What part of Ireland are you from?
“From the north, outside Belfast. It’s called Newry.”
When did you move to the states?
How old were you then?
What made you move to the United States?
“I was an exchange student.”
So you lived with a host family?
Tell me about that? What made you decide to stay?
“I enjoyed being here. The weather was nicer. It just seemed a little easier to live here. I got along really well with my host family. I connected really well with them. I had come over for six weeks, originally, and just liked it. In Ireland you can go to college when you’re 17 and I had been a nursing student for a year and just decided I was kind of over it, it was not what I wanted to do. So I decided to stay. I liked the culture in America. American people just love the Irish.”
How long did you stay with your host family?
“I stayed with them for about a year. I then returned to Ireland just to see if I wanted to go back to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went back (to Ireland). I was very unsettled, so I came back out again (to the U.S.). My host family helped. My girlfriend and I came out. My host family helped us get an apartment that was very close to them. That was it.”
Do you ever miss Ireland? Do you still have family there?
“Well, both my parents are deceased. I have a lot of great girlfriends there. We all grew up together. Had you asked me in my 20’s what I missed about Ireland, I would’ve said nothing. I was too busy over here having a good time. But I think as you get older and you have your own kids, that’s when you start to miss your family. It’s the same as anybody. When you’re in your 20’s you could care less about your family. You can care less about anybody. You’re all about yourself. Then you get older, you have a tendency to miss your family, miss your good friends. So, I do miss Ireland. I would never live there again, I’m very happy that I’m here and here with my children. My children have a better life living here than they ever would in Ireland.”
What do you feel the benefits are of living in the states as opposed to Ireland?
“It’s hard to explain. In Ireland, now, everybody goes to college. When I was younger, nobody really went to college. In my neighborhood (in Ireland), not even 40% of people would have gone to college. Girls just wouldn’t have even considered going to college, maybe 40% would’ve. I mean NOW everybody goes to college, obviously. It you can’t get a job, you may as well go get educated and hopefully get a job one day. It’s just easier to live here. Ireland’s changed as a country itself. When I was a kid, growing up, like most people, you could go out and play in the street. You came home at night when your mom called you in for dinner. Here obviously, you can’t do that.”
Those were the days! It was like that when I was a kid too, here. It has changed over the years though.
Of course, St. Paddy’s Day is on the 17th. Do people in Ireland celebrate the holiday the way we do here?
“They sort of do. When I was a kid, on St. Patrick’s day, you went to mass. You’d go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Then as you got older you went to the bar. America celebrates it a lot more than they do in Ireland. Here, everybody is Irish, German, something. In Ireland, you’re not anything. You don’t say “I’m Irish”. Everybody’s Irish. Here’s a prime example. I remember, one time, Good Morning America was in Ireland. They were in a store and they say to the girl working in the store, “Do you think you look Irish?” And she’s like “what!?”. They’re like, “what do you think you look like?” She said “I look like myself”. In America, everybody’s proud to be Irish, they go out and they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They’re celebrating their heritage. Our parades aren’t like that. Our parades are just a little parade. The kids are up front Irish dancing. It’s not celebrated at home the way it’s celebrated here.
Why do you think it’s a bigger deal here?
“People just wanna go out and party and celebrate. I think with older people; they’re happy and proud but they’re not wearing green or the “kiss me I’m Irish”. They’re wearing their authentic Irish sweaters and little hats. The older generation might have come from Ireland or their parents came from Ireland. I feel like the younger kids go out today and just wear green and drink green beer and get hammered cause it’s St. Patrick’s day.”
Does that bother you? And do you take part in any of the celebrations?
“It doesn’t bother me. Since my children have been 2 or 3, I take them to the St. Patrick’s day parade, believe it or not. My girlfriends kids, the same. For the last 11 years, we all stand in the same spot, every year. There’s 80-100 of us now that stand there. Some of us are Irish with American born children. Every year, there’s a journalist that comes and talks to us. They can’t believe we’re all still there with our kids. The parade also gives me the opportunity to see people I haven’t seen in a long time. And to give the boys a little bit of their heritage.”
Are the people you meet at the parade, people you knew in Ireland?
“They’re people that I met here.”
Your friend that you came back over here with; is she still here?
“No, she moved back. She got married and had two kids here and went back.”
Do you have a custom meal on St. Patrick’s day?
“I’ll tell you what it’s NOT. It’s not corned beef and cabbage. I never tasted corned beef till I came to the United States. And we don’t have Irish potatoes or green beer in Ireland. Irish potatoes are awesome, but they’re an American thing. I actually just sent my girlfriend the recipe for them.”
If someone were thinking about traveling to Ireland, what reason(s) should they go?
“The scenic part of Ireland is absolutely gorgeous. Anywhere in Ireland is beautiful, it really is. I’d go in May or September cause it doesn’t normally rain then. Years ago, people used to be afraid to go to north Ireland because of the troubles.
But just to drive the whole coast of Ireland….anywhere in Ireland is beautiful. But Dublin city, any city, is like a city in America. There are parts of Ireland that are very small but in general, if you’re going to a “city”, expect a city. Dublin is full of tourists. You won’t even find Irish people in Dublin. One time I was in Dublin and I was trying to find the guards station (Irish police) and I asked four different people before I found anyone that could speak a word of English. They were all tourists.”
Have you been back to Ireland with your husband and children?
“I was back with my husband and my one son was really young.”
Do your kids seem to have interest in going there and checking it out?
“They have no interest whatsoever. They’re kids, 12 and 14, and could care less. I think maybe next year, I’ll take them.”