I am a Northern Irish Travel Blogger. I was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland in the UK. My mum is from Edinburgh, Scotland and my dad from Bangor, Northern Ireland. I travel with a British passport and tell people I am from the UK. It can be complicated for Northern Irish bloggers abroad.
Being Northern Irish Abroad
As Northern Irish bloggers, coming from an obscure country can be a pain in the ass when living in Asia. And while I would proudly share my Northern Ireland heritage with people, it would help if they knew (or cared) that Northern Ireland exists. But this is rarely the case. And Asia’s knowledge of Europe’s geography is no better than Europe’s knowledge of Asia’s geography. For example, would the man on the street in Belfast know the Malay borders of Borneo? Add in the language barriers, and the ensuing explanation just becomes tiresome. And, to date, a close friend of mine still thinks that I’m from Northern “ICEland”. And I am happy to leave it at that.
Avoiding the Stereotypes
Saying I am from Northern Ireland brings questions of my non-Irish accent, recommendations of Irish bars, and curiosity about Dublin (a city I know little about). Throw in popular “Irish” stereotypes and I am begging to be called “Mr Bean”. As the Irish stereotypes share very little resemblance to my own upbringing or background, and the same goes for “English” stereotypes when claiming to be British. So, from years of trial-and-error, the term ‘UK’ proved to give the best results. As it is vague enough to expect no follow up, and, if anything, the most popular response is “Really? You look Arab.” Although I do look rather spiffing in a keffiyeh (Arab headdress).
Irish People are from Ireland
Here is my inevitable explanation for those probing me on Northern Ireland… The popular “Irish” stereotypes relate to people from the “Republic of Ireland” or “Ireland”. This is how they are known globally. Northern Ireland (my nation) along with England, Scotland and Wales make up the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” or the UK as most know it. Northern Ireland is split from mainland UK and as situated on the “Island of Ireland”. Because of this Northern Ireland is lesser known as a UK country. To help complicate things the “Island of Ireland” is also part of the “British Isles” and both Irish and British citizens live in Northern Ireland. I am a British Citizen. Please don’t ask me about politics. No I’ve never met Jedward… Why do I bother…
Dual Passports and Citizenship
A ‘perk’ for Northern Irish bloggers is the ability to claim both British and Irish citizenship. This means travelling under Dual (two) Passports. Why is this a perk? Dual Passports can make VISA applications quicker, cheaper and with two passports there are twice as many pages to stamp. Just one example was travelling to Kolkata India under my British Passport. If I had travelled under an Irish Passport I would have saved close to £40 with a quicker VISA application. And while it has been something I snubbed in the past, because it just feels wrong to claim another nationality to save a few quid. There are also some countries where British Citizens are refused independent entry (e.g. my plans for Iran) that Irish citizenship has no problems with. But it does still feel weird.
A Long Way from Home?
Despite living thousands of miles from home, a flight or two could bring me back by tomorrow. As living abroad is no big deal these days, where I speak to my family daily, and fly back to Northern Ireland for my occasional fix of miserable weather. But on my more recent visits, I have found a new appreciation for Northern Ireland, as see my homeland more through tourists eyes. And, most importantly, I can ignore the backward politics and misery that encouraged me to leave in the first place. But as an enthusiastic Northern Irish food blogger, I do always miss my favourite British and Northern Irish foods. And check out some of our Top Northern Ireland Attractions.
Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Other than the irregular duty-free appearance of my favourite Bushmills Whiskey, it does not exist otherwise in Bangkok. And after (reluctant) research in Irish bars, I actually found better selections of bourbon and tequila than I do of Irish Whiskeys. And it is Bushmills that originally fuelled my love for local liquors in Asia, although, to date, I have found no local booze to come close. Note, Northern Ireland is well known for its boozing culture, including George Best (Belfast city airport was named after him) and Alex Higgins who are just two of our claims to our boozing fame.
Home Cooking and The Ulster Fry
So I have always avoided expat hangouts, British Pubs and Irish Bars, in travel, as I don’t fly across the world to do as I did back home. That being said, I do occasionally miss some home cooking as many foods just aren’t available or even possible to put together in Asia. The Ulster Fry is the perfect example (similar to the Full English Breakfast only better) where, in Bangkok, a quality sausage or back bacon would be expensive, and potato bread and soda bread, or black and white pudding, just cannot be found. So the Ulster fry tops my food schedule every visit back home.
My main cravings are often for the disgusting British takeaway food which made my years in Northern Ireland so slobtastic. My hometown Bangor has a seafront lined with top-notch takeaway foods. For unknown reasons, my many favourite British takeaway foods have failed to circumnavigate the globe. At the same time, the foods I am familiar with from Indian, Chinese, and Kebab shops, are completely different from anything I have eaten in their respective countries. Check here for some of my typical chip shop cravings.
A staple of many alcoholic’s diets and a major influence of my wasted teen (and adult) years. The delightful Buckfast Tonic Wine is best necked outdoors; on street corners or park benches (bars won’t sell it). As you might have guessed it is hard to find in Bangkok so I was forced to bring my own. I took the taste test to Thailand with Fanfan sampling both Buckfast in front of a Northern Ireland flag and Guinness in the Dubliner Irish Pub. Buckfast wins as she near “bokes” on the Guinness (as below).