This month I celebrate 11 years in Ireland. What a huge change it has been. It was such life change that resulted in me having to move here in the first place, but I'd always wanted to live in Ireland anyway. My family are all Irish and nearly all of them live in Ireland. Even though I had a very happy and comfortable life in South Africa, I was looking forward to one day living in Ireland.
When you are "Irish" and grow up somewhere else, and seeing how popular and loved Irish culture is, it makes you almost "miss" it. Irish people who grew up in Ireland think it's kind of funny, almost corny. I can understand that too - but there's a natural longing to belong, to be a part of that culture when you grow up outside it. I don't know what other countries have such a strong, widespread identity with a such a global affinity. People with even the most tenuous links to Ireland tend to be the most vocal about being a member of this family.
Living here of course is an entirely different matter. When you're taken as Irish, the sense of humour is possibly the hardest part of being Irish and having to live with Irish people if you're not used to it. Gobshite and "you useless fucker" are terms of endearment. Someone accidentally breaks something, walks into something, knocks something - we offer words of consolement like "what are ya like Patrick, you toothless eejit".
Walking down the street, poor Niamh trips over a badly laid flagstone, "Christ Sarah" says her dad to her mother, "Are you sure she's ours? Didn't I tell you to take her back and get a test done?" With a smile of course.
The only Irish word I knew when I moved was Slainte. Being in pubs anywhere, Slainte is a great way to say cheers. One day soon after I moved to Limerick, an ambulance went flying past me. It said "Bord Slainte" on the side. I thought, "Jesus, alcohol ambulances. Jesus they must take it really seriously". Forgot completely that it mean "health".....