DUBLIN — I’ve been in Ireland for over three months now, and I’ve had the chance to go to a fair number of plays and theater productions, stage and cinema alike. I think that most Americans are aware of the etiquette that accompanies such excursions: no disruptive talking, running around, singing along or calling out to the screen or, heaven forbid, the actors.
So imagine my surprise when all of these rules that I have come to expect were thrown out the window.
I first noticed the difference when I attended a stage production of “Dirty Dancing” at one of Dublin’s largest theaters. It began with a custom that I associate solely with the movie theater: snacks. I have never before seen popcorn, candy and even ice cream allowed at a live production.
I guess I also expected that for a live show, people would sit still and quietly watch until the appropriate interval for applause was presented. Not even close.
From the moment the lights went down, the audience was in an uproar and — to my horror — people in the audience began to sing along to the tunes that they knew. Between the sounds of munching, singing and the catcalls that the male lead got every time he stepped onstage, I was in shock. I really have never before come across this blatant disregard for what I thought was universal theater conduct.
As if this experience was not enough, I also got some surprises at the movie theater. While sitting in the show, there was a fair amount of talking and whispering, but that was not what really bothered me.
As I am sure everyone has experienced at one time or another, there was an unruly group of preteens determined to make their presence known, and for two hours I got to hear them running around, laughing at inappropriate moments and calling out. Sigh.
The realization I came to was that for all the talk about Americans being rude, maybe there are times when that’s simply not the case. I find the things that would get you thrown out of a movie theater in the U.S. are simply ignored here, and to be totally honest, it drives me insane. As a former theater major and lover of all movies, I simply cannot believe the level of disruption that goes on at any kind of show here in Dublin.
There are also other places where this kind of tolerance for behavior occurs. For instance, I was recently walking through an area known for its nightlife, and there was an extremely intoxicated man picking fights with the security stationed at the entrances of the pubs. At home, this man would have spent the night in a jail cell. Here, not so much.
I guess this sounds a little harsh, and I am not saying that this city isn’t wonderful. There is a lot of fun to be had and tons of great people, but there is also a level of rudeness that I was not anticipating.
As an American, I kind of expected to be the most ill-behaved of the bunch, simply because that is the stereotype associated with Americans, and even I can get drawn into that mindset. But in reality, maybe we do have it right when it comes to things like proper behavior in public spaces and respect for the people around us.
Good job, America, you did something right in raising us.