So, I moved to Cambridge in the UK from Ireland in early 2018. To clarify, I’m a born and bred Irish woah-man. I was raised between Co. Mayo and Co. Roscommon and courageously fled further afield to Carlow for my studies, then to Co. Cork for work and to Co. Kilkenny, too (please note my sarcasm, this was not courageous, this is a thing boggers do to work. Note: boggers are people from the cionthrayyy!)
So anywho, wanting a change and more employment opportunities and to experience life outside of the Emerald Isle, I packed up and moved to the UK. My name is Aisling (or Dream, if you ask Google Translate). For the non-Irish folk, it’s pronounced “Ash-ling”. Lots of British people rightfully presumed it was Ace-ling. I don’t have a problem with this at all, because logically that’s what one would assume if they’re not familiar with the name. Like, if you asked a non-native English speaker to pronounce “photographer”, they might struggle too.
However, I did soon find myself becoming embarrassed by my name. I can’t quite explain why, or even pinpoint the exact moment it happened for me. But rather quickly, I started introducing myself as Ash to Brits (for Irish folk, you’ll know this is a common abbreviation, but still not my actual name).
I soon found myself repeating and explaining my name to British people. Without thinking, I would start defensively babbling “Oh, it’s an Irish name. It’s an Irish word. It means Dream.” It was like I was trying to sell my “foreign name” to the United Kingdom. It was almost apologetic, pathetic even… Please accept me! Please love me! Please take me as one of your own!
It suddenly dawned on me that I too have been ignorant about foreign names back in Ireland. I used to work in a call centre (which was by far the best job I’ve ever had) and I used to grimace whenever I saw a non-national customer’s name on my screen. What should I call him? Maybe I should just stick to “Sir”?! And what if he can barely speak English?!
Now, to be clear, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination comparing the life of an Irish person living in the UK to the life of an emigrant who has a completely different culture and has to learn the native tongue from scratch. I completely appreciate this is ten times more difficult for the Irish in the UK. I am simply stating that being different, being from a different nation, can be embarrassing. It can be uncomfortable, isolating even. In a sense, you’ll always be an outsider.
It is worth mentioning though that many British people have told me how much they love Ireland. They see the West of Ireland, in particular, as a leafy-green landscape of crystal-clear oceans and peaceful solitude. “It’s so beautiful!” they’ll exclaim, before (normally) telling me they have Irish descent.
However, I have also noticed an ignorance about Ireland from British people. After contemplating for a while, I understand it. I really do. If you think about it, Irish people are exposed to British media so much more than British people are exposed to Irish media.
And that comes to my next point, and the motivation really to write this blog… Southern. Ireland. is. not. a. country.
I’ve come to the realisation that many British people distinguish the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland by claiming one is the North and one is the South. Irish people don’t ever refer to the Republic as Southern Ireland, because quite frankly, it is not Southern Ireland. It is simply Ireland. It is its own independent country. It is its own independent culture, currency, economy and laws.
I’ve also come to the realisation that many British people do not see Northern Ireland as associated with them… when it is literally part of the United Kingdom!
So, for Northern Irish people (and I can only assume this), Irish people don’t see them as theirs, and nor do British people. Where does that leave them, culturally speaking?
In Ireland, Southern Ireland refers to Munster. The part of the island in the south of the Republic. I wonder if British people would be fond of Irish people referring to their land as Western Ireland? I’d assume they wouldn’t be too keen on that terminology.
I’ve also discovered that many British people are completely unaware of the fact they dominated and owned Ireland for so long. I’ve even spoken to British people who didn’t even know Irish was a language, and that we only speak English because of Britain’s control.
Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who think a nation of people should feel guilty or responsible in some way for their ancestor’s actions. I just think that as there is such a strong link between Ireland and the UK, and there always has been, surely some knowledge of each other can only be a good thing?
Of course there are probably plenty of Irish people, too, who know next to nothing about the UK. This isn’t right either. Why don’t we settle our grudges, and learn from each other?
To my British buddies, is mise le meas!