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.

Latest News Articles:

Christmas on the beat
Clonakilty town aims to get snowed under with the return of the Clonakilty Christmas Express
On call for Christmas
Have your say in shaping the future of Clonakilty
Dursey Island project passes first phase in Failte Ireland’s Grant Scheme
Minister Ring visits superb rural initiatives in West Cork
West Cork farms celebrated at Milk Awards
Issue of childcare a major concern for 72 per cent of female entrepreneurs
Rain, slurry deadlines and housing
Celtic Ross Hotel awarded AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence

Join us on Facebook

Something to remember especially at this time of year. ... See MoreSee Less

This Christmas Tree candle is currently available in Penny’s/Primark stores, they have been recalled by the company. If you have one please beware they do pose a serious fire hazard if lit and left unattended. Please keep them as an ornament and do not light them and leave them unattended. In fact you should never leave any lit candle unattended as a naked flame and wax can be very unpredictable. Please share to get this message around to your friends and families.

11th December, 2017  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork shared Garda Síochána - Cork, Kerry & Limerick - Southern Region's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

REMINDER: An Garda Siochana are hosting a Retail Crime Prevention Meeting, to be held at 7pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017. This meeting will be held in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon. This meeting is one of a series being held across the West Cork Garda Division, in association with Operation Thor, the Garda National Anti-Crime Strategy. The purpose of the meeting is to increase the cooperation between Gardai and the retail sector, ensuring that the current low levels of crime in the locality extends past the busy approaching Christmas season. The meeting will be addressed by the local Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Ian O’ Callaghan, who will discuss burglary prevention, shoplifting, fraud, and cybercrime. There will be a particular focus on cash handling and cash exposure of businesses in the run up to the Christmas shopping period. All aspects of commercial crime will be discussed, and we would strongly urge all businesses to make a special effort to attend on the evening.

28th November, 2017  ·  

Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Simon Coveney T.D. is hosting a number of Brexit Breakfast Briefings in Cork in the coming weeks. The first in the series takes place on Monday, 4 December at the Carrigaline Court Hotel at 7:30am until 9am. Business owners, retailers and those involved in tourism in the region are invited to attend the free briefing, which will see Minister Coveney providing an update on Brexit negotiations, his insights and also practical ways to begin preparing for Brexit.

The Brexit Breakfast information events are free of charge and all are welcome to attend, however registration is required by emailing simon.coveney@oir.ie or call 021 4374200
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Keep an eye out for Croíúil Trad group
from Rosscarbery and the Munster Champions U-12 Ceili Band from Bandon, both performing on next weekend's The Late Late Toy Show, airing on Friday, December 1 on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Meet Santa and his elves, penguins and polar bears at Leapland, which returns to Leap Village on December 2. A magical experience for little ones who can visit from Mon-Fri 5pm-8pm and Sat-Sun 12pm-8pm. Call 087 7427016 for enquiries. ... See MoreSee Less

21st November, 2017  ·  

Jump to: