In the ex-pat community you often hear people say that to have a true local experience you shouldn’t hang out with other immigrants, particularly your own kind (Americans if you’re American, the French if you’re from Paris, etc.). “Buswah”, I say. “Utter codswallop”, quoth I. “Complete claptrap”, I bellow. You don’t have to hang out with locals to have a “local” experience.
First of all, what the (insert expletive of your choice) is a “true local”? If you’ve moved from elsewhere, even a dozen miles up the road, you may never be a local by local standards. So, while fitting in, and getting to know the culture is good right and proper, I say, don’t try to be something you’re not.
What you can have is an authentic transplant experience, complete with all of the screw-ups, misunderstandings, unvarnished idiocy, personal baggage, shameless bigotry, and cultural self-righteousness that we’re all capable of on any given day. And one of the things that can ease those burdens is talking with people who are in the midst of similar experiences. For immigrants, that will often be other immigrants.
So, for that reason, I’ve found not that I avoid the Irish, but often they are somehow less attractive as targets for my rants of frustration. This is particularly true on days when something “cultural” has come up and I’m dying to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of Irish friends. I love them dearly and have cultivated Irish friends who will listen to, and often understand, my cultural growing pains. Many of them have spent time in the U.S., or as emigrants to other countries. They get it. But there’s something unifying about turning to someone who is not a local and saying, “You will not believe what just happened…”
And, while I can, and do, share those moments with other Americans in Dublin, they are frankly less interesting to me than folks from elsewhere. I’ve already got an American perspective on things.
That said, I don’t shy away from Americans, but I’ve found that the bulk of my expat acquaintances here in Dublin tend to be Brazilian, Spanish, Croatian, Italian, etc. That’s not because I’m avoiding Americans; it’s simply what works for me. And given the amazing diversity of this city, it seems very true to the local immigrant experience.
And that’s the experience I can have.
Dublin, August 2015
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (Yeah, right)
Finding the “Right” City For You