Ireland – Where Everyone Knows Your Name
It is sad to scroll through the news and see articles about the barriers we are putting up to “outsiders.” One that caught my eye was a recent article about fears facing Irish immigrants. Last year, I visited Ireland myself, and was greeted with the unhampered Irish hospitality that awaits any guest of the Emerald Aisle. Now, I feel almost guilty to have experienced their kindness. Irish immigrants in my own country spent Saint Patrick’s Day — a day rooted in their own history — fearing deportation under our new political agendas.
The Euro soccer championship occurs once every four years, and I had unknowingly planned my first Europe trip for it’s duration. I knew it would be approaching peak tourist season when I was traveling, but I did not know that it was going to be peak soccer season as well. The combination of these factors would most likely result in crowds, riots, and a surplus of overpriced tshirt vendors. I had my sights set on wandering the streets from dawn till dusk, occasionally stopping to watch the world from a corner cafe. Any form of tourist trap or crowd was completely off of my radar, and that would include this soccer “nonsense.”
I was in Dublin when the games started, determined to wander alone and call myself a bonafide vagabond. I believed I was a Jack Kerouac — paving my way to “find myself,” or something equally poetic. The customary rainfall had ended, leaving the cobblestone streets gleaming with puddles in the summer evening dusk. I was splashing my way through the side streets with my camera and cross-body bag slung around my shoulders, taking pictures of street art and window-baskets. This was one of my two favorite times of day in Dublin, when the world started to slow as everyone went home for dinner. My other favorite time was the morning. Dublin treats every evening as a Friday night party, singing folk music and drinking Guinness late into the night. As a result, every morning has a lazy weekend start, providing the curious a chance to wander and watch the shopkeepers turn their signs in preparation for the day.
So there I was, my Sperry Topsiders soaked, the sun dropping lower, when I tuned onto an alleyway with a large screen hanging between the backs of two stone pubs. Jersey-clad spectators filled the space, watching with baited breath as the soccer match began. My curiosity held me just long enough for my presence to be recognized. A stranger held out their half-finished beer, which I politely declined. My accent gave me away as a foreigner, which immediately brought out the Irish hospitality of the group. Everyone turned to ask my name, where I was from, if I had tried their Guinness. In all of the places I have been, I have yet to find a group of people more friendly than the Irish. They do not build walls against outsiders. Their presence drove out my introverted preferences as they turned away from their beloved Euro Cup to envelope me in their generosity. The alleyway, damp and small as it was, became a living room. Two games later, I had eaten an amazing Irish beef burger and sang “I’m Gonna Be,” at least 4x times through with my comrades. Up until that moment I had spent my trip avoiding social interaction, mistakenly believing it would detract from my experience.
I went through a transformation in Dublin that has set the tone for the rest of my travels. I saw how we can share bonds with people who are from other worlds — we can be united by our common denominator of humanity. I stood in the alleyway, a jet-lagged and guarded foreigner, and Ireland unhesitatingly opened its arms to me. I still wander the world alone, but I always make sure to stumble my way into crowds, where the dialogue brings the landscape to life. This Saint Patricks day caused me to consider the way we are currently treating outsiders. Which begs the question: How many Irish immigrants are looking to the crowds in America for their safety?