The culture of Ireland’s small towns is unlike any other. It’s based on a deep-seated conviction that lives should be lived in as simple, relaxed, slow-paced, and comfortable manner as possible, and that enjoying such a life with minimal economic resources is more a sign of true success than is increasing material wealth through joyless striving.
The best way to enjoy this culture is by staying at self-catering accommodations. This is because in some parts of the country the people don’t take easily to strangers, especially in the picturesque West, where many prefer the company of people who can speak Gaelic. Those living near self-catering accommodations are, however, more accustomed to visitors.
Squalls frequently sweep in from the ocean, especially in the more westerly districts, but in many small towns people rarely carry umbrellas, preferring instead to duck into a pub to sit out the usually brief downpours. Indeed, many Irish writers have referred to pubs as one of Ireland’s two great institutions, the Church being the other. Small-town Irish pubs serve something of the same purpose as community centres, where conversation and the telling of stories are well-practised art forms. They’re like second homes, places to enjoy some coddle – a sausage and bacon casserole considered to be comfort food – and a Guinness along with a passionate discussion of Gaelic football or hurling with folks who are like second family.
Originally a derogatory term that Dubliners used for country people, many of Ireland’s small-towners have embraced the term “culchie” as their own. They even have an annual Culchie Festival in October. Held in a different small town every year, it includes competition in such disciplines as sandwich making, knitting, potato picking, nappy changing, tractor racing, and karaoke. Being a culchie tends to include having a preference for the outdoors, a love of traditional Irish music and dancing, having little or no interest in status, valuing quality time more than money, and being involved in local organisations. A popular culchie toast is, “Here’s to the good life for those with the good sense to know where and how to live it.”
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