Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What Makes Ireland So Good?

Visiting Ireland is always something we enjoy. The people are great, there's always a warm welcome and somehow it all adds up to a great holiday. So why is it in Scotland we can't seem to get it as right as the Irish do? I know that we're not visitors to our own land but from all the evidence the fact is that Scotland is not as successful when it comes to marketing itself as Ireland is. On balance I think Scotland is more beautiful overall, Edinburgh is a better city than Dublin and we win hands down on the price of just about everything. Scotland's even more green than Ireland!

I think it might be as simple as the Irish tourist board tell you that you are going to enjoy Ireland so much more. They have you convinced before you even arrive. And before anyone even says it there were just as many Poles, Eastern Europeans and non-Irish people that we came face to face with in bars, restaurants and elsewhere as there are in Scotland! Whatever is their trick VisitScotland need to learn it and not just copy their TV adverts.


Tom Paine said...

As someone who visits both for relaxation, may I answer frankly? Any generalisation is false and there are some jolly Scots (some among my friends) and perhaps even some Irish misanthropes (though I haven't met any of the latter), but having said that, it's the people.

The Scots don't seem to feel the need to be nice to you while relieving you of your tourist money. The Irish can't seem to help being warm, friendly, funny and welcoming. On my last trip to Ireland, I didn't have a cross word with anyone and I laughed several times a day. Given what a curmudgeon I am, that's remarkable. On my last trip to Scotland, all was tension and grief.

I go to Scotland for the excellent, empty roads without so many speed cameras on which to give my beloved convertible a good blast through beautiful scenery. I go alone, because my wife doesn't like wet, moody places (especially as I insist on having the roof down). I don't expect any pleasantries from the natives, but sometimes there are other tourists to talk to.

Ireland's roads are awful, but her accomodations are better and her people friendlier than Scotland's.

Or maybe that's only true for the English? Maybe the Scots are being jolly and convivial with the visitors from other nations? Certainly, I have never heard viler prejudice expressed than when I heard a Scot explain the significance of the Wallace Memorial to his toddler. If I were of the wimpish modern tendency, I would be in post-traumatic stress and in need of a therapist because of such "hate speech." As it is, I don't give a damn for him, but felt sorry for his little boy being indoctrinated with mindless hatred. One day he will grow up to be rude to the tourists, no doubt.

r morris said...

Great post, Richard, and fascinating follow-up, Tom Paine. By the way, Tom, thanks for the great pro-independence tracts back in your youth.

As someone who has never visited either Scotland or Ireland, I feel somewhat of an expert. However, here is an interesting perspective from an American with ancestry from both places.

Ireland, Ireland, Ireland, the stories about it never stop and it is presented in family lore and the most magical, beautiful isle on earth, blessed by the gods, and we'd all still be there if not for that terrible potato famine. Any American who has Irish ancestry touts it endlessly, and on St. Paddy's Day, even non-Irish become Irish for a day through wishful thinking. Of course, there are way more Irish in America than there are in Ireland (a fact that is very hard to understand, but is true none the less). And many Irish in the States are descendants of the peasents who had to leave the rural areas and who were close to the land. Our family came from Galway on the west coast.

Scotland, on the other hand, is described in America as a place with stingy kilted people who can squeeze a dime out of a rock and who play bagpipes. It's also considered basically a part of England. Most Scots who came to America came from the big urban centers. My family came from an industrial area near Glasgow, and none of the family lore has anything good to say about the country.

I think I'd love them both, personally. I've been to England and found the English to be some of the most interesting and friendly people around. And my many contacts in the US 8th and 15th Air Forces who were stationed in England during World War Two absolutely loved England and the Brits.

Also, both of you raise an interesting question. Is there such a thing as a 'national character', whether it be cultural, genetic, or both?

What do you think?

r morris said...

By the way, my comment about being 'somewhat of an expert' was tongue-in-cheek and said with a ;)

Richard Havers said...

Two fantastic posts.

I totally agree with both. Being English of course means that it's slightly more difficult to be objective. Having said that I'm married to a Fifer, which gives me an extra insight.

I think there very definitely is something in the whole national character argument. It's also why I totally get the idea of independence for Scotland at an emotional level, I think it will give confidence and boost national morale, although I'm not sure it will really make that much of a real difference.

I certainly think we don't market Scotland as we should, although space will not get us into all of that here. The natural resources of Scotland far outweigh those of Ireland and we need to be doing a 'hearts and minds' on Scots so that we begin to believe in the value of our country a great deal more. There really is something of a worry with the independence argument and the potential for people in England to be turned off Scotland – there are still more English visitors to Scotland than any other nationality

I'm preparing another post on a similar issue for tomorrow - watch this space.

Richard Havers said...

I've always said I'm no expert, but I am opinionated!

r morris said...

Okay, Richard, pardon my ignorance, but what is a 'Fifer'? I take it it's a person from Fife. So where is that?

PS I look forward to more on the Scottish/Irish enigma.

Richard Havers said...

The Kingdom of Fife! North of the Firth of Forth...



David Ross said...

Queen Elizabeth I introduced the term "blarney" into the English language. She claimed the Irish had an eloquent gift for talk, "a pleasant manner of speaking which was intended to deceive without offending."

r morris said...

Another thing in the Irish national character, at least among Irish-Americans, is the tendency to tipple just a wee bit too much, perhaps to dull the all-too-present melancholia. I live in a Mormon area, and the small minority of Irish Catholics here are known as hard drinkers who laugh hard and cry just as hard. Is this true over in Ireland as well?

Anonymous said...

I am from California, a native, married to a man who left Scotland at 3 years of age. We have travelled to Scotland twice, and I can't seem to get enough of it. I believe it is the most beautiful pal on earth.
I was surprised to hear comments about the people..the Scots are the most friendliest of all people I have ever encountered traveling. I can tell you dozens of stories of incomparable friendliness such as I have never seen, especially compared to England, most of Europe and the United States.

I have not been to Ireland, and I probably won't go there, because I would rather be in Scotland. From the movies, videos, etc, it doesn't seem to compare to the rugged and unmatchable beauty of Scotland, although I have heard it is lovely and green. I believe that the Irish call it more beautiful, but only them, as anyone who has been to the islands and highlands of Scotland would know immediately, the difference.

Yes..perhaps Scotland could do better in promoting itself..but who wants tourists in the Highlands?