Friendly People with a Zest for Life or Why Northern Ireland is Really Really Brilliant…

ARE you from Northern Ireland? Then you’ll be delighted to know that you are “hospitable, friendly and generous”. This is because we natives (and invaders, I suppose) “are vibrant and colourful with a real zest for life and a taste for the good things in life”. Not only that, the Northern Irish are “hard-working people, they are also family-orientated and like nothing better than sharing laughter and the craic with friends and family. Their strong work ethos cuts across into their leisure and relaxation time, so don’t be surprised to see them on a family-trek up a mountain at the weekend, sailing the lakes or surfing a few waves along the north coast beaches”. My goodness, I feel so much better about myself! See if you can read more of this government-sponsored propaganda that seems based on some 1950s advert without a) laughing out loud; or b) wretching uncontrollably. Group hug, anyone?Hat-tip to the Tele’s Insider column, sadly not online.

  • Eddie

    I don’t know who writes this purple prose, not all of which is totally grammatical.
    Also: Try reading it out loud and see if you can stick it.
    But don’t let’s be too hard – this is not a bad wee place.
    However, there is one topic that the writers avoid like the plague. No, not the bigotry, the bad weather, the thran-ness of some people, the lack of decent public transport, but….
    If you haven’t guessed it – the sheer lack of decent service in many of the hotels and eateries where we are invited to enjoy the mouth-watering food.
    At one hotel I was at, where I found the main course chicken cold and icy (yes, icy) I was told when I complained: “Huh, it was warmed up long enough” and the waiter walked off.
    At another hotel (a five-star one, so you may be able to guess which) there was no soda bread or potato bread for the “hearty Irish breakfast” Complaint was met with lack of interest. When I filled in the complaints card (the first time I’ve ever done such a thing despite years of previous provocations)reception staff weren’t interested and nobody has ever contacted me.
    All this stuff about the lack of decent service has been raised time and time again over the years, but very little happens.
    We seem to think it is demeaning to serve people or something. Me. I’ll bow and scrape as much as you like – so long as it brings in the cash and tips!!

  • me

    Aw ((((hugs)))))

  • Belfast Gonzo

    OK, this ISN’T the worst place in the world, but as Eddie indicates, we don’t always present the best images of ourselves – but the website’s prose I blogged is so twee I wonder if anyone would really buy it.

    Any recent tourists to NI around? How do others see us?

  • anon

    Maybe we should tell possible tourists that this country sucks? Would that make everyone happy?

  • Sean

    Ive been there twice and I have no connection to the place so my impresions can be viewed as reasonably accurate

    Virtually every one I met there was friendly and helpful atleast after I opened my mouth and they knew i was not a local. Though their propensity for calling me an american was a little off putting. You tend to eye every one a little suspiciously while you try to determine whether I was an usem or a themun, but once the ice was broken every one told me about their cousin from toronto(incidentally my wee country is just a couple of square miles bigger than yours so I don’t actually live with in a thousand miles of trawna)

    People are generally polite but suspicious of strangers though the polite part might be down to me being 6’6and not on the skinny side

    All the people who run B+B’s were friendly and helpfull and I enjoyed the expierience and would definately recomend them as the way to go

    I stayed at the famous inn in Dunadry and a hotel owned by paris hiltons kith and kin and the airport hotel at the international airport and the service universally sucked and I was treated like I was just a nuisance bothering the staff when on break. infact the airport hotel the hot water wasnt working but they neither offered a discount or an apology when I complained

  • Donnacha

    Quite apart from the “don’t mention the war” mentality behind this glorious bullshit, I am incensed most of all by the factual inaccuracies. The cheese & onion Tayto was NOT invented in Tandragee, but in Dublin. Tayto (NI) simply bought licences for the name and recipes off the Dublin operation, but otherwise have no connection. Trying to steal our crisps now eh? How low can you go?

  • The Dubliner

    Are there any distinct northerner character traits? Dubliners, I guess, have a cutting sense of humour which is very insult based – “slagging.” It’s only when you travel that you realise it, and that it doesn’t travel well: others don’t take to insults, however good-humoured. What I noticed about notherners is how friendly they are to outsiders, particularly those who are employed in the service industry. You always get service with a smile. They are, oddly enough, as the Irish are said to be but rarely actually are. Being a cynic, I always assumed that was just their way of assuring us that they weren’t all homicidal psychopaths. I also assumed that those who weren’t friendly were unionists who were not partial to southern accents. All assumptions, of course, but we all operate that way.

  • Come Here Yew!

    It’s Lovely!

    Our little fundimentalist never never land…

    the bleeding heart of Ireland AND Britain.

    Lets hear again for (ex) Ullllllllsssssterrrrrrrrr!!

    Simply the best

  • 0b101010

    > Maybe we should tell possible tourists that this
    > country sucks? Would that make everyone happy?

    Well, yeah. Let’s be honest, that’s what tourists want. They want to visit a country in tatters, where one half hates the other, and they want to do it safely.

    The unfortunate thing is that we as a people haven’t really figured out how to milk that for all it’s worth. Too busy regenerating and rebranding to realise we’re screwing over a steady source of income.

  • Wee slabber

    The people in the graphic – is the one with the narrow eyes the Prod? And the one with the slightly wider eyes the “Taig”. Or I am I mixing my stereotypes?

  • Aquifer

    Peace is simply better than we imagined. When there is a war on the good stuff was a distraction from the necessary task of putting assassins and sectarian incendiarists in their place. Now we can enjoy it, if we can get past our personal presbypreistly guilt and the cynicism of the commentariat.

  • miss fitz

    I had occasion to act like a tourist a couple of times over the summer, staying in a hotel and a guest house while needing to be on the road overnight.

    I stayed in a guest house near the airport around the 12th of July. The guesthouse itself was damp and dreary, with an overpowering smell of must. The service was incredibly poor. I was struck by the lack of small things, like glasses in the bathroom, a spoon for sugar and no-one around to ask for these items. On the evening I stayed, I needed to get something to eat, and drove around for almost an hour trying to hunt something down. 2 restaurants with signs on the road were closed for the holdiays, as were all of the Chinese restaurants in the area.
    Finally, I relented and went to a chippie in Moira. An English couple were ahead of me, and tried to converse with the young lady behind the till. It was amazing to watch! She answered every single enquiry with a monosyllabic ‘Cod’. Poor man got nowhere, and in the end we all had cod and chips.

    I was struck at how desolate and deserted Northern Ireland is during this time of the year, and how little we really have to offer.

    Being a tourist at home can be a salutory lesson, and one I would recommend for any of the big wigs who only think they know what is going on down here with the rest of us.

  • RG Cuan

    Not only do you have to laugh, or cringe, at the quotes above but the website is also biased and – like the most official publicity about the North – fails to recognise our true cultural make-up and history.

    The history section, for example, begins in 1972 and ‘Viking Heritage’ is afforded an entire half page. While this is indeed important would Gaelic – or even Lowland Scots! – heritage not be 100% more appropriate? The Irish language, of which over 170,000 people have knowledge in NI, is not even mentioned and Gaelic or Scots poets are again overlooked.

    Not sure what NI the government officials are familiar with but on the whole it’s not one that i know.

  • Steven

    When I visited Northern Ireland earlier this year I was struck by how nice it was-service, scenery, and culture. You can take in city and country easily. It is very welcoming and very beautiful. Northern Ireland is perhaps the nicest part of the UK, I recon the UKs best kept secret.

  • wild turkey

    Is this a great place or what?

    ‘The hospitable, friendly and generous people are also family-orientated and like nothing better than sharing laughter and the craic with friends and family. Their strong work ethos cuts across into their leisure and relaxation time so don’t be surprised to see them … on a family-trek to the local Tarring and Feathering Festival.

    WTF!

    ‘The shocking return of tarring and feathering
    Tuesday, August 28, 2007 Belfast Telegraph

    This is the sick incident where a man was publicly tarred and feathered – dragging Ulster back to the dark days of the Troubles.
    The victim was targeted on Sunday and after being tied to a lamp post at the shops in Taughmonagh, he was tarred and feathered by two men wearing black balaclavas while a group of people – including women and children – looked on.’

  • UFB

    “When I visited Northern Ireland earlier this year I was struck by how nice it was-service, scenery, and culture. You can take in city and country easily. It is very welcoming and very beautiful. Northern Ireland is perhaps the nicest part of the UK, I recon the UKs best kept secret.”

    It’s also the only part of the UK which is located in Ireland. Coincidence? I think not!

    So the “Northern Irish” are “hard-working people, they are also family-orientated and like nothing better than sharing laughter and the craic with friends and family.”?

    This distinguishes them from the rest of the Irish how? In fact is there anything in the blurb that isn’t regularly applied to the Irish as a whole?

  • Sue

    Wee Slabber.

    The answer is both hence it thought never to be wrong.

  • Pounder

    I previously worked in the service industry here in belfast, the Holiday Inn Ormeau Avenue to be exact as a receptionist. I can assure you that while there we worked our asses off to ensure that tourists where welcomed and well informed, as opposed to the level of poor service I’ve recieved in Scotland and England, infact I’m pretty sure one receptionist in London tried to set me up for a kicking by directing me to a staunchly anti-Irish pub when I asked for a good watering hole.

    The down side is that the average tourist is a little thick and I can be hard not to laugh at some of the dumb things we’re asked. The Holiday Inn hosts the cabin crew from the Continental Airlines flights from the Internation Airport. Last year one perticular member of the crew seemed very nervous. While cheking her in, (and checking her out might I add) we got to talking. She told me that she was very nervous about coming to “a warzone with snipers on every roof top” I assured her that even during the worst of the troubles there was never a sniper on ever roof top and in the city centre there would be absolutely no trouble. I then asked her where she was from, assuming it’d be Hicksville or someother small town. Instead she told me she was from Tel Aviv. My Irony Detector blew up.

  • Dawkins

    I’ve said it before. The only way to get a decent hospitality service in NI is to employ more Poles, Czechs and other east Europeans.

    Generally the homegrown staff are surly, unmannerly, slovenly — and speak English less well than the Poles :0)

  • Rory

    Once word gets out around South Tottenham that, being from Northern Ireland, I am bound to be “hospitable, friendly and generous” then every free loading bum in the area is going to make a beeline for my door looking for a handout and it won’t be safe to go to the pub or use the tube ever again. Who can I sue?

    Just for the record let me state that I am a mean, tight-fisted, nasty inhospitable bastard. So there!

  • Yeah the Customer Service for tourists is top class – Translink will vouch for that…

  • I’m pretty sure one receptionist in London tried to set me up for a kicking by directing me to a staunchly anti-Irish pub when I asked for a good watering hole.

    An English hotel receptionist in London? You’re making this up, aren’t you Mister P?

    The only way to get a decent hospitality service in NI is to employ more Poles, Czechs and other east Europeans.

    Dawkins, you’re having a laugh, mucker. The Poles and Czechs have many advantages over us – doubtless better educated, more cultured and better mannered – but have you ever travelled in that part of the world? The triangle formed by Gdansk, Talinn and Bratislava is the personality-free zone; they make the Finns look open and smiling.

    That’s unfair, of course, as the Poles, Czechs and their neighbours are kindly, generous and hospitable when you get to know them. But you do need to know them; they don’t really do being chatty with strangers, while we Irish (yes, including the dour Ulster Prods) are actually quite good at that. Up North, we just need to work on our efficiency a little. And if we want to import some immigrants who are good at the hospitality thing, I’d recommend a few Turks, South Slavs and Italians (although how we’d afford to attract the latter, I don’t know). But seriously, Poles? The only time you see a smile in Warsaw is at the end of a dentist’s drill.

  • SlugFest

    From an outsider’s pov …

    I love Belfast. Absolutely love it. Sure, you’ll get the odd nasty comment or look (i too was told from a translink employee that there was no such city as Derry the first time i was in Belfast), but that just adds spice to the visit.

    The service definitely sucks — i spent over 10 years in the service industry so i tend to be very discerning when traveling. thing is, i don’t come to belfast for the hotel rooms or paul rankin’s special of the day … i come because i love the people.

    I never know where i stand with ROIers — not even with my family members that live there. Everyone’s sweet as pie, but I often question their sincerity. Whereas in NI you immediately know where you stand with someone — much like New Yorkers, I suppose.

    Anecdote: Upon checking in to the Europa during my very first time in Belfast years ago, i slipped across the street to Mace to get some sweets and drinks. Asked the cashier for the ‘local paper’ (oh, how naive i was!) and, without me seeing which paper it was, he slipped it into my grocery bag. got back to the hotel, opened the bag and out came ‘the sun’.

  • Dawkins

    Sammy Morse,

    Your mileage may vary. I’m just reporting my own experiences of the “hospitality” trade in NI — and RoI come to that.

    “The only time you see a smile in Warsaw is at the end of a dentist’s drill.”

    LOL!

  • slug

    Agree with Sammy on the chattiness. One of the things I like about NI is how chatty and friendly folk are even when they don’t know each other.

  • Dawkins

    Slug,

    Is this Nicaragua [NI] you’re referring to?

  • Pounder

    [b]Sammy[/b]

    When I was in London the Receptionist was a young cockney girl. I asked her for a good place for an Irishman who didn’t know the place to get drink and possibly some female company. She sweet as pie directed me to the Old Kent Road, which I recognised from Monopoly, jumping in a taxi and giving the driver my destination he looked at me with horror on his face. He reckoned that with my accent I’d be killed in roughly 5 minutes.

  • SlugFest

    Dawkins,

    Northern Ireland, not Nicaragua. 🙂

  • Dawkins

    Pounder,

    The peeps of the Old Kent Road don’t much like Irishmen because they believe they deliberately mispronounce the name of the road :0)

    dawkins@nirvana.ni

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Davy Adams is covering this NI website on Talkback at the minute.

  • JJB

    Belfast gonzo,

    Any recent tourists to NI around? How do others see us?

    Yes, I was there just last week, one day in Belfast, another in Portrush to see the Giants Causeway and Bushmills Distillery, and a brief stop for lunch and a walk on the city walls in (London)Derry. First time I’d been to NI in 20 years, and seeing it without the heavy security presence was really nice. I enjoyed myself immensely, although it must be said the quality of the food in RoI is now so good that most of your restaurants suffer by comparison. Did not have any problems with wait staff or the folks working at the two hotels we stayed at. Whatever contact I had with people was positive, and an outsider is unlikely to find it any less Irish than Kilkenney or Galway, even with the many Union Jacks and Red Hand flags you see in Antrim and Belfast. BTW, is there a significance to all the white flowers that my wife noticed in the windows of homes in Loyalist areas? We only saw them in areas with the British/Ulster flags.

    Anyway, I had a lovely time, and wish you all the best.

  • snakebrain

    We had a friend from LA staying with us this week. We did a day in Belfast, a day in Dublin, then a day round the north coast. Without exception, he had a great time everywhere we went. He drank Guinness in the Duke of York, wolfed down the champ in White’s Tavern, drank many more pints of Guinness round the town, and pronounced Belfast his favourite city outside the US.

    The only sour note in the whole enterprise was the Giant’s Causeway carpark, which now costs a fiver to park in. The road has been double-yellowed for about 3 miles leading into the causeway so there’s no escaping paying what feels like the first of many taxes on tourism, at a venue that I think is supposed to be National Trust funded.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if they’d got their act together and re-opened the cliff-path, but for a 45 min whizz round the rocks at the causeway, a fiver seems a bit avaricious.