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Dear Mary: Why are women in rural Ireland so unfriendly?


IRISH women are not great at doing friendships. And it seems worse outside the cities. City women seem to do OK, but rural women, even if they are living in small towns, don't seem to be great at friendships – they don't appear to need them once they get married. They can have all the support groups they like, but it doesn't really solve the lack of personal intimate friendships.

When the Irish go abroad, they are great at supporting one another and meeting up and all sorts, but here in Ireland, I really don't know why it is so different.

We see in our local city newspapers, loads of great women going to charity events and all sorts of soirees, but it doesn't reflect what is going on socially or personally for a lot of Irish women.

It is true that men can go to the pub for a few pints to meet up and socialise and chat to other men about sports, etc, but it is not really the same for women. Young women, sure, go to the pub on a Friday night to meet up after their week's work, but I am not referring to their age group.

I think Americans are much better for friendships with one another. I am puzzled when I hear celebrities talk about the friendly Irish.

I think we are very disappointing as a people in that regard.

Mary replies:

You sign your letter Female and give your age, which is in your late 30s, so this is the age group to which you specifically refer. While I have no real experience of rural living I can understand that life is harder in the countryside, one of the main reasons being the difficulties of getting around. You can't just pop over to a friend's house for a glass of wine or dinner without driving and this is very limiting.

I have also heard from people that small towns can be 'cliquey' with lifelong friendships already existing, which can be hard to break into if you didn't grow up in that town.

However, I feel that life is what we make it, and it is up to us all to nurture and look out for our friends, and hope that they do the same for us. I agree it is easier for men to congregate in the pub and discuss the events of the day, but women are far better at talking about feelings and emotions. So while men will continue to discuss sports and world news, a group of women will get down to what is going on in each other's lives and be very willing to hear and understand what the other friends are going through at an emotional level. For instance, two men on the telephone will really only use the call to make an arrangement of some sort, social or sporting, and their conversation will be very short.

Two women on the telephone will be quite the opposite, and even though there may be nothing tangible to report at the end of the conversation, both women will have talked about things that are important to them at that moment in their lives and feel that they have been truly heard by the other woman.

Most women have lifelong friendships either from school, college or work, and put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with each other, married or single. This doesn't seem to be the case with you, and I wonder what has happened that you find yourself in a situation where you appear to be lonely and without friends.

Perhaps you are new in whatever small town you live, or perhaps you feel a bit out of it because most of your friends are married. Or maybe your childhood friends have all moved away and you don't feel close to anybody.

If this is the case, then it really is time to make some new friends, and in time hopefully the new friends will become closer to you. In any event, for any change to happen, the initiative must come from you, as nobody is going to come knocking on your door.

There are lots of things you can do in order to get closer to women in your area. You can create nights, events or groups yourself, for women only. If you do this then it doesn't matter if they are single, married, gay, widowed – it will just be a group of women. You can start things like a book group or a cooking group – along the lines of Come Dine with Me.

You could organise a clothes-swap evening, when people bring clothes they are tired of and exchange them with other women and these can be great fun and no money changes hands. You could go to a keep-fit class – which is a great way to meet other women. You could take a night class for fun, something like art, pottery, creative writing, whatever it is that appeals to you. In your area, there may be flower clubs or a drama group or a Tidy Towns committee to join, the possibilities are endless.

If there is nothing going on at all in your area, then maybe you should think about moving. Perhaps you are very shy and the prospect of joining a group is very scary. If this is the case, then you must realise that if there is something that you really are interested in, meeting like-minded people is not half as scary as you think. Whatever it is you decide to do will involve you making an effort, otherwise nothing will happen.

In my experience, Americans are more readily and selflessly hospitable to strangers than we Irish are, but I don't think that they are necessarily better at friendships. People are people no matter where in the world they live, and it is how we all interact with each other that is important. Above all, friendships have to be worked on in order to keep them alive.

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