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Tales of two countries: 4 unique differences between Irish and French cultures

As an international student who’s been living in Ireland for almost two years now, I’ve had the chance to explore the distinct cultures both of my native country and the Emerald Island.

When I think about France, it’s all about the charcuterie boards shared with friends during a warm summer evening in Bordeaux, accompanied by a rosé wine and good laughter. I think about the morning runs when the sun is rising before the day gets too warm. I think about the national music festival on the first day of summer.

Ireland gives me this feeling of short days in the winter, where the daylight lasts a few hours. The cosy vibe of sharing a teapot with your loved ones inside a warm house while the rain is pouring outside. Ireland is also about heart-warming pubs, where you share a Guinness with your friends, surrounded by happy laughing lovely people and a traditional music band playing Irish music. Here is a list of 4 notable differences I have observed over my time in Dublin.

1. French raclette vs. Irish stew

France is known for its massive variety of cheeses. Each region has its speciality and there are more cheeses than there are days in a year. France currently counts a record of 1,200 cheeses. In 2012, France became the world’s leading consumer of cheese, reaching a record of 26,6kg per person consumed in a year. La raclette is a famous dish well-loved by French people.

Raclette is the name of this famous cheese you melt in a machine placed at the centre of the table. This cheese is originally from Switzerland but is now being produced in the adjacent French regions such as la Savoie or l’Auvergne (see map below). Composed of a charcuterie board, some potatoes and melted raclette, this is the perfect comforting winter dish to share.

Photo by veve from Pixabay

Fabriqué avec Visme Infographic Maker

On the other hand, Ireland is famous for its stew, a soup composed of lamb, potatoes and carrots in a delicious broth. Considered the national dish, the Irish stew is available in any pub, with a pint of Guinness for a perfect cosy evening.

Its origin goes as far as the 17th century. It was originally made by shepherds and rural farmers who didn’t have so many ingredients but needed a nourishing meal to sustain themselves and work all day. Traditionally it was made with goat meat, but as its popularity expanded it is now common to see a stew composed of lamb or mutton. Irish stew is now an unmissable dish that brings people together and warms the heart on cold days.

Photo by Nathan Dumalo from Unsplash

2. Cultural celebrations

Ireland is famous for St Patrick’s Day on the 17th of March. Each year the streets of the vibrant tourist area of Dublin, Temple Bar, become packed with tourists and locals. The capital becomes a unity of green decorations and outfits, and the streets are full of happy people.

St. Patrick’s Day is a blast, bringing folks from all over together. Imagine over 4,000 people marching for the parade. Over half a million people come and watch the parade each March. Pageants, showpieces and music bands all together. The theme of the parade is ‘Spréach,’ Irish for ‘spark.’ It’s all about what fires us up and makes us proud to be Irish or live in Ireland. You can find more info about the parade here.

Dublin is also characterised by its traditional Liffey swim which takes place in the summer. Started in the 1920’s, the race is 2.2km long. Hundreds of people swim in the iconic Irish river, The Liffey, cheered up by the crowd on the quays.

France celebrates the first day of summer with a national music festival called La fête de la musique. Every city hosts its festival with local artists. The 21st of June is anticipated by all. The streets are crowded with happy people enjoying music that takes place in a few streets. The best way to celebrate? Just wander through the streets, where many stages are set up all around, and enjoy with your friends or family!

3. Architecture

Irish architecture is characterised by buildings made of bricks. Even though Irish architecture goes back as far as 9,000 years ago, today it is mostly characterised by the Georgian style. Traditional houses have two or three storeys and Georgian windows that you can only open up and down.

Its name comes from the various British Mornachs George — from the house of Hannover, Germany — from 1714 to 1830. The Georgian architecture is also found in the UK. Some of the buildings that follow this aesthetic include Findlater’s Church on Parnell Square, the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, Olympia Theatre, the Central Markets in Cork, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the Natural History Museum, and the National Gallery of Ireland.

Photo by Robert Anasch from Unsplash

On the other hand, France has a completely different architecture. Paris has known a massive refurbishment in the 19th century enabled by Louis-Napoléon, the then-French president. He commissioned Georges-Eugène Haussmann to conduct the works. Haussmann starts by creating a sewage system. Its length exceeded 600km in 1878. He also deconstructed 25,000 houses to allow the construction of the famous Haussmanian buildings or ‘Immeubles Haussmaniens‘. The characteristics of these buildings are following a strict set of rules.

The height of the building depends on the width of the street. The wider the street is, the taller the building. The ground floor is for businesses and the concierge. The first and second floors are for the upper-class and the bourgeoisie. The flats have high ceilings and a balcony. The attic is being used by the members of the domestic staff.

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing from Unsplash

Each French region has its own architecture. In Paris, white stones are used for buildings. In Bourgogne, different colours for the roof tiles are being used to create patterns. In the southern east regions, houses are made of local stones which gives a more rustic look.

4. Outdoor adventures

There is no better place than Ireland to go for day trips hikes. If you are based in Dublin, you can just take the Dart line and reach Howth or Bray in an hour. These places are easy to moderate difficulties for hikes, and the view is breathtaking once you’ve reached the top. The hikes usually take about 2 hours.

If you walk about 30 mins from Howth station and go uphill, you will find an astonishing view (left photo).

The Bray hike is quite similar in terms of view. However, the hike is quite different. You wander through the forest for an hour and find a beautiful view at the top (right photo).

France has quite astonishing views too. Between the mountain and the beach, it is difficult to choose where to go. Any place is amazing and unique. Here is a collection of my favourite landscapes. Regions from left to right: Occitanie, Bourgogne, Centre-Val-de-Loire.

As a conclusion, Ireland and France are two different countries that both have very different distinct identities. Ireland seems to be more traditional, especially on the architecture side where there hasn’t been a modern change yet since the Georgian age. This is how Ireland kept all its charm and cosiness.

On the other hand, France has had many refurbishments, which are quite old but still appreciated by tourists. Irish food is quite different from French food, but I haven’t struggled to find ingredients to cook food that feels like home.

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