When one comes to a program like Oideas Gael where people from around the world are coming to study and learn Irish, the first question that is often asked in any setting is “where are you from?” If my accent has not given my answer away already I respond with America, or Southern California to be more specific. Almost immediately the next question I receive is “Who are you voting for? Hillary or Trump?” The first time I was asked this question I was caught a little off guard, but as time went on I found that was one of the first questions the people I met in Ireland and from around the world would ask their new American friends.
After this question came up several times, I asked some of the members of my host family and some of their local friends what their thoughts were on American politics and what was going on in the States. Many related how they personally felt about the candidates and those opinions landed on both ends of the spectrum depending on what their own political values were. For the most part, the men and women I spoke with thought the campaigns were ridiculous and that when it came down to it, they would just be curious to see who would win the election. One man who was in his early twenties was one of the few people that expressed serious concern for the effects one candidate would have over another. He continued on to speak about how American politics affect Ireland and many other countries. It seemed to be that it was the younger generation that had more of a genuine concern versus the older generation that found it more entertaining and funny.
Oftentimes though, this type of conversation switched over to the recent shootings in the United States. Each morning, my host family has the radio on and every time a shooting occurred in the States, it would be the topic of that morning’s breakfast. They would ask me “What is going on with your country? What are you guys going to do about it?” That question was definitely a hard one to hear. In the States when something like this occurs, more often than not it strikes a debate and people end up picking sides. Here in Ireland though, it was not a question of who do you think is right in this situation, but rather more of a statement that America is experiencing some rough times and that it is more important to talk about the bigger picture.