May 6, 2015

Invasion of the Fanny Packs

A glass of water ripples. The earth begins to shudder. We have entered the month of May and the tourists have begun to storm the beaches of the Wild Atlantic Way. The Americans are coming!

The forecast for the summer months informs us that there will be heavy showers of travellers looking for directions to ‘Kway’ Street and the Aran Island jumper shop. There will be intermittent spells of people not knowing their Temple Bar from their Shirley Temple Bar. Finally, there will be some outbreaks of dog-eared phrasebooks that reveal the sheer abundance of craic to be had in the local pub amidst a sea of Hector Ó hEochagáins.

You have to admit that tourists to our nation can often get a raw deal. They flock with such fervour and enthusiasm for the green fields, envisioning a Heathers song playing in the background and Colin Farrell perched sexily on a gate. Instead they have to settle for grumpy commuters who reluctantly point out directions merely to prove, in flashing letters, that they are not a racist.

All jokes aside; when it comes to tourism, Ireland is guilty of hypocrisy. Everywhere we go, we are expected to be greeted with English phrases and for natives to delight in our Gaelic lilt. We are imbued with such charm that they must roll out the red carpet of O’Reilly’s Authentic Irish Bar when they see us coming.

However, when the shoe is on the other foot, we do not exactly return the favour. We make no effort to learn neighbouring terminology and when we hear a foreign tongue, we wonder why they didn’t become fluent in the English language before they dared to step into our country. We tend not to absorb any outside culture; instead, when we drag our pasty bodies to the other end of the continent, we moan because we have to drink Lipton’s Tea for the week.

It is hilarious that we borrow almost everything from American culture and are so immune to the accent on our television screens but when we are confronted with it in real life, we don’t know how to react. Last summer, a Kerry café banned ‘loud Americans’ from their establishment. And this is the land of the Céad Míle Fáilte? We cannot continue to pride ourselves on this slogan if we do not live up to its essence.

It is not too late however to brush up on our hospitality skills and accept the fact that tourist pronunciation of Irish place names equals that of the Sat Nav lady. We have all been the fish out of water at some stage and it is always better to be made feel welcome in unknown territory. And in case we forget ourselves with our grand notions, just think about how each time we pronounce Champs Elysées, a French person dies a little inside.