the British themselves. When I lived in Japan, I travelled to Cebu with several British colleagues. At the airport, my British co-workers were amazed to notice that I did not hold a UK passport. They knew I was Irish. They frequently teased me about my accent, but my Irish passport was a huge revelation for them. Their ignorance was an equally huge shock to me. They were, all of them, university educated.
Yes, it’s true. Our very existence as a people and a nation passes under the radar. Even our nearest neighbours fail to detect it. Nonetheless stereotypes about us do exist. The most common one is that we are big drinkers. A Swede once told me that in Sweden there is an expression, ‘to drink like an Irishman.’ It is true, drinking is a popular pastime in Ireland. But Swedes drink their fair share too, as do most Europeans. I don’t know what country wins the prize for consuming the most alcohol. I do know it is not us. Another stereotype is that we eat a lot of potatoes. This too is true. We eat boiled
potatoes, steamed potatoes, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, deep fried potatoes. We grate potatoes and put them in scones, bread and pancakes. And why not? They grow well here and are a good source of carbohydrates and Vitamins C and B6.
Lastly there is the stereotype that we are friendly. I think that this is true too. I certainly hope it is and I hope that if you, dear reader, visit our wet and green land, you meet with friendliness and a warm Irish welcome (and a bowl of hot buttery potatoes with a pint of Guinness to wash it down).