10 Signs You Grew Up in an Irish Family in Southern California

Ireland California Student Work
by Colm FitzGerald Jul 14, 2014
1. You speak more Spanish than Gaelic.

Spanish is omnipresent in your everyday life. Advertisements, public signs, and even the touchpad at the grocery store checkout come with Spanish translations. It’s no wonder, as the Southland’s population is 38% Latino, and their culture, especially Mexican, is almost your own. You’re totally used to having taquerias on every corner, convivial BBQs with friends’ enormous families, salt-and-lime-infused Tecate, and Sabado Gigante on TV.

As for Gaelic? My dad still recites blessings at family gatherings in Irish, but that’s about it. Kids in Ireland continue studying it, but this pinche gringo is limited to “Sláinte” and “Póg mo thóin.”

2. You were and always will be the whitest guy on the beach.

“Get a tan!” or “Damn, you’re white!” are the reactions you commonly get when exposing your milky, almost transparent body at the beach. Of course you have your freckle farmer tan, but that doesn’t really count. In the land of golden brown Hasselhoffs and sun-kissed, real-life Barbies, you ruin the glamorous postcard beach scene. Irish skin and blazing sun just don’t jibe. Face it, you’re like a fork in a microwave.

3. When you visit family in Ireland you have spicy food withdrawals.

Now, visiting the homeland is a culinary treat, don’t get me wrong. High-quality sausages, rashers, golden butter, and that fiendishly dense brown bread. But you’re a spice-a-holic. Salsas of every kind: verde, roja, negra, pico de gallo, chiles de arbol, serranos, jalapenos, Tapatio, Cholula and maybe some Sriracha — you love it all. And the sad fact that Irish cuisine is devoid of capsaicin makes you frown. But hey, there’s always Indian takeaway.

4. The weather in Ireland is soul-crushingly gloomy if you visit for more than two weeks.

Growing up with nearly 200 days of annual sunshine, then visiting a country where gun-metal skies have a monopoly on the weather for days on end is dreadful. When I moved back to Ireland in 2004 to “find my roots,” I was completely unprepared for what the weather would do to me — rained out on every attempt at rock climbing, a constant runny nose, cold feet, and needing a tractor beam to get out of bed in the morning.

But then that toasty golden orb would occasionally peek out. Like magic, the flowing green hills and crystalline rivers shone like jewels, making Ireland the most enchanting country I’ve yet to see. Then it usually started to rain again an hour later. Feck it. To the pub!

5. People in California assume you can drink buckets of beer and like to fight.

Well, some stereotypes are spot on. I suppose it’s in our blood, as the Irish come in sixth in alcohol consumption worldwide and have been battling foreign invaders for millennia. And when you’ve got hallowed pubs like The Brazen Head in Dublin (opened in 1198), why wouldn’t you be swilling away your evenings in a place once patronized by Joyce, Swift, and Michael Collins. Sure beats pounding Bud Light in your garage while watching the Raiders lose again.

As all our friends know, my brother and I drink beer like water and typically end up punchy. But remember — it’s jovial bellicosity, and it’s all smiles and hugs when the poorly aimed fists stop flying.

6. Ulster Fry flashbacks hijack your breakfast burrito bliss.

Once you’ve had an Ulster Fry, breakfast is never the same: thick salty rashers, plump sausages, triangles of potato bread, fried eggs, rich black and white pudding, and tangy grilled tomatoes. In Southern California, despite your efforts, you have yet to find a decent Ulster Fry. It may take five minutes off your life, but the ten minutes you spent eating it were sublime, so you actually win.

7. If someone visits Ireland and doesn’t bring back Barry’s Tea, Flakes, and Tayto Crisps, you throw an internal tantrum.

When your parents go back (as mine do often), it is a sacrilege not to bring back one of, if not all the aforementioned foreign delights. From the suitcase, cushioned by layers of clothing, comes the red box of Barry’s Tea, the yellow box of Cadbury’s Flakes, and the crinkly sound of a bag of Tayto Crisps. Your friends roll their eyes and continue their unenlightened existence of Snickers and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

8. You wish you had a “charming” Irish accent instead of a Spicoli-esque California drawl.

I’m not talking about an incomprehensible knacker accent, but a Liam Neeson or maybe a Cillian Murphy accent. When you mention you were born in Ireland, Americans are genuinely disappointed you don’t have an accent, which elicits the “But your English is really good. How long have you been here?” response. You’re dying to lash out and say “Yes! Thank god for California public schools or I’d be a pagan leprechaun speaking Gaelic!”

9. In California you’re “the Irish guy,” in Ireland you’re the “American cousin.”

At home, friends never cease to remind you of your quirky, potato-gobbling, alcoholic heritage. Across the pond, you become that boring American relative who has no gift for the gab, contributes little to the Craic, usually ends up magnificently pissed, and is simply not as cool as a cousin from California sounds like he should be.

10. You know the difference between a well-poured pint of Guinness and a poorly poured pint of Guinness. But you’ll accept a watery, flat one without a peep.

The steps to pouring a perfect pint are subtle yet imperative. Hold the glass (a proper 20oz pint glass) at a 45-degree angle under the tap, and let the Guinness flow smoothly down the side. Fill the glass ¾ full and let it sit. Once the beer has settled and a creamy head has formed, top off the glass. Now behold your creation before taking a sip of gratitude. Rings of foam should line the glass as you get ever nearer to your next pint.

Tragically, the above scene is a rarity in “So Cal” or “Bro Cal” or whatever it’s called these days. You can scarcely watch as the bartender plops down a glass and smacks down the tap. She then whines about her broken iPhone while your Guinness overflows into the gutter. But you’re used to it. You gulp down your Canadian-made, Californian-poured Irish stout and accept your fate.

“Hey, at least I’ve got the weather,” you think, consoling yourself while checking the moles on your arm for signs of melanoma.

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