Monday, November 22, 2010

I Am Not Irish

True story. I'm not. Neither am I Scottish. English is PERHAPS a better guess - I try to speak more clearly in Holland - but equally wrong. I am, however, British - but that's because Liz let me join her gang a little while ago, and I achieved that by jumping through bureaucratic hoops, not by being born.

I do have red hair, though. As Nick Earls writes of Richard Derrington's doctor in Zigzag Street, one of my favourite books, I am "profoundly ginger". Quite how this means that people should mistake me for being from Ireland I have no idea, though - it's not as though I SOUND Irish. At all!

Lately however, people have begun conversations with me by saying "are you Irish?", or even "what part of Scotland are you from?", and I have to admit that it's beginning to give me the shits. Yes, I live in the Netherlands where everyone speaks English as a second or third language so I can't expect people to be good at picking accents, but you'd think that they might know that, too. Ask me to tell the difference between a Belgian or Dutch accent, or a German, Austrian or Swiss one, and I wouldn't be at all confident that I'd get it right. I might have a GO at it, but I wouldn't just plow in there and say "you must be Bavarian!", because 1) they'd probably be freakin' Antarctican for all I know, and 2) people can get offended when you get it wrong, so it's best not to tempt fate.

Being mistaken for an Irishman or Scot is not the worst thing in the world of course - but that doesn't mean it's not ignorant. There are more places in the world that breed the occasional red-head than Ireland and Scotland! The thinking that goes with "he's got red hair, he must be Irish" is pretty much the same line of thinking as assuming that if someone's black they must be from Africa. Try that in the East End and see how far you get!

The correct question is, of course, "where are you from?" and then you can go from there. Otherwise you just end up looking like a prize pillock. Or worse, annoying me!

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