The wealthy in most societies are often revered, put on a pedestal of sorts. In Ireland, however, not so much. 'People with money' are looked upon with a great deal of suspicion. Why?, you might ask. That suspicion is drawn from a deeply entrenched thought process, rooted in generations of hardship. Our neighbours across the water could fill you in a little more about that. Throughout history, we've rarely been a wealthy nation. The 'Celtic Tiger' years were all a bit too much for us, and everyone knows how that turned out. Hollywood producers would have you believe that we only recently moved out of our single room thatch roofed cottages. That we all still milk our cows by hand, and electricity is a new commodity. That romantic image of Ireland has been painted for many generations. An image of jolly, pint drinking farmers, who love the cráic. Not completely wrong, but an image of wealth? Definitely not.
Don't get me wrong, if you've ever been described as wealthy, then your lucky. Money allows a person to enjoy the finer things in life, the luxuries only the chosen few could ever hope of experiencing. Four holidays a year, the new car, the big house with room for a pony. It all goes hand in hand, and as the phrase goes " if you've got it, flaunt it". That phrase sits beautifully with many people, but certainly not with the Irish people. To most Irish men or women, the key to being wealthy is how well you can hide it, not the opposite. It takes a good man to win, but an even better man to keep it inside, and that rings through when it comes to money in Ireland. "There must be no shortage of money in that house" is commonly heard when describing a person who's just made a lavish purchase. Immediately, they've singled themselves out for attention. The ferocity of that attention depends on how lavish the purchase was. A new Mercedes? They may never hear the end of it. They've drawn the suspicion, it was inevitable!
This thought process exists across all communities in Ireland. Dublin, being the possible exception. The Dubs love to show off, but that's another story! I was raised with the belief that any excess money for discretionary spending was a privilege. No matter how little. Money was to be respected at all costs and wasn't for frittering away on anything other than essentials, and of course, a few pints. That was it. Anything else and you were getting too big for your boots, a bit flashy and that's never a good look in Ireland. The idea of going on a foreign holiday? Absolutely out of the question! I remember a summer when a friend of mine and his family jetted off to Turkey. It was a big deal, a proper holiday to a far flung paradise. I raised the idea of Turkey with my Father. 'Maybe we could go sometime?', I thought. Almost instantly upon hearing my request, he broke into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "Turkey? Sure don't we have enough of that at Christmas?". The idea was too far fetched for him to even comprehend. Instead, we were destined for the bright lights of Waterford, a fifty minute drive down the road. True to his word, we actually made it to Waterford. One night in a 'B and B' was our lot, our holiday. A heavy lash of rain the following morning saw us hitting the road for home before noon. Not even time for a paddle in the sea or a carvery lunch. As I said, money is not be wasted, it's to be respected. That's the unwritten code.
Wasting money on entertainment is one thing, but wasting it on such a thing as 'the immersion' is a whole other level. For those of you who don't know, the immersion is an electric water heater fitted in most Irish homes of my youth. In order to have a hot shower, it had be turned on around twenty minutes beforehand, and that was a luxury. Leaving it on for one second longer than needed was regarded as one of the greatest sins ever committed in an Irish home. Husbands and wives have been known to split up over immersion mix-ups. Families torn limb from limb. All because someone forgot to turn it off before going out. That idea of paying for something you weren't using - sacrilege! The home phone also deserves a mention. Making a call before five o clock was another sure fire way to risk being removed from the home, permanently. The monthly phone bill would be investigated with more detail than a detective might investigate a murder. Any shred of evidence that the line was being abused, and the threat would be issued. "I'll pull it out of the wall, don't think I wont". Looking back now, it was completely irrational. We could pay those bills without problem, but it was just the idea of wasting money frivolously. You just don't do it in Ireland. It's as simple as that.
So, as you can see. The Irish have a funny relationship with money. We never had it, then we had it for a while, and now, thankfully, its gone again. We always do better when were spending our money sensibly. When we have too much of it, we can be guilty of loosing control of our principles. It's important that we remember, every penny counts...
Follow us on facebook at 'The Irish abroad'
or email us your own story to firstname.lastname@example.org
slán go fóill.