By my reckoning, it takes you a couple of years before you get into the swing of this country living business. The first year you might find yourself opened mouthed, at times awestruck, sometimes dumbstruck, perplexed and amazed. It is without a doubt a culture shock. I’ve known culture shock, I’ve travelled a bit and so I thought, hey, it’s my own country, how different could it be?
Different. To say the least.
So what’s so different? Let me illustrate with a few examples;
In the country, everybody knows everybody else. What? In the city, I knew my immediate neighbours plus a few more. That was it. I knew those neighbour’s offspring and maybe the odd eccentric aunt. In the country, you’re expected to know everyone and that everyone seems to be in someway connected to half of the village and you have to remember this. You really have to remember this she types cringing.
Country people love funerals. It’s not actually about the deceased, well it kind of is. Yes, you attend a funeral to support your neighbours, show your face, lend a hand but mainly it is a bit of a social gathering outside the funeral home. Was there many at it? How did she look? Were you talking to anyone? Be they sad, tragic or in celebration of a long happy life, they are the reason to put on a nice scarf or clean shoes and meet your neighbours. They bring moments of solidarity to a community in sad times and a nice chat on a bright evening at others.
The countryside is very quiet at night time. You might hear a cow bellow or a milk truck of a morning but there are no drunken brawls (more’s the pity) to speak of or cars zooming past on a nearby street.
Anyone can drop into the house, anytime. The general rule of thumb in the city is that if you find someone in your house uninvited, you call the gardai. Here, depending on the day, someone in the farmhouse kitchen; ask them if they would like tea. They will, on the odd occasion, wonder in the door and see if there is anyone there. Beware of the city woman yielding a hurley.
Everyone waves at you when you drive past them. I love this, I have loved it forever. As a young girl visiting country cousins I thought it just so lovely and would practise giving the little lift of my index finger in a parked car alone. Hello neighbour, how are you? Be it from tradition, habit, good manners or acknowlegement, it gives me a little chuckle as I do it habitually on the school run each morning.
So there you have it, some few examples of why you might find your local city woman perplexed in the countryside. Go easy on her. She’s just seeing you countryfolk in a whole different light, getting the hang of your turn of phrase, your quirks, your family tree and your unquenchable thirst for tea.
Keep her country.