Brianna Parkins: I realised I hadn’t been catfished – I’d been culchiefished

Two years after meeting a hipster in Dublin, I was spending a lot of time admiring cattle and tractors

I was now spending a lot of time outside, looking at things and agreeing that, yes, that was ‘a grand big field/tractor/cow’. Photograph: iStock

I was now spending a lot of time outside, looking at things and agreeing that, yes, that was ‘a grand big field/tractor/cow’. Photograph: iStock

 

I always thought the differences between “culchies” and “Dubs” were invented by the Irish until proper multiculturalism came along. For a while I thought the Irish just resorted to making up stories about towns across invisible borders a mere 20 minutes down the road to keep things interesting.

I’ve been told that I can’t trust anyone from Kerry. A cute hoor is not a lovely-looking sex worker in this instance, apparently. I’ve been told Cavan people are notoriously tight. “They’re so mean, when they listen to Mass on the radio they turn it off when the collection starts,” said one friend.

More worryingly, I’ve been warned that Roscommoners have a predilection for theft. A colleague from Longford said his GAA manager used to pump them up for games against Roscommon by warning them that “Rossies will come across the Shannon in the night and steal your sheep!” I haven’t been able to test the veracity of these claims, as I do not have any sheep to steal. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but that depends on which side of the Shannon you’re on, I guess.

I don’t think anywhere less than an hour’s drive from a Penneys can be classed as rural. But I understand that Irish geographers don’t follow my highly scientific metric

I decided to investigate the famed urban-rural divide when I moved to rural Galway for a bit during the pandemic, following my other half back to his hometown.

For a start, I don’t think anywhere that’s less than an hour’s drive from a Penneys can be classed as rural. But I understand that Irish geographers don’t follow my highly scientific Penneys urban divide metric, so I kept an open mind. Sure enough, street lights disappeared from the road, and as we got closer my boyfriend suddenly started jamming the back of his hand to the windscreen at every car we passed in a gesture quite frightening for the uninitiated passenger hurtling alongside stone walls at 80km/h.

We arrived at our Airbnb. Our temporary landlady, Pat, had fitted the house out with pasta, sauce and every condiment we could need. Irish country women are equal parts welcoming and terrifying in their efficiency. I was impressed. I cannot plan two hours ahead. I routinely leave the house wearing two similar-looking but ultimately different boots, but here was Pat anticipating the culinary needs of strangers so they wouldn’t be caught short when the shops close early.

“Well!” she said authoritatively, wiping down an already spotless counter while telling us how the internet worked. The house was so clean it made me feel inferior as a woman. She promised to call in to see how we were doing.

My boyfriend pointed out places of historical and cultural importance. Strangely, these always turned out to be pitches where he had scored goals or the GAA clubhouses of rival and therefore inferior towns with backwards customs

Terrified she would make good on her promise and we would have nothing to offer her but stale digestives, I went to the shop every day to buy fresh cakes. I had nightmares of her reporting back to the other ladies in town: “Australian girls, they’ve no manners. Chocolate digestives, would you believe?” The diplomatic reputation of Australia in north Galway was a heavy burden to carry alone, but I did my country proud.

On the third day, a lady knocked at the door. She was making a delivery but had the wrong address.

“Who are you?” she asked suspiciously.

I told her my name.

“But I don’t know you,” she said with a tone of voice that implied this was a personal failing on my side. It wasn’t until I said who my partner was and we connected the dots of who in his family had gone to school with who in her family that she decided she trusted me enough to leave the package in my care for the next-door neighbour. Credentials are important out here.

That weekend I was given the grand tour of the surrounding area. My boyfriend pointed out places of historical and cultural importance. Strangely, these always turned out to be pitches where he had scored goals or the GAA clubhouses of rival and therefore inferior towns with backwards customs.

“What’s the difference between you and them?” I asked.

“We would say hello to someone by going ‘howya shaft?’ They would say ‘howiya scan?’ and that other town down the road would say ‘howiya sham?’ The absolute headers,” he said with the solemnity of someone who’s just explained the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

We only bought Connacht Gold butter in the shop. Kerry Gold was no good – sure you couldn’t trust what the cute hoors would put in there. No, it was locals-only dairy produce for us

Our habits began to shift, too, the longer we stayed. We only bought Connacht Gold butter in the shop. Kerry Gold was no good – sure you couldn’t trust what the cute hoors would put in there. No, it was locals-only dairy produce for us.

“Is that a pub with a travel agent inside it?” I asked as we pulled out on to the main road with the shopping.

“Oh yeah, and also an undertaker. That’s where we bought our school uniforms too. You’d be there standing next to a coffin and an aul’ fella would say, ‘Schtick that jumper on there to try on.’”

That’s when I realised my partner’s accent had changed too.

“Since when did stick have a ‘h’ in it?” I asked.

“Shtick it up your hole,” he replied.

Then I realised I hadn’t been catfished. I’d been culchiefished. Two years after meeting a bearded hipster with thick glasses at a rave in Dublin, I was now spending a lot of time outside, looking at things and agreeing that, yes, that was “a grand big field/tractor/cow”. He had suckered me good.

But aside from a strange and widespread appreciation of having an aerial picture taken of the outside of your house and hung up on the inside of your house, was there any real difference between our cultures?

I rang my nan, an inner-city Dub from the Five Lamps area who decamped to Sydney 50 years ago.

“Your mam tells me you’ve got a new fella. Where’s he from?” she asked.

Nan is a tolerant and welcoming woman. Three of her grandchildren are Aboriginal. She adores my brother’s Sicilian wife. She sometimes talks to my dad, the big Prod. So I knew this would be fine.

“He’s from the country, in Galway,” I tell her.

Pause.

“Jaysus, a bloody bogger then.”

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