Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

An unexpected reminder of home

Ordering flowers over Skype from the US reminded Joe Buggy of the warmth of Irish service

Joe Buggy: 'When you emigrate, the old ways of life are replaced with the new, which becomes the norm.'

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 11:00


Joe Buggy

Email order confirmation printed out. Check.

Florist website open. Check.

Type of flower basket desired. Check.

Message for flowers. Check.

Credit card. Check

*Begins call to florist in Dublin on Skype*

“Hello, Trimble Flowers, Dave speaking.”

“Hi Dave, this is Joe Bug-”

*Spoken in a mild Dublin accent* “Ah Joe, how are ya? Yeah we got three orders online last night; I don’t know what went wrong with not being able to pay. But listen, we have it all ready to go here and the delivery address is just down the road. It’ll be at the house within the hour. You can pay whenever you want… You want to throw it on the credit card, grand, grand… Be jaysus, it’s going through, no need for the security code, your bank must like you!”

I’ve been in the US now for four and a half years. In that time I have become used to dealing with any organisation or company in a detached, polite, but businesslike manner. Having someone talk to me at 6am in the morning—when I am bleary-eyed and just out of bed—like they were a neighbour from where I grew up, took me by surprise, and put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Classic Ireland, thank you for the reminder. Thank you for reminding me about having faith in a total stranger. It’s easy to take that type of interaction for granted when you’re still back home. That’s how we are: the friendliness is as genuine as the day is long, as opposed to a generic customer welcome message, blandly regurgitated down the phone from a computer screen. The relaxed nature is not hamstrung by rules and procedures.

When you live in a country of 318 million people from every corner of the globe, that intuitively relaxed trust is not a realistic business model. And that’s OK. Urbanisation, modernisation, and hyper-consumerism lends itself to the formal, verify-first interaction.

When you emigrate, the old ways of life are replaced with the new, which becomes the norm. After you leave, people like Dave are fresh in your mind. Their mannerisms, the sayings, the easy-going nature that confidently strays into the informal. But over time, those instinctual aspects of your psyche recede, to be replace by how things are done and said in your new land on a day-to-day basis. You miss it, but you understand why it won’t work here, and you get on with it. To a certain degree you develop a public Gar for these interactions and a private Gar for those in your new country who know you and where you come from.

Every now and again, you will actively seek the old out. It might be during the odd trip to an Irish bar, when the barman from Derry, Roscommon or Kilkenny catches your accent and you get to talk to one of your own. What county are you from? Do you know such and such? Small pleasures that sustain you for a while more. Sometimes YouTube can scratch that itch, listening to Dunphy’s delusion, Enda explain, and Joan justify.

If you are lucky, the old will find its way to you. Sometimes it will be when you least expect it. Thanks Dave.

Joe Buggy is a genealogist from Ireland living in Washington DC. Read about his work in his previous piece for Generation Emigration, Helping others to trace their Irish roots, and about his experience of losing his father while far from home. He blogs at and tweets at @townlandorigin. His first book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors in New York City, was published earlier this year.

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