DUBLIN — When I relocated to Dublin in July 1992 and got married a month later, my Aunt Ellen bet that I’d be back in the Boston area (with my beloved in tow, mind you) within a very short time. Twenty-one years and an equal number of St. Patrick’s Days later, she’s still waiting to collect on that wager.
My aunt isn’t the only person who’s had her doubts over the years, however. My unlikely longevity on the Emerald Isle continues to mystify friends and family members, and I’m still asked, quite regularly: Would you ever think of swapping Dublin for Boston? The implication, of course, is that the Hub is a better place to live than the Irish capital.
Well, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 Global Liveability Survey, my two hometowns are nearly inseparable in that department, with Boston coming in five places ahead of Dublin, at 41 to 46, respectively, out of 140 cities assessed worldwide across five broad categories: political stability, health care, education, culture and environment, and infrastructure.
(The Economist’s survey must have been conducted early in 2012, before the Red Sox season had fully imploded and before half the Bruins schedule went missing. Otherwise, Boston’s livability ranking would have taken a big hit.)
Of course, if I’d known what was really good for me back in 1992, I would have dragged my new wife along to Canada or Australia: seven cities in those two Commonwealth countries made the Economist’s Top Ten List.
Anyway, to ease my mind after all these years as well as to commemorate my adopted country’s patron saint, I’ve decided to compile a list of reasons why life is as good in Ireland as anywhere else in the world. So, in no particular order, let me begin with:
■ The weather. I know, it rains year-round in Ireland and the sun doesn’t shine as reliably as it does in other places. (I have friends in San Diego and their Facebook posts invariably feature sunshine and smiles.) On the other hand, the climate here won’t kill you, either. It’s never too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. And the country isn’t situated on any problematic fault lines that might result in, say, a problematic earthquake. If you think I’m overstating the case, just ask Google: their Dublin data location facility “has an advanced air-cooling system that takes advantage of Ireland’s weather to keep our computers running smoothly. As a result, the data center does not require any costly and power-hungry air-conditioning units, helping Google to significantly reduce its energy requirements.” See, I told you.
■ The GAA. I never tire of explaining to my Boston friends the unique place of the Gaelic Athletic Association in the sporting firmament. Case in point: My 14-year son took part in a hurling and Gaelic football camp during a recent school vacation. Over three days he and his teammates got some excellent coaching and general fitness advice from an assortment of mentors. One was a young guy from the club, an All-Ireland championship winner with Dublin’s Gaelic footballers in 2011, who sat down with each lad to discuss a personalized training and nutrition program. Where else would you get this kind of regular grass-roots commitment from star players?
■ The global outlook that emigration brings. Like the weather, emigration can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, every aspect of Irish life suffers when a number of the country’s best and brightest depart for foreign lands. But they do sometimes return, bringing fresh ideas and a cherished vitality with them. Also, without a constant flow of Irish immigrants over the years, many US cities, including Boston, wouldn’t be what they are today. On a personal level, if my Cork grandparents hadn’t set sail for the Hub in 1930 — arriving in Boston within months of my Sicilian grandparents — who would I be today?
■ And finally, the slower decline of written and spoken language. As evidence of this, Irish newspapers continue to publish fiction — intentionally — and writers, both home-grown and from abroad, are regular guests on radio and television programs. As for daily discourse, social media will soon become the norm here as elsewhere, but for the moment Irish people still take the time to talk face to face with one another about — among other things — the weather.