1. You get offended when other nationalities don’t understand our extremely complex political situation.
OK, we’re not going to get into some kind of political debate here as, despite the huge strides made towards a peaceful society, despite the near universal support for the power-sharing government, and general disdain for organisations like the IRA and the UVF, there are still some people who will absolutely flip their shit if you dare to suggest that Northern Ireland is an illegally occupied British colony or a proud nation loyal to Queen and Crown. Regardless of your political convictions however, each and every one of us has at least a working knowledge of which religious lunatics are representing us and who they are liable to piss off next. Where the problem lies however, is if anyone else doesn’t quite get it. Because how dare you not understand the minutiae of a conflict between two peoples who look the same, talk the same, and have almost identical religious beliefs, all of which happened in a country less than a tenth the size of Washington? Because you’re a moron, that’s how.
2. You have an obsession with “flegs”.
Although in recent years there have been a steady downgrading in the amount of flags seen billowing from the streetlights of Belfast, they still play a huge part in the character of the city and in the memories of her citizens. For decades the colours that decorated the kerbstones and alleyways of Belfast — whether that be the green, white, and orange of nationalists or the red, white, and blue of unionists — dictated where you could walk, how you could talk, and even who you could talk to. It was a survival mechanism, a declaration of our culture and a huge, unremitting headache all rolled into one. As such we have an interest in your country’s flag too. What do the colours represent? Why are the stripes horizontal and not vertical? What is that eagle trying to do to itself? C’mon dude, know your history.
3. You don’t understand why people are so concerned about riots.
Whenever trouble erupts in some part of the civilised world, whether that be violent protests against some proposed tax hike or some alleged police brutality, the newspapers always seem eager to label it the end of days, mankind’s final descent into madness, or some equally hyperbolic nonsense. We just don’t get it. Riots are at least an annual event for us, each and every August alight with the sweet sound of police sirens and smashing Molotov Cocktails, the delicate play of sunlight through the spray of the water-cannon. It’s exciting yet predictable, scary yet pitiful, but most importantly warm enough for barbeque and beer outside. Hell, it’s practically our national pastime and people, at least those not directly in the path of the marauding hordes, secretly look forward to that first glass bottle arching through the air.
4. You are great at sports. Or at least the ones you can play in a pub.
As a country, Northern Ireland has long been punching well above its weight in the sporting arena, whether that be in the silky brilliance of soccer’s George Best or the hard-hitting jabs of Carl Frampton. For your average Belfastian however, sporting endeavour hurts and is best viewed from the safety of your barstool. As a means of satisfying our urge for competition however, we have taken to endless games of pool, snooker, and darts; games that satisfy the lowest possible criteria of sport and ones that we assure you, we would totally kick your ass in.
5. You tell a story that was never intended to be funny and people laugh hysterically.
A typical exchange:
Belfast Bob: So, I went to the clinic yesterday.
Attentive Audience: Yes Bob, go on…
Belfast Bob: The doctor said the infestation was worse than they first suspected. He said we might have to consider surgery. I have no idea how I’m going to pay for it and Lord knows, I can’t tell Rebecca…
Attentive Audience: Ha, ha! Oh Bob, you’re such a cad! You really should do stand-up.
Belfast Bob: I – I am?
6. Even the slightest glimmer of sunshine is an excuse for you to get the guns out.
Living in a country that seems locked in a perpetually grey November chill, you can hardly blame us for overreacting when, for one blessed week each year, the sun appears from behind the clouds and graces us with its presence. The atmosphere around the city is carnival-like. There are unscheduled parties, the hot waft of barbeque on the breeze, light-heartedness, and merriment and beer upon beer upon beer. And of course, lots of half-naked men. Sickeningly pasty, heavily freckled, and wearing little more than a six-beer buzz, they seem oblivious to their visual assault of all passers-by and would probably not care if they did. Don’t worry though, it soon clouds over.
7. You react to compliments with suspicion.
You have to recognise that flattery in Belfast is typically in short supply. We just don’t do it. You want to tell your friend that you like his new pair of shoes? You call him a dick. You want to congratulate your brother on getting married to his high school sweetheart? You call him a dick. You want to tell your son you’re proud that he’s finally conquered his drug and alcohol addiction and is gradually getting is life back on track? Well, you get the picture.
8. You assume that if it isn’t fried, it’s practically vegetarian.
It’s fair to say that within Northern Ireland, culinary panache isn’t exactly our forte. Whilst there are some great, Michelin-starred restaurants scattered about Belfast, your typical local will regard anything remotely French-sounding as venturing dangerously towards petticoats and durex territory. The closest approximation we have to a national dish is the Ulster Fry, a series of dead animals drowned in oil and served by a waitress whose face was sculpted by regret. If you find yourself in a Belfast pub and have the audacity to order something that isn’t currently crying for its mother, you can expect some raised eyebrows and someone to ask you who your favourite member of Nsync is.
9. You refer to everything, regardless of size, as “wee”.
When your accent automatically makes you sound like a psychopath, trust us, you’ll take any opportunity to make things sound cutesy and diminutive.
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