Going native

Posted on: 5th October, 2017

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

Back in the days of Empires, and jolly hockey sticks, one of the dangers of living abroad was the risk of ‘going native’. Going native is defined as: ‘to adopt the lifestyle or outlook of the local inhabitants’. It implies becoming less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive social environment. In the colonial (and post-colonial) days it was not on to ‘go native’. Not only might one be tainted by the locals, it disrupted the edifying mission of empire building. When I was a child, we visited Kenya shortly after independence. I remember a British colonial explaining proudly how he had never learnt the local language as it was far better for his domestic staff to learn English. My grandmother, who left Spain for the Philippines in 1927, felt similarly. In the fifty years she lived in her adopted country, she never learnt the language, preferring to speak to everyone in Spanish. (She also believed that God only spoke Spanish, so maybe she was looking out for their immortal souls.) Diplomats and news correspondents would never be left long in one post, lest they go native. Local knowledge is important, but you don’t want to understand the locals too well. Famous examples of people who ‘went native’ are Lawrence of Arabia and Captain Kurz, and neither had a happy ending.

These days the term is used more humorously. To go native means to take on some (or all) of the cultural traits of an  adopted country, like dress, language, accent, or etiquette. Blow-ins like myself, are often guilty of enthusiastically embracing the local culture. In fact, for most of us ‘going native’ was the whole point of moving to West Cork. Think Aran jumpers, tweed caps and wellies at the Continental Ceilli. I remember being at a terrific trad session, complete with a Seanachaí in a collarless shirt and cap, in a pub out west many years ago. It turned out that they were all German, British and French blow-ins.   

Going native isn’t just about putting on a Kinsale smock, nor is it as easily shucked off as taking off a tweed jacket. It goes far deeper. It’s a slippery slope. I remember thinking that eating oysters with stout sounded disgusting the first time I came across it. Now, white wine with oysters (or salmon!) pales in comparison with a pint of the black stuff. But changes in tastes, dress and music don’t even start to reveal how deep it really goes.

Unless you live in splendid isolation, you slowly absorb local attributes that are so subtle, you may not even notice them. Going native changes you in fundamental ways. It changes the way your brain is wired. Last summer marked 25 years that I immigrated to Ireland, but I never noticed how much I had taken on the cultural norms of West Cork until I found myself on a lift with a stranger in NYC.

As I walked in I nodded. He barely nodded back and just stood in perfectly calm silence. I was standing in close proximity to another human being, as we were vertically transported together, and yet we were acting as if were alone. It was unbearable. I had to talk. The West Cork in me could not remain silent. Worse yet it wanted – no needed – to talk about the weather. I couldn’t help myself.

“It’s gotten very cold tonight.” I blurted out. My companion looked surprised.

“Yes” he conceded. That’s it. He does not engage any further.

“It was really mild a few days ago, but they’re predicting a cold snap,” I continued, expecting to spark an exchange. Nothing. He doesn’t get the cues. Now I’m desperate.

“They say it might snow tonight” I try. Surely he’ll want to talk about snow? Who doesn’t want to discuss the possibility of snow?

“Maybe,” he answers. And that’s it. Not another word. He was perfectly at ease, staring at the shiny chrome door as the lift beeped its way from floor to floor. I was fit to burst. I was both frustrated and homesick. I missed the casual congeniality of chatting with a stranger at a bus stop. Thankfully, we got to my floor and I can escape, throwing platitudes over my shoulder, still desperately trying to connect. That’s when I realised that I have truly gone native.

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11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at xavierdubuisson@gmail.com or text at 086/0476124.
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26th September, 2017  ·  

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