An Identity Crisis

orange walls and a cup of coffee with flowers. Ireland

It takes an awful lot to give me culture shock. It isn’t where you live, but how you live there that gives meaning to a place. Then there is Dublin, Ireland. Situated on the eastern coastline in the middle of the island. The River Liffy separates Dublin between the north and south side. Few tourists ever recognize the difference between them, staying closer to the major thoroughfares of shopping, museums, and, of course, Trinity College.

My first impression of Dublin centered South of the River Liffy in this beating heart of pumped up portions of Irish food and pints of Guinness.  With narrow streets, buildings closer together, and a cosmopolitan, chic vibe, this Dublin wasn’t really Irish; it was a tourist attraction. Further down Dublin became a central shopping area near St. Stephan’s Green.  Hip UK stores lined the redbrick pathways with alleys of pubs, panhandlers, and pedestrians. Nothing struck me as Irish about the £5 bowl of Pad Thai for students or the giant leprechauns offering the “traditional” all-day Irish breakfasts for £7. Even the street performers weren’t Irish.

I walked past the gates of Trinity College and back north on Nassau St. It quickly turned into O’Connell St. The buildings became grander and older. A British parliament building turned Irish bank had high Greco columns and wide archways.The Georgian architecture of the south gave way to cement-styled renovations and glass-exterior financial buildings. Further into the Docklands area, the streets turned to alleyways. Restaurants became take away combo diners and convenience stores offering coffee to go. As odd as it sounds in retrospect, this is the Dublin I had been expecting. The regular working class and commuter businessmen walked fast-paced and indifferent to an American flashing photos every three seconds. This Dublin was absent of the multitude of tourists snapping pictures, fretting over public transportation, and marveling at the multitude of fast food. It was starkly different than the local shops and eateries on the south side.

Ever since arriving, Ireland has somehow paralleled itself to Texas in my mind. Both places hold a strong sense of a cultural identity and ask me if I want lemon with my hot tea and fried, buttered, and sweet breaded substance. However, it wasn’t until I traveled into Belfast, Northern Ireland two days later that I truly understood what it meant to be Irish. Northern Irishmen have thicker accents. Even for my trained ear, it was harder to understand them. Tourist attractions were promoted differently. They advertised more of the “Irish experience” rather than the actual location itself. Being a part of the United Kingdom seemed to force the Northern Irish to stand out more than the Irish in the Republic themselves. I saw a reverse culturalism from being part of two cultures simultaneously. . .Read More?


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