Shania Twain in an Irish Pub: is authentic travel dying?
So here I am, drinking a pint of Smithwick’s, munching on fresh seafood in what I think is an authentic Irish Pub in the little town of Tralee on the coast of southwest Ireland. Rugby highlights are on TV (there is upheaval about the Six Nations Cup match this weekend when Ireland player Ronan O’Gara was allegedly choked by a Scottish player).
I’m having a grand time until my overly-analytical ears pick up Shania Twain on the sound system. The song is from her most popular record, Come On Over, and it seems like they’re playing the entire album tonight. It’s a great disc. I even bought it in the midst of my gang-bangin’ hip-hop phase (which died about a year after Kanye West’s first record in 2004, if you’re curious).
Shania uses a good amount of fiddle in her songs, but is certainly not Irish music. She’s from Canada and the sound caters to North American pop & country charts. She’s a global icon, but it has made me wonder if for my generation of Americans, the European, “exotic” world we see is anything close to the outside world previous generations encountered when touring abroad.
Time and time again, I find myself disappointed how easily adaptable foreign nations have become. For once I’d like to feel out of place, lost, needy. I spent six months in central Europe last year, and didn’t have to learn the native tongue because I could get around just fine with English. Road signs and menus are bilingual. Anyone who owns a hotel or hostel knows at least some English.
The foreign lands we go to are trying harder to accommodate us than we are trying to adapt to them. That isn’t to say it’s wrong. The travel industry continues to grow because people are more comfortable going to new places.
Foreign lands aren’t as foreign as they used to be though. Did past generations, when they order wine and pasta from the English menu in Venice? Did they buy a cappuccino from Starbucks in Paris? Order a Happy Meal in Africa? Did they ask a Polish woman in English for directions while in Krakow ? The same Irish pub tonight had Budweiser bottles.
Maybe I’m just overly nostalgic…
The world has gotten smaller and worldwide travel is more accessible. But has the “authentic travel experience” become harder to achieve?
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How about all the Irish pubs in Central Europe? We visited some small provincial towns in Slovakia, our ancestral country, and if the village had more than five thousand people, it had an Irish pub.
I can't complain, though, since a half-liter of Guinness was only the eqivalent of $2.50USD. Guinness installs all the fixtures in the various pubs on the condition that their brew is featured.
I've written 7 tips for planning independent travel to Europe: