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An American on what the Irish do best


by Brenna O'Donnell
28th Apr 2018

It’s no secret: many Americans like to claim they’re Irish. And it’s understandable, the Irish are known as fun-loving, wise-cracking, creative, proud and resilient. Which is why one mention of the Emerald Isle brings out a chorus of “I’m 17% Irish!” “My family’s from Cork” “My great-grandpa came over during the famine!” Irish heritage is just something Americans are quicker to claim than the last rib at a BBQ. No matter how loud we shout “America’s number one,” we know that there are just some things the Irish do better. Let me explain…

Being good about plastic waste

I’ve never seen such an organized recycling system that everyone seems to stick to. Sure, we have the blue bins next to our bins in America, but separating cardboard and aluminium? With more and more environmentally friendly strides being taken across the world, it’s wonderful to see Ireland put in such conscious effort. Even the fact that you have to pay for plastic bags when you go grocery shopping is something I wish they would implement in the US.

Folk Music

There’s something beyond charming about being in a pub and traditional Irish folk music filling the room and creating an atmosphere of togetherness. You might be listening to the story packed between the chords, or singing along to your favourite tune. Regardless, it brings everyone within earshot closer. Although some cities across America have a more prominent music scene than others, the unique breed of folk music that can be heard all across Ireland is special in its ability to perk up ears and get people on their feet.

Holding literary culture in high regard

America has produced some great works of literature. But in Dublin I’ve seen statues of writers, gone on pub crawls themed around literature, and of course, visited an entire Writer’s Museum. Being in Ireland and telling people that I study writing, the response is usually one of interest and enthusiasm. In America, studying the arts is treated like a bad investment and not a “real” career. As a writer, Dublin was the best place I could’ve picked to continue my studies abroad as there seems to be such a high regard for literature.

Talking to strangers

This is one of the first things I noticed when I came to Ireland. It didn’t matter where, when, or why, people just chat with you. It was pretty refreshing compared to my home in New York where strangers don’t typically interact. It’s something that I like so much about Ireland, that I think I’ll bring the habit of striking up conversation back with me to America.

And yes, pints.

With this one, I have no idea how I’ll even go back to America the same. Especially having a few weeks before I turn 21. American beer has nothing on a tall pint of Guinness, or Smithwicks Red Ale depending on the day. I particularly love how “going for a pint” is common social gesture, and I’ll definitely miss this custom the most.

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