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Your 5-Word Mini Irish Culture Lesson

November 30, 2009 in dublin, Ireland, Mini Irish Culture Lesson

… means “Merry Christmas” in Irish.

Un-Turkey Day

November 27, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games

Thanksgiving in Japan, 2008: 

The equipment: Two gas burners, one toaster oven, one microwave, no kitchen counter.

The menu: Pan-roasted chicken, Maggie’s World Famous stuffing, mashed potatoes, canned corn, green bean casserole, gravy, dried cranberries, Mon Frere red wine. The Veuve Cliquot Champagne was a congratulatory gift from Nakata-san after Obama was elected. 

Thanksgiving in Ireland: 

The equipment: Four gas burners, an oven, and a microwave.

The menu: A roast chicken, green bean casserole with homemade French-fried onions, Maggie’s World Famous stuffing, gravy, homemade Irish cheddar-and-parmesan macaroni and cheese, red wine, After Eights. Not pictured: mashed potatoes and homemade apple crumble. 

Two countries, two dinners. The constants: stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and chicken. No turkey in Japan. No turkey in Ireland before Christmas. No Thanksgiving, of course, in either Japan or Ireland. The gloating Turkey-filled facebook status updates come fast and furious and I feel lonely, left out. But the bright side? I have my pick of anything I want in the supermarket at 4 pm on the day of. And the T-day food? The food is delicious anywhere you eat it. 

Besides – when you’re young, healthy, loved, and a Master’s student in the course of your dreams, every day is Thanksgiving.

On This Day in Dublin, 23 November 2009

November 23, 2009 in dublin, On This Day in Dublin

A group of Dubliners are talking about Pat Kenny’s RTE One interview with some of the many civil servants who are planning to strike tomorrow. 

Man 1: And he, asking yer one what she’s had to give up now that she’s on the dole. He, making 600,000 euro a year. Be a little sympathetic, you twat. 

Woman 1: But what do the strikers expect the government to do, like? They’re just going to make the situation worse for everyone for one more day. 

Man 1: It’s the banks. They want the government to go after the banks. At least in America they put some of them in jail. Here, they did feck all and keep cutting civil servants’ wages across the board. 

Tomorrow will be an interesting day.

Today in Dublin, 20 November 2009

November 20, 2009 in dublin, On This Day in Dublin

A man laid out flat on his back on Grafton Street; a crowd gathered round as an ambulance screamed towards the scene. 

Elsewhere, in between Ranelagh Road and Rathmines, a truck zoomed through a fat puddle and aggressively splashed a girl on the sidewalk, completely soaking her left side. She screamed in outrage like a child.

Today in Dublin, 19 November 2009

November 19, 2009 in dublin, On This Day in Dublin

… the stinging wind and rain blow so hard that sticking out of a trash bin on Adelaide Road are the remains of a black umbrella – twisted and bent like a  mangled bat wing.

Osmosis, Like

November 12, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland

Acclimating to a new country is so different this time around, thanks in enormous part to the fact that I speak the official language. As such, I’m able to pick up things about Irish culture simply by listening and looking. It’s learning at its lazy finest. Here, some tidbits I’ve picked up over the past two months: 


  • The political leaders of Ireland are the Taoiseach and the President. The President in Ireland is the head of state, similar to the British monarchs. The Taoiseach – literally translated to “Chieftan” or “Leader” – functions as a Prime Minister and is the head of the ruling party. The former Taoiseach was Bertie Ahern – father of best selling chick lit novelist Cecelia Ahern. The current Taoiseach is Brian Cowen.
  • Brian Cowen looks like this: 

File:Brian Cowen in Philadelphia.jpg

  • There are several political parties in Ireland, two of which are Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is associated with old school IRA Republicans. Fianna Fáil was started by Éamon de Valera.
  • Éamon de Valera was born in New York, not Ireland.
  • It’s all about 1916.


  • Western Ireland and the Isles are where the fairies are. 
  • Waterford is where the crystal is
  • Southern Ireland is where Cork is
  • Cork is where Murphy’s comes from
  • Dublin is where Guinness and writers come from
  • All of Ireland is where the craic is


  • The core subjects in any school are Irish, English, Maths. 
  • Kids learn Irish as a Second Language from Junior Infants (age 5) to the end of Secondary school. Few retain much after they graduate, unless they have a special interest or have spent time in a gaeltacht.
  • A gaeltacht is a part of Ireland where a good percentage of the population speak Irish as a First Language. Many city kids are sent there to attend Irish camps.
  • An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithras? 
  • Nil = It isn’t.
  • Sea = It is.
  • When speaking English, Irish people often say “I will/It is/I do” or “I won’t/It isn’t/I don’t” instead of “yes” or “no” because there aren’t equivalents to “yes” and “no” in the Irish language. Many grammatical structures and idioms in Irish-English evolved from the Irish language.



  • Mums, wash your dishes with Fairy washing up liquid and feed your kids Flora butter spread  - it’s good for the heart.
  • Want some new clothes but the Recession’s got you down? Head to Penney’s or Dunnes! Ballet flats from 6 euro.
  • Still have loads of cash to spend? Enjoy a trip to Brown Thomas.
  • Have a headache? Take some Paracetamol. Feel a flu coming on? Drink some soothing hot Lemsip. Heartburn? Chew a disgusting Rennie. 
  • Remember, everyone: buy Irish. 


  • Craig Doyle is hot. 
  • TG4 is the all-Irish channel.
  • Sponge Bob dubbed in Irish is amazing.
  • Isn’t it great that John and Edward are taking the mickey out of that Brit show? 
  • Ah, but Simon Cowell can moan and cry all he wants; he knows they bring in ratings. 
  • Dylan Moran is a genius.
  • Dara O’Briain is gas.
  • Tommy Tiernan used to be gas but has lost the pot completely. 


  • There are such things are Catholic Atheists.
  • Irish kids get hundreds of Euro when they get Confirmed. 
  • We’re living in a “Post-Christian world” but, by god, are we going to eat the heck out of some roasted turkey and fruitcake this Christmas.


No, Guys – Thank YOU

November 9, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking

So there we were at Malahide Castle; ancestral home of the Talbot family. Photography of the fantastical centuries-old furnishings and portraits are strictly forbidden so when we left the castle interior, I sprang like a cat to snap anything I could. While photographing the arched gate-cum-portculis (complete with a mini door for the Puck, the castle ghost, to pass through), I heard a roar:

“Take a picture of me!” 

I moved my eye from the viewfinder and saw a little boy clad in a green sweatshirt. A quick glance around the castle walls showed that he and I were alone. 

“Come on!” he cried, pulling himself up onto a stone ledge, his arms crooked like a prize fighter’s.

“Okay.” I stood back to include as much of the castle turret as I could into the frame. 

“Wait. Annie!” At his call, a little girl scampered onto the wall from behind a topiary shrub. “Come on, then!” A third child – older, wearing a red sports jersey – dived into the shot. 

“Okay, guys. One, two, three.” 

The children grinned and the flash went off. They congratulated each other heartily and scrambled off the wall, preparing to vault into the walking trails, I assume, to find their parents. 

“Thank you!” said the boy in the green sweater as they dashed past me. Had I really done him a favor? I wondered if it had occurred to him that he’d never get to see the picture.

I remembered a solitary trip I took to Rome 4 years ago. My mission: to duplicate a photo of my 9 year-old self standing in front of La Bocca Della Verita. At the site, my camera battery conveniently died but a kind Spanish couple took a photo of me with their own camera. We exchanged e-mail addresses and within a couple of weeks, they sent me the shot.  It, and the old picture that inspired it, are still two of my favorites. 

It’s too bad that those kids won’t get to enjoy the picture taken of them in front of Malahide Castle that day – although I’m sure their parents took plenty and that my shot, taken at dusk, will be much worse than the ones in their parents’ collection. Nonetheless, I’m sure they’d like to see it. I haven’t got their e-mail address and I somehow doubt they’re avid expat blog readers, but just in case:


After all, stranger things have happened.

Buy Me, You Fool

November 7, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games


In these days of economic crisis, I see signs like this in all the shops. Buy Me, I’m Irish. Irish grown. Support Irish industries. P.S. – We’re Irish. Hey, Mr. Cowen!, emblazoned on a Burger King Recession Special bus stop ad. Some of the stores even list Irish-made products separately on receipts so buyers can see how much money they’ve contributed to the national economy. 

When I see signs like this, I’m torn. I want to help Ireland’s economy, I do. But is it even more important for me to buy American while living abroad? If the global economy weren’t suffering, I’d obviously go for only Irish products in the spirit of delicious acclimation to my new environment. But things are different now. Surely I should go for the Pringles, not the Taytos. The Sam Adams, not the Murphy’s. As an American, it must be my duty. 

But the products are priced higher than they are back home. And they’re in Euro to boot.

Help me, Uncle Sam. I don’t know what to do.

Maybe I’ll just let Sean do the grocery shopping from now on.

Card Cake

November 5, 2009 in dublin, engrish, Ex-Patriate Games, My Funny Irish Friend, spazarific

Sean’s mother: Bring some of the chocolate cake on the train with you. It’s a long ride back up to Dublin.

Liv: Oh, I’m fine. Thank you!

Sean’s mother: Ah, go on, sure. 

Sean: Yeah, go on. Bring some cake witcha. 

Sean’s brother: Do you want some cards to bring with you on the trip?

Liv: Oh, I don’t know. Do carrots really go with cake?


Shopkeeper: Are you all right, there?

Liv: Yeah, I’m fine. Why? 


Sean to his mother on the phone: Grand, grand. Liv’s grand, too, but she’s just after giving out to me.

Liv: Oh my god! What! What! What? What are you telling your mom?

Sean: Settle down, will ya? I’m after telling her how you yelled at me for not taking out the rubbish. 


Sean: Well, what did you think of my friend, Bill?

Liv: He was nice.

Sean: You didn’t understand a word he was saying, did you? That’s a real Cork accent he has there, b’hoy.

Liv: Not … a … word. 




November 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

At the Dublin Crafts FairPA250004