Ireland has a long and valued history of cultural institutions that constitutes a strong bond with tourism, especially with the American in mind. Ireland’s history is veiled in tragedy after tragedy. Consistent wars with the British and Vikings, the startling famines, and of course inner religious turmoil that still hangs a dark cloud over the island nation today. Misfortunes, on top of other factors, led to a surplus of immigration to America in the mid and late 1800’s. The appeal of America’s freedoms and promises of wealth was enough to cultivate close to 3,000,000 Irish to board ships and set sail for the land of liberty. It is this heritage that makes Ireland an appealing ancestral visit.
America, traditionally known under the metaphor of “melting pot,” has a well-known love of Irish culture. March 17th in any major city is a celebration of green and orange, among other things. The popular Fighting Irish show up on college sports TV every year in shimmering gold. Leprechauns, Irish dancing, and shamrocks have wiggled their way into the minds of America. This has created a bond in Irish and American media and tourism. American consumerism culture can easily digest the humorous and entertainment heavy nature of Ireland’s largest export, leisureliness. Ireland prides itself on its status throughout the world. They seem to be comfortable as such a typical destination for tourists. The locals were used to seeing Americans run around Dublin. Seeing the smaller towns provided a bit more of a shock when we would roll into a restaurant. Still, we managed to befriend and assimilate into Irish culture.
Along my travels in Ireland, I was both surprised and unfazed with the number of American tourists I would run into. Naturally, attending the typical tourist haunts allowed for more opportunities to run into them, but even on the streets I was hearing American accents and having conversations with them. Like me, they stood out in their appearance and demeanor. Largely, the city of Dublin appeared to be comfortable with tourists; the tour buses were filled, locals were used to giving off directions, and they had an instant reaction to the Americans abroad. Everyone had an opinion on America, loved or hated.
The local pubs featured masses of cluttered advertisements and knick – knacks. Irish sights, beer ads, and plenty of sports flags lined the walls and sometimes ceilings. The communication of pub culture as shown in the Netflix documentary revolves around ease and livelihood. The comfort of the pint and conversation is commonly sought by the traveling American. A nook in the old pub corresponds Irish ideals of brotherhood and entertainment. Having the historical context of public housing in Ireland, the appeal of Irish drinking culture has found itself twisted when translated into American standards. I rarely saw belligerent drunks outside designated clubs; violent drunk fights, commonly seen on St. Patrick’s Day, appeared to be frowned upon. Many older folks sat at the bar with pints conversing; younger men and women shared mixed drinks at tables. Few were stumbling out the door. This temperament offers more to American tourists, especially older generations. The younger crowd certainly makes use of typical large city clubs, but during the afternoons and early evenings, the pubs offered a calm and collected atmosphere for casual discussions and friendly ambiances that can only be described as uniquely Irish.
Ireland’s own history is utilized throughout its tourism communication. Naturally, there was a bus tour in Dublin that showcased the historical context of the city. What made the tour unique is the distinctive touch of Irish humor. The bus driver made a joke at every corner and infused context with wit. Storytelling is an integral part of the culture. Personal stories, as well as common lore, play an important part in integrating the Irish tradition to outsiders. The Jameson and Guinness tours heavily played upon alcohol related jokes while telling their company’s stories. The heritage of hundreds of years allows for a boastful and rich messaging system that strives upon its roots. The Jameson tour encouraged heavy audience interaction. Often times, when the tour guide received a quiet response, they would push for a louder comeback. There was certainly a love of the loud in Ireland. Americans, mainly the group, still found their noise levels to vary in public places. This could garner a few awkward stares, as our thinly veiled cover was exposed, revealing our tourist status.
In smaller towns, taken on the Shamrocker tour, communication revolved around simpler aspects. The stores were smaller and no chains existed within a large radius of land. In many ways, I found a certain degree of comfort in the country side being untouched by the world of metropolitan ways. The simple farm life allows for constant communication in first hand styles. The lack of Wi-Fi may have been frustrating at times, but without the ability to look at my phone, I found my eyes taking in the essence of Ireland’s natural beauty. The very thing they advertised in brochures and TV ads was before my very eyes. To ignore it with personal technology would be a waste of my experience. It didn’t feel like I was being forced off my phone. It was refreshing to get away from it all; to get the full crux of the beauty. Nothing can ever take away Ireland’s experiences upon me. These powerful moments are what makes being a tourist worth while. To be an outsider for a period of time is by no means an easy feat. But the ability to feel the meditative validation on a daily basis makes it worth every awkward moment. Ireland has been beyond effective in indenting an important impression. Having now left, I feel a part of my journey ending, and another opening.