Monday, September 17, 2012

Ireland in a nutshell #2

Ireland3 One fundamental difference between German and Irish culture is in the choice of clothes. In Germany, people feel embarrassed when they think they might be overdressed. In Ireland, not being sufficiently dressed up would be a far bigger concern.(*)

Fashion values also differ greatly: A German woman is likelier to think "Oh! My outfit today is wonderfully practical!" - something that might make the average Irish lady shudder. It does explain, however, why you can always pick out German tourists in the crowd because even during city trips, they are ready to face the great outdoors at any time. Their jackets will resist any weather condition, and boast astounding vapor permeability of the material so the wearer won't break a sweat even in the heaviest rain. In the extreme form, Germans carry walking sticks (and no, Dublin isn't known for its mountainous cityscape) and two liter water bottles in the mesh side pockets of their hiking backpack (because shops with beverages might be a rare luxury in a European capital) - unless their backpack has an integrated drinking system: Dehydration will be no reason for worry during their leisurely stroll around Trinity college.

There is a variation on the German outdoor tourist look: There is also a certain kind of Ireland tourist who is less interested in preparing for (urban) nature than in a fuzzy idea of ancient, mysterious, profound Celtic culture. This group is likelier to wear clothes that look mildly medieval, fairly traded and hand-woven, karma-free and felted by moonlight to the tune of a pan flute. They may come with an attitude of more-Irish-than-thou, or may just wander about mumbling about shamrocks and fairies.

In contrast to both, Irish women, when pleased with their attire, will think more in terms of "I look absolutely fabulous!" - shoes will be high-heeled, not comfortable, and dresses as short as possible. During the day, "comfortable" wear may consist of a candy-coloured tracksuit combined with big hair and eyeliner. (German tracksuit wearers are less common, and far less likely to match top and bottom. Irish fashion usually demands wearing the suit as an ensemble.)
At night, all unnecessary material will be dropped to reveal as much fake tan as possible. The picture above is a selection of average evening wear for a regular night of drinks with friends - and it is not, as the sensibly shoed German may assume, a shop that specializes in circus artist attire. There is also no direct connection between body shape and weight and choice of dress: Tight is good. Short is good. For everyone. (As a rule of thumb, every German lady who hears that she looks "fabulous!" will turn around and run to cover herself up.)

(*) Except when going to the supermarket in the morning. I can't imagine many Germans would go buy their milk in their pyjamas.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ireland in a nutshell #1

Ireland 2
2.5 years in this country, not enough blog posts. That needs to change! Right now:

One of the first things I noticed here is a job that is immensely popular in Irish shopping streets but that I had never seen elsewhere: Holding up signs. 

It's a bit unusual that this guy has a multi-purpose sign for three shops - a symptom of the crisis, maybe? - because usually, it is one person per sign and one sign per shop. And usually they stand around in groups, blocking pedestrian traffic and chatting with other sign holders - because their job is just to make sure the sign is upright. Their job description does not include encouraging people to visit the shops. Because that's the sign's job. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From autumn, with love

If you were to say: "Hey! You haven't updated in a year!", then I would still be in a position to disagree... for two more days. Maybe autumn makes me chattier. (Maybe I'm trying to talk the leaves back up on the trees.) Last year, I found the first ripe chestnut well before the end of August - this year has been more traditional: The first ones appeared this weekend, but then, after a bright and summery Saturday and still-okay Sunday, autumn decided it was now time to step in. Temperatures have dropped, and so has foliage. Howth
Howth still looked like that on Sunday. One of the best things about Dublin is that when it's sunny, you can take public transportation for 30 minutes and end up somewhere like that. (In fact, I read recently that some Thai beach resorts stole pictures of the Scottish and Irish coast and used it to advertise their own beaches.) (Obviously, public transportation also runs on rainy days. But the view just isn't quite the same.) (It should be sunny much more often.) And then yesterday, Ireland remembered its core strength and brought on the gloom and the rain.

B√ľndchen fertig (Gentle Teresa)So I guess there was only one reasonable thing to do: Take some Donegal tweed yarn, and work on a sweater. I still find it surprising that there are so few yarn shops in a country with such a high sheep to human ratio. Where does all this wool go? It can't all end up in touristy Aran sweater shops?