Personal Space And Privacy
The Irish And Their Sense Of Privacy
Feeling very comfortable at first with Irish customs of interacting, after sometime in the country, you may notice that with some of the people you have met friendships don't deepen.
You are making attempts to share deep personal stuff but
this is not being reciprocated...some people you realise, just like to stay superficial...
I suppose it's like that in any place. Only few people will
become close personal friends. But in Ireland in particular you might notice
that some people stay away from divulging any personal information. Why?
It's taken me years to understand this piece of Irish
culture...I think that a lot of it is the fact that the country is very
small, much smaller than you realise at first. It's not until you are here
a few years that you start meeting some of the same people again and
again, in different settings.
It was then that I realised that Irish people know this will happen and protect
themselves well in advance... A personal choice. Some people just like to
keep completely private...so they stay on the surface with anyone who is not
But you can also find the other extreme. Some people
might feel free to talk to you because you are a outsider. You are from
a different culture, not part of the often tightly knit social web on this small
This has often happened to me over the years, sometimes in
ways that have blown me over. Once, for example, in the very early
nineties, I hitched a lift with a friend from Galway to Belfast.
We had only come as far as Oranmore when we were picked up
by a couple from Belfast who were on their way home. She was a Catholic, he was
a Protestant. Life was difficult for them because of this.
Back in the North, there weren’t many people they could talk
to or relate to freely. Because we were outsiders to their situation
they felt free to talk to us in great detail about their lives. They brought us
all the way to Belfast, ended up inviting us for dinner, and then they invited
us to stay with them for a few days. They even gave us a key to their house. Unbelievable
trust and generosity.
The Concept Of Personal Space
Brace yourself, Irish people have a different sense of personal space compared to what people are used to in some other industrialised countries.
There simply isn’t as much space to go around here. You will see small apartments with bedrooms that will barely fit a double bed.
- You are bound to experience at least one annoying Irish flatmate who is using your precious CD’s without permission.
- You will see crowded pubs, where, to get served, you will have to push through a ton of people.
- And let’s not forget about overcrowded public transport where the doors can just about close when the last limb is tucked inside.
- When talking to you, people come closer, too, than they would elsewhere. Some might even touch you, your hand, your leg, or your shoulder.
What’s It All About?
I reckon, just look at how so many here have grown up-large families in small houses. They learn to share their stuff, and they learn that there isn’t a lot of space to go around.
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