Love of City Not Country – Dublin vs. Ireland

Ever since the controversial Five Things I Hate About Dublin, Ireland post, numerous well meaning (I’m sure) people have asked me why we don’t just leave.  The simple answer is, Dublin.  The post, I now realize, was misnamed.  Most of the things I disliked then, and dislike now, about our current living situation have to do with Ireland, and not Dublin.  You see, I love just about everything about Dublin.

I think it’s taken me this long to realize the difference because, as an American (in America), love of country trumps just about any regional loyalty (except possibly New York-o-phelia, or Chicago-mania).  But in Ireland, while there is a great deal of patriotism and national pride, it’s not such an overwhelming thing.  You’re allowed to preference your regionalism or city affiliation above country. There’s less ego attached at almost every level.

Thinking back on it, the five things that hacked me off at the beginning are largely still with us, but have been dealt with.  And, truth be told, most of them were problems with Ireland (and the Irish system) and not Dublin.  While the Dublin Bus system still has abysmal signage, and we had that wee incident with the bus inspector, I’m at peace with the service. Just the other day I realized that, of the several hundred bus journeys I’ve now taken in Dublin, only a handful have been problematic in any way. The buses have always been clean.  And Dublin Bus has never broken down, or been in an accident with me aboard.

Beyond the buses, I really do love nearly everything about living in Dublin.  It can be expensive.  But in return you get remarkably clean air for a city, great music, theatre, a wide variety of international dining – from street food to haute cuisine, a walkable city with historic districts lovingly preserved next to modern office buildings, oceans in view of the mountains, flagstone sidewalks and brick streets, and sports (my copy of Rugby for Dummies/Americans is on order).  By contrast, I spent time in London in December and found myself anxious to get back “home” to Dublin, because it seems a much more manageable and personable city.

So Dublin is off the list of things that irk me. But Ireland is a different story.

To its credit, Ireland is a land of wonderfully nice people (almost to a fault), and storybook landscapes.

But Ireland is also the land of a mysterious medical system that almost nobody (including medical professionals) fully comprehends.  Nobody really knows all of what is and isn’t covered, how long it will take to see a specialist, or what’s different about the care/coverage/billing/cost matrix if you tell them you are a public versus private patient. But that’s hardly different from most Irish government programs.  A call to almost any government office all too often yields a response telling you that the program in question is “under review”.  The apologists will whine that Ireland has “just“ installed a new government (in spring 2011) and they need time to get up to speed.  Come on, that’s pathetic.  At that rate they’ll be up to speed by the time they leave office.

Ireland is also the land of ad hoc taxation.  When they need local revenue, they, of course, institute a one size fits all federal tax that they are wholly unprepared to enforce. And that’s because the government has no centralized registry of citizens, visitors, property owners or people required to pay it.

So, suffice it to say that I see a lot of missed potential and third world (but for the rule of law) policy in Ireland that drives me mad.  But I could grow old in Dublin.

This, of course, has me wondering, is it fair for me to separate my allegiance in this way?  Am I an immigrant in Dublin, and not Ireland?  Can I be a citizen of one without the other?  Will I become accepting of Ireland’s blemishes in the name of living peacefully in Dublin?  Can/should I compromise my indignation about the one to sate the other?

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

Taxed in Two Places

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Bureaucracy, Dublin Life, Home & A Sense of Place, Immigration & Emigration, Irish Life & Society and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Love of City Not Country – Dublin vs. Ireland

  1. Nikki Paulie says:

    I really find your take on this interesting! My husband and I moved to Dublin December 1st, so we’ve only been here a little bit of time. But now that we have our dog here, and our apartment, and our group of friends, I honestly love this city. I went back to the states to visit some family couple weeks ago, and after 4 days called my husband saying I was “homesick” for Ireland. I’d lived in Kansas City my entire life and only in Dublin for 5 months or so. While I still have frustrations (especially in regards getting my work visa figured out because my work is considered contract – which the work permit office doesn’t like)… I still love this place like I’ve lived here my whole life!

  2. Cassandra says:

    I feel exactly the same about Amsterdam and The Netherlands! I love this city and am extremely happy to live here but would never choose to live in another town in this tiny flat crowded country. Is that an immigrant thing, I wonder? We can enjoy the city (i.e. our new lives) while dismissing the national traits we don’t love so much. Perhaps this is a survival technique for the modern immigrant?

  3. I’m happy to report that just moments after last night’s post went “live”, there was a knock at our door. One of our delightful neighbors (who’d read the post) dropped by with a rugby book.

    After a good laugh and a discussion about rugby, we sent him on his way ( with a container of cookies fresh from the oven).

    Yet another hing to love about Dublin: good neighbors, and new friends.

  4. Colm says:

    I was born & live in Belfast, but Dublin has always had a purchase on my imagination. The lay-out is so conducive to walking, chat comes easier to people than in Belfast, the atmosphere is freighted with the history & culture.

    I take it you know ‘Dublin made me’ by Donagh MacDonagh:

    Dublin made me and no little town
    With the country closing in on its streets
    The cattle walking proudly on its pavements
    The jobbers, the gombeen men and the cheats

    Devouring the fair-day between them
    A public house to half a hundred men
    And the teacher, the solicitor and the bank-clerk
    In the hotel bar drinking for ten.

    Dublin made me, not the secret poteen still
    The raw and hungry hills of the West
    The lean road flung over profitless bog
    Where only a snipe could nest

    Where the sea takes its tithe of every boat.
    Bawneen and currach have no allegiance of mine,
    Nor the cute self-deceiving talkers of the South
    Who look to the East for a sign.

    The soft and dreary midlands with their tame canals
    Wallow between sea and sea, remote from adventure
    And Northward a far and fortified province
    Crouches under the lash of arid censure.

    I disclaim all fertile meadows, all tilled land
    The evil that grows from it and the good,
    But the Dublin of old statutes, this arrogant city
    Stirs proudly and secretly in my blood.

  5. Sean says:

    Hi Glenn,

    Really enjoying your blogs. I’m from Dublin myself, all my life, have travelled a good bit but not lived anywhere outside Dublin. Some of your points I would agree with on reflection if not a bit tough to acknowledge. We can be very apathetic when it comes to efficiency and doing things right (my rants would be about the train system as a commuter.. constant delays, faulty this or that that just don’t get fixed cos “ah sure it’ll be grand”) and tend to put more emphasis on getting things done quick to make more time for getting out socializing and drinking, but this really is a part of our character (whether for overall good or bad..) I was over in Poland for the Euro Cup and was delighted and proud at the incredible impression the Irish fans made on Europe. Fans from all other countries that we came across, as well as locals and police told us how special it was to be involved with such a pacific fun loving bunch who were welcoming to everyone, getting them involved in our sing songs and craic, and even had the Mayor of Poznan come over to Dublin a few weeks after the cup to thank pay tribute to the fans for creating a very enjoyable atmosphere. This was one of my proudest moments as an Irish man.

    We still do have an awful lot to improve on, especially for catering for tourism and immigrants who are constantly confused by our strange and frustrating systems. I think many things relate to the fact we had for so long been an isolated country, set in our ways and being familiar within ourselves with the way things were done. Recently I think as a nation we have been coming more aware of this, and hope improvements will be made, especially regarding transport and the health system.

    I hope yourself and your wife enjoy your time here and continue to find things you like about the place, in the mean time I’ll be checking back in to see how you’re getting on, both positive and negative


    • Sean,

      Thanks. All valid and interesting points. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I look forward to more of your input down the line.

      I need folks like you to keep me on track with this.

  6. Carl says:

    Taking into account the price of health care in the US, please dont complain about our health system. Irish people really are the biggest complainers ever and dont need someone else egging them on.

    I saw someone complain about trains. Trains are literally non existent in most of the US. The bus system is a disaster,

    The US, is a mess in many ways. Having traveled a lot, I envy the Americans loyalty and patriotism. That is what makes the US great. Irish people on the other hand, they bash their country at every chance. But if you live outside of a major city, or in 40 of the 50 states that are not famous for something, you may as well forget about it.

    If you live in Dublin, please try to point out the good things about the country. Jumping on the complainer band wagon is only creating more negativity. Ireland is a small country, alone in its endeavors. Please dont be just another outsider having a bash at people and a country that is already hard enough on its self. It will make you popular, it will get your blog views, but its just wrong.


    An Irishman in Madison, WI.

    • Carl says:

      Also, take a look at your own govt, govt programs and “bus system” before bashing Ireland. I work for your government. So trust me, you know what I am talking about.

    • Carl,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and for taking the time to comment. I mean that sincerely.

      I would love it if you’d take just a bit more time and read a few more posts, particularly the one after “Five Things I Hate…”. It’s entitled “Five Tings I Love…”.

      If you look at the whole blog, I think you’ll see that this was never about how great the US is and how bad Ireland is. It’s a pretty balanced look at moving overseas in general.

      I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally, visited most states, and lived in about dozen of them (often in small towns), so I really do know what I’m talking about. It’s not just jingoistic BS.

      Glenn K.

      • Conguill says:

        Glenn, a late add-on to your reply here. I appreciate the critical posts just as much as positive ones. The latter would seem like platitudes without the the former.
        Nobody travels and sees only positive and an honest blog is far more interesting than a diplomatic one.

    • skeolawn says:

      You should calculate the real price of US healthcare versus the real price of Irish healthcare (tax, tax, tax, more tax+VHI). That might prove illuminating.

  7. Bill says:

    Hmmm… I redirected here from your previous post ‘5 Things I Hate[sic] about Dublin Ireland’. I found some of your remarks in the previous post insulting, ill informed and petty, but declined to comment as objective and considered response from the poster ‘Enda’ summed up my opinions. I now find myself struggling to contain my rage after reading this post.

    Having experienced such a mixed response to your previous post, I would have imagined that you would have learned to be objective and considered in any future posts. Unfortunately I came across this gem where you seem to revert to making ill informed assumptions about a place you know little of. You say you ‘Love the city, not the country’. I understand what you are attempting to suggest here. You like Dublin, but dislike(I think ‘Hate’ is a strong word that carries an entirely different semantic meaning to your perceived feeling. ‘Dislike’ is more apt.) some of the universally Irish ‘problems’/policies. After reading a mere two posts by you, I can’t help but feel that you have a poor way with words, or at the very least, trouble articulating your issues.

    You present your argument like Ireland is the problem, and some how Dublin is in the unfortunate position of living with this problem called ‘Ireland’. Let me present the same argument to you with a nationality reversal. I lived in Boston for many years. I absolutely love Boston and the people of Boston. I dislike some of the national policies in the US and have a problem with some of the decisions that the Government makes there. To say ‘I Love Boston but dislike America’ would be a ludicrous statement because I dislike some American policies and institutions, but not America as a nation. I have not lived in NY, Seattle or even a small town in Iowa so I am in absolutely no position to present an argument based on the assumption that everything outside of Boston is ‘The problem’. I can articulate my problem as being with government policies/institutions without suggesting I hate America.

    I think its remiss of you to frame your argument the way you have. You hate Ireland as a nation based on your frustration of what are entirely government run institutions (Dublin Bus, Taxation from the Revenue, Hospitals etc.). Living in Dublin does not shelter you from these issues, just as living in Boston did not shelter me from my issues with America. You have not lived in other parts of the country and are in no position to comment or present your argument the way you have. Would it have been so hard to sacrifice your attempt at a poetic reevaluation of your previous tactless post and articulate your argument as follows ‘My problem isn’t Dublin, rather national policies/institutions’ instead of throwing around words with a sensitive semantic meaning like ‘Hate’ and titles with a multiple semiotic meaning like ‘Ireland’.

    I’ve calmed down a bit now after addressing your careless musings, however, I would suggest that you be more careful when choosing your words and how you present your argument in future. I know you have no ill intention, but words and arguments are interpreted as they are presented and great care should be taken when choosing these.

    All the best with your experience of living in this country and I hope you get the most out of it.

    • BIll,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and for taking the time to weigh in.

      In my defense, all I can say is that , my comments are directed squarely at the larger “Ireland” (the governmental entity of “Ireland”) and quite clearly not at The Irish themselves. And, in that vein they are, I believe, valid observations.

      Glenn K.

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