My first visit to Dublin was in March of 2009. I was 17 and visiting my sister who was studying abroad in the Irish Capital. It was also my first trip to Europe and had no idea what to expect. I was curious on what I would experience but didn’t have a whole lot of expectations.
It wasnt long though, that I quickly fell in love with the Irish Capital, as well as the whole of the country. The pubs, the music, the friendly locals, the dramatic landscape and the rich cultural history.
Being there made me realize and appreciate a city and nation that had so much influence on my own country. Over forty million Americans possess Irish heritage and more Americans than the entire 4.5 million population of Ireland, claim to be of a hundred percent Irish blood.
From the Kennedy family and Ronald Reagan, to the other more subtlety known writers and inventors, America owes a lot to the North Atlantic Island.
However, when I returned to Dublin in November of 2019, I was a bit taken aback to see just how much the city had changed.
The diversity in the faces walking the streets, a variety of different languages being spoken and the plethora of East Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Clearly the city was under the influence of the same forces that other Western nations were; globalization and mass immigration.
Walking the streets and taking the train from the North to the South of the city, whilst being surrounded by immigrants and other foreign elements drew a bit of a weary reaction in myself, that may or may not of been influenced by jet lag.
Is this really Dublin?’ I thought.
Well, the fact is, of course it was Dublin. Its just that the city is changing, like the rest of the world.
Yes Dublin is now a vastly cosmopolitan city and perhaps one of the more new experiments in Globalization.
There are many reasons to celebrate this relatively new found internationalism and diversity in Ireland. Many Dubliners themselves seems to be quite okay with it.
Talking to an older Irishman with the dress of a businessman, on a train from Connelly Station to Howth, he was pleased with what was happening to his city.
“We’ve benefited a lot from being in the EU. Dublin is much more cosmopolitan now” He said.
He added, “We use to be a bit backward, very controlled by the Church.”
His quiet tone and facial expression suggested he felt some embarrassment about this past.
“I don’t understand what Britain is doing. They’re being quite stupid if you ask me.”
Perhaps his last comment is not that surprising given the historical animosity between the two nations, yet he is certainly not the only one criticizing Brexit.
Still, his comments shed light on the very real benefits that globalization may bring. International communities brings forth many economic, social and intellectual benefits. Large cities with a diverse community of ethnicities and cultures can break down the doors of prejudice and tribalism by the very nature of forcing citizens to live and work together everyday.
It is certainly difficult to see how diversity and variety are, by themselves, bad things.
Globalization can help us see how minuscule and unimportant one’s own ethnic and cultural background is because in the big scheme of things, our similarities far outweigh any differences.
Though perhaps, these benefits also reveal some potential negatives.
For instance, is it desirable to push aside and forget the distinct elements of Irish Culture, or any other culture, in favor of this globalism perspective? Are there benefits in celebrating and preserving the elements that make cultures unique?
From a travelers point of view, we see many things from the outside in and take in many different ways of life and cliques of humanity. We do see, clearly, the distinct characteristics that differentiate one culture from another, and most of us celebrate these differences.
Most of us would be devastated to arrive in Kyoto and see the city filled with Italian restaurants and Catholic Churches.
I know that personally, I did not enjoy traveling around Thailand for example, for it’s beach parties and vibrant nightlight scene (which are largely influenced by westerners).
I loved Thailand for its people, it’s unique cultural landscape and it’s “Mai pen rai” outlook on life which is largely influenced by the Thai’s reverence for Buddhism.
Yet it was hard not to have some awkward feelings while exploring Dublin during the five days I was there. Outside the temple bar area, through a long sprawl of foreign restaurants, the first Irish pub I went to, was full of foreign waiters and bartenders.
In 2009, I remember a very Irish feel while walking down O’Connell street in downtown. This time, it just felt like a hustling and bustling, big city devoid of any signature cultural identity which is quite remarkable given the history on O’Connell street.
To be sure, every foreign worker I encountered appeared to be working very hard and it is assumable that all came to Ireland to seek a better life for themselves.
It its vital to remember the dreary reality in the quality of life that many immigrants are fleeing from when coming to Ireland and other western countries. Violence, corrupt and tyrannical governments, drug wars, many of us could not imagine the amount of adversity many Syrian or Somalian migrants were born into.
Still there are certainly others who have mixed feelings about Dublin. Talking with Irish in the small town of Clonbur in Western Ireland and travelers at different hostels throughout the island, shared a common sentiment;
“Dublin doesn’t feel like the real Ireland.”
“Be careful there lad,” my host in Clonbur said after asking where else I had traveled in the country.
“Lots of scammers there and not very safe anymore.”
After leaving Dublin, and spending time in the other areas of Ireland, I reflected on the changes I witnessed.
And maybe a couple things occurred to me. One, these changes and affects of globalization are inevitable, theres no stopping it and there are plenty of reasons to welcome it.
Secondly, just because Dublin has become a cosmopolitan city, doesn’t mean the rest of the country will, at least it won’t in a short timeframe.
Dublin is the Capital city and like all Capital cities in the world, western or non, there are much more international elements than other cities and prefectures.
Furthermore, though I admit I enjoy the more, “true” Ireland that exists in places such as Killarney and the villages of County Galway, we cannot stop the constant factor that exists throughout human history; Change.