Community Customs

This spring break I am lucky enough to be able to travel to Ireland. It is incredible to experience a different culture’s customs. One thing I have picked up on is the partnership between community members, and where superior institutions intervene.

Academic partnerships do form a type of community, but there is a different sense of community within a living space or a town. However, it is very common for those two to overlap.  I have not experienced any partnerships within an academic setting here, but I have seen some dynamics between the town members. I have been pleasantly surprised over and over again by the friendliness of community members here; both to each other and to us as “outsiders.” Another striking thing is the lack of litter. Community members may feel a short term reward of saving time (by not having to find a bin) but they risk polluting the streets and creating more work for another member. This is just one simple example of many instances in which a short term reward for one community member creates a long term risk for the community as a whole.

The first picture was taken in Eyre Square Park in Galway. It reads “The playing of football on this green area is prohibited. In the interest of the public your co-operation in complying with this order is requested.” This is an example of intervention in the partnership between community members. This leads me to wonder if there was a dispute within the community about whether a few members should be allowed to occupy the whole green for play. However, the part that interested me most is this request was “in the interest of the public.” To me, this indicates that this particular institution is more concerned with maximizing the rewards of the collective community at the expense of a few members’ risk (having to find somewhere else to play football).

The second picture was taken at my hotel in Ennis. The reason I found this so striking is that there was an almost identical message at my first hotel. It basically explains the system the hotel has in place for its guests to communicate whether they need new towels. Its goal is to reduce excessive washing of towels, which would minimize water pollution. It is intriguing to me how the hotel seemingly puts the decision in the hands of the guest, by saying “please decide for yourself” yet they are also trying to sway individuals to reuse towels. They persuade by first mentioning how excessive towel laundering leads to excessive detergent pollution. Pollution has a negative connotation, which has the potential to subconsciously lead the guest to reuse the towels. This is another example of the larger institutions having interest in the greater good of the community. When individuals risk fresh towels, the community as a whole is rewarded with less pollution.

I am not trying to argue that Ireland is superior to America. However, I have noticed how they enforce customs that benefit the whole community. Obviously, it is not a perfect country (there is no such thing) as seen by the sticker on the Eyre Park sign, which is a slight form of vandalism. I have not noticed these kinds of systems in New York, but then again I am experiencing Ireland through a more analytical perspective as I am a tourist. When I return home, I will have to look out for systems like these.

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