Friday, 29 June 2012

Location fatigue

By: Claire

The other day in Brussels, where I live now, this guy had to know exactly where I come from. He seemed nice enough, but I bit the nose off him anyway.

"I'm from Dublin, is that not enough information?"

He looked shocked. He meant no harm, but I knew he wanted me to be more precise. How did I know? Because most Dubliners I meet are preoccupied with which square meter of the sprawling town you come from. 

Universal. (Glenn Euloth) 
The beauty of living away is the anonymity that goes with it. But I learned early on in places as far away from Dublin as St Petersburg that Dubliners won't let this one go.

"Okay, so you are not from the Northside so you must be from the Southside. You're a posho aren't you?"

Well-intentioned people might assume that it's just about striking a familiar chord with someone, walking the old streets together, homesickness, but this kind of questioning usually brings out an argumentative streak in me.

The reason I refuse to answer is because I can predict the reaction: "Ooh Killiney? Isn't that near where Bono lives?!" Yes it is close, but not a strone's throw. Bono lives in a mansion on a hill overlooking the sea. My parents live more like at the very bottom of the hill in an estate of small bungalows.

I told Bono where the carrots were once when I was working at the local grocer's checkout counter during the summer of 2004. He nodded, grabbed a bunch, paid and left carrying them nonchalantly by their leafy top.

I grew up outside Ireland, apart from a two year stint at a convent school in Killiney during my teens. Back again at 23, I tried to fit in. I happened to arrive at the same time as many Poles. When I wasn't immediately outspoken, I became just "the Polish girl." The name followed me when I took up work at a bar in Sallynoggin, at the far other end of the income scale.

All in all, which end of the scale I live at means little to me. Abroad (in Germany and the Netherlands to be as precise as I want to be) we always got by easily because the cost of living was low. But even Dad, who was part of Ireland's industrial book, is now paying for recent excesses with other Dubliners.

Recently some Occupy types thought they were doing a good thing by pitching up outside an old couple's house in Killiney because they were being kicked out for late repayments.Then it transpired they could just sell one of their other ten houses.

That's Killiney! So don't ask me where I'm from, ok?

~ Part of Strangers in Strange Lands. Claire Davenport writes for Reuters and (currently) lives in Brussels. She won't tell you which neighbourhood, but she will help you locate the local green grocers if you ask nicely. 


  1. People do like to pigeon hole don't they? I, like to stumble them too ti's so much more fun ;)

  2. It's funny isn't it that people think that they will be able suss you out so much better by knowing exactly 'where you come from' or 'what you do' (my most hated question), rather than by putting in a bit more leg work and asking different questions...?

  3. I hate 'What do you do?'

    I'd much prefer if people asked: 'What do you do when you run out of cake?'

  4. Pigeon holes are for the birds.