It seems like we’re in Belfast for a while, we’ve been here a week already and it doesn’t look like we’ll be home soon. So, I thought I’d get cracking on reflecting on life over the Irish Sea in Norn Iron. It never really occurred to me that when I got married that I would be entering a cross cultural marriage. Husbandface spoke the same language (most of the time) and seemed pretty similar in lots of ways. I’m not sure why I didn’t realise that being an English Protestant lady and marrying a former Catholic Northern Irish man would involve a fair few cultural intrigues and differences. I guess every marriage involves some degree of cultural clashes as you work out each others backgrounds, how you’ve been brought up and how that affects now. In our situation it seems like there is a wider amount of cultural baggage to try and hurdle.
I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the differences in our families. Suffice to say there are many. It’s the experience of culture shock that I have coming over to Belfast that I want to explore. There are differences, in language, in ways of relating and in life in this city that strike me everytime we come over.
Relationships between the genders seem much more old school over here, there seems to be much more eye rolling over men being useless and much more of a matriarchal vibe going on. Husbandface found it hard to deal with my relative quietness at first in comparison. I don’t think all men are useless and I’m not going to sigh about them in public. That sometimes seems to rule out lots of chat with people. I’d love to know if this is a vein that runs throughout life in Ireland. I’d love to see how this plays out in Christian lives over here and whether it’s a big issue more widely.
There is a high quality of sarcastic banter, I thought I came from a sarcastic family, and I’m glad I did because I get more than I would otherwise. My theory is that it’s a defence mechanism to detract from the crazy seriousness of life during the troubles. Sarcasm rules the day and despite appearances to the contrary is a sign of affection (I hope so anyway…).
The language is different as well, here are some phrases I’ve picked up in the last week or so:
“That’s us”- A kind of – we’re ready, I’ve finished what I’m doing, lets go type of phrase.
“Did you ‘lift’ that?”, “can you ‘lift’ my phone over”. A replacement for ‘get’ I think…
“Hot Press” – This could be Irish, or it could be a family phrase, someone please enlighten me, I think this is an airing cupboard.
“Happy Days” – A cover all kind of phrase for expressing something is good, turned out ok or has a good result.
“Raging”- As in I was… very angry, seriously annoyed.
“Slagging”-Slating someone, usually sarcastically for humorous effect, although probably with elements of truth to it.
“A fry”- No fry up’s for people over here, the Belfast Fry is a thing of legend. Possibly the reason why Norn Iron is one of the 6th most obese nations in the world but that might be the Guinness, or the large amounts of grease served with many meals. (Husbandface says this is due to having such a limited diet for so long, and that it’s the fault of the English because of their lack of help in the famine many years ago. To be fair he might have a point, England certainly has a lot to answer for)
Having said all of that I think I’m growing to love the place. Every time I look up from the city there are hills soaring above us. There is a crazy amount of weather, which being English I love talking about. Each day brings glorious sunshine, blue skies, black clouds, mist over the hills, rain and wind. All in one day. This is also the land of endless tea. I thought I drank lots of tea, but that was before I came over here. On my first day with the family a couple of years ago I think I drank about 10 cups of tea, we did a tour visiting various people and drank about 2 in each place we went to. Genius.
Being a lover of history I find this a fascinating city. I was hooked from the first time Husbandface drove me around pointing out the mainly invisible lines dividing the areas between Catholic and Protestant areas and the stories that went along with them. Flags and bunting suddenly took on a new significance and I could understand why Husbandface would shudder every time there was an England match on back home. I can’t make comment on the troubles over here, or the unique culture they have created. I haven’t lived through it. But I’m still intrigued by the affects of living in a pretty segregated city. Husbandface says until the school system changes there will be little major change in how the city is divided up. It’s a pretty weird state of affairs. So there you go, thoughts on Belfast, anyone from the other side of things in Norn Iron want to comment?
Update: how could I forget about ‘bold’? To be ‘bold’ means being naughty- children and dogs are told off for being so bold…