The last foreign city I decided to travel to outside of Ireland was the capital of England, London. I thought this was the most interesting city to observe and analyze, as the United Kingdom is the closest country to Ireland in terms of proximity.
London, to my surprise, tended to mirror Paris more than any Anglo-Saxon or Irish city. Even though London and Dublin, realistically, share the same language, they do not necessarily share the same culture. The bright lights, the huge city center, the massive monuments and buildings, and the expensive lifestyle accentuate the fact that London was the capital of a very large, economically rich state. Hearkening back to imperialistic times, London and Paris were buffed up by the same process of colonialism and polished mercantilism; Dublin was but a part of the British Empire, so it never gained the same momentum as the other two cities did. This is, in my opinion, why Paris and London are so similar in structure and aesthetic culture, and why Dublin looks so humble in comparison.
While examining the aesthetic cultural differences between Dublin and London, I interacted with the English citizens. London’s citizens had an uncanny resemblance to Paris’ citizens in terms of conversation; many were friendly, but the majority of the population that I talked to were very condescending toward my generally American personality. Although I will sympathize that they are relatively nicer than Parisians, they really made sure to keep the cultural barrier well-fortified. By being condescending toward my accent, tone, and even my attire, they made sure to emphasize the fact that they were trying to defend their culture from Americanization. This was much more prominent in the central districts, where virtually every citizen was wearing an expensive overcoat or donning a tuxedo while I was walking around in flannel and jeans. Stares that started from my head, to my toes, to my head again were pretty common, me knowing very well that they were judging me for not wearing a tuxedo to the Tube. This went hand-in-hand with Parisian culture, but it starkly contrasted with the culture of Dublin; the people of Dublin have essentially accepted the influence of American culture, being more culturally inclusive than the people of London.
One night, I had the pleasure of meeting a man from Liverpool who loved to talk about the culture of London, as he was observing it for the same reason that I was. He and I both agreed upon the fact that the people of London are much snootier than the people from the rest of England; he talked about how everything in London cost about two pounds more than the products back in Liverpool, despite the fact that Liverpool and London are both English metropolises. What I actually learned from him about the English culture though was the English attitude toward the Irish. Back in Dublin, the shadow of British occupation is still a deep scar in its history; however, the English barely even pay attention to the Republic of Ireland. When I asked how he felt toward the Irish, he responded with how awful the Catholic-Protestant tension still is. Even when I mention the actual Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland, he still only mentions cities like Londonderry and Belfast; Cork, Galway, and Dublin may as well have been across the Atlantic in his eyes. It was really strange yet disillusioning to think that Ireland’s community comments on British culture constantly, yet England barely even recognizes the Republic’s existence. The more people I talked to about how they saw Ireland, the more surprised I was that this was a social phenomenon that struck the majority of London’s, and apparently Liverpool’s, community.
On a less analytical note, I was extremely glad to run back to Dublin after my experience in London. While London was a very beautiful and culturally rich city, the British pound killed me and the people, unsurprisingly, had less of a humble charm about them. The economy of the Eurozone became much more appealing after going to a place in which I had to spend roughly $30 for a meal at a Nando’s.
Overall, London’s culture exemplified the genuine, humble nature of Dublin’s culture in almost the same way as Paris did. London’s extremely expensive lifestyle juxtaposed with Dublin’s relatively cheap, simple lifestyle, further characterizing Dublin as my essential home away from home.