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UK Irish Gypsy Culture - Unique Insight?

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posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 07:37 PM
I've recently been watching a series of documentaries on Gypsy Weddings (courtesy of the other half), which arguably offers a unique insight into the largely unseen and relatively misunderstood culture of Irish Gypsies living in the UK.

Source: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

With all honesty, it was initially with a heavy heart that I was subjected to these shows. However, they have possibly been some of the most thought-provoking things I have watched for some time. While I acknowledge that as with any "real life" show, it may not be truly representative of an entire culture, it has for me prompted questions, resolved queries and opened my eyes to the every day life of at least *some* within this culture.

Before I begin, if you want some background, these are quite informative:


Grisly Secrets

BBC News

Initial Key Observations:
* All children are removed from school early (i.e. 13/14) - the girls to learn how to "run the home" and the boys to "earn money". It has also been acknowledged that the removal of girls from school early ensures they do not rebel from what they know and have been taught from their culture.
* The prevalence of illiteracy is high.
* Until married, all girls/women are: not allowed to drink alcohol, be unchaperoned or go anywhere without parental permission.
* The above does not apply to boys/men.
* Females dress and dance exceptionally provocatively.
* No sex before marriage is expected or approved.
* The expectations of teenage boys and girls is markedly different, with the females running the home and providing familial care whilst the males expend their time freely outside their working commitment.
* Marriage occurs relatively early in a relationship and in life (e.g. 16-18 and often from as little as 3 months "courting").
* Rates of divorce are miniscule - almost nil.
* The incidence of marital violence are high - approximately 50%.
* Key careers for men seems to primarily consist of the collection of scrap metal.
* Monetary spending on weddings is relatively high - extraordinary dresses (purchase of 500 meters of fabric for a "confirmation" dress as an example), unthinkable cakes (4 feet by 12 as an example) and free bar.
* The grouping of a romantic couple relies on a cultural process named "grabbing", whereby a male literally "grabs" a female and, via hair pulling, arm twisting etc, he isolates her from the group and tries to kiss her.
* The males are not present in many celebrations (e.g. childrens parties, confirmation celebrations etc).
* All speak with an Irish or near-Irish accent, despite the majority never living in Ireland.

Challenging my perceptions:
Before I get into the rest, I'd like to say that a few of my pre-existing (and possibly prejudiced) perceptions have happily been challenged.

For example, I used to struggle with the fact this group of people used to speak of themselves as travellers and yet lived in a home as settled as I. For example, in my local site, the individuals tend to stay indefinately - to the point their caravans are linked to static buildings. And yet they do not have to pay the £100s for Council Tax I do every month for my home of brick. These documentaries have shown me how these people no longer have the option to travel - where would they go if they did? We can't go a year without some rural community rising up against a caravan influx onto land they rightfully purchased over a bank holiday. I'm not saying who is right and who is wrong. I'm simply saying that now, I understand.

Similarly, I was impressed by the seemingly "old school" values this culture seems to encapture (e.g. chaperoning, no sexual contact before marriage, valued marriage vows etc). However, I acknowledge that how the specifics of HOW this is achieved may be due to less positive/encouraging characteristics (please see below).

Key Queries/Concerns:
I do have questions and issues with what I have learned. That's not to say I'm declaring I (or indeed MY culture) must therefore be right. But simply, I'm saying what I see:

* The removal of women early from school ensures their role is secured early in life - no education ensures any later movement from home making is made difficult if not impossible. Similarly, they are removed before they learn exactly what they could accomplish (and indeed expect), given the opportunity. While the males are also removed early from school, they are introduced immediately into the money making environment, ensuring they will learn how to "make their living" - and therefore sustain their independence - before they reach adulthood.
* Females are placed in a submissive role early on in life. The hunter/homemaker roles are demonstrated, introduced and embedded before adulthood.
* The freedoms of males and females are established and reinforced early on in life. Whilst the females must seek permission and approval for any movement, the males move freely - particularly outside their daily "money making" activities, which is paralleled by the all day/night "homemaking" activities expected of females.
* The finding of a mate surfs (or maybe even crosses) the edge of what other communities would consider assault, thereby reinforcing established roles and the expectations of behaviour within those roles.
* Similarly, a degree of acceptance regarding some form of physical violence early in a relationship is established.
* Marriage is expected early, ensuring female submission and male dominance is ratified from the mid to late teens.
* Significant amounts of money appear to be available with incongruent explanations of money making activities.

Please don't think me attacking this community. I am simply commenting on my observations from one set of documentaries that may - or may not - be representative of the community in general. While I have happily challenged some of my existing perceptions for the better, I have also made some other observations - some which I find intriguing and others that I find concerning.

It would possibly also be worth noting that I am nothing near being a feminist, so please don't think this some opportune platform to air my anti-feminist grievances.

I would eagerly invite you to watch this seemingly frivolous programme - if you are able to do so - and find out more about this community that lives among us and yet - seemingly - operates invisibly and in isolation.


edit on 1/2/11 by lizziejayne because: correct link

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 07:59 PM
reply to post by lizziejayne

I too have been watching this series. I also am not here to to uphold or attack any culture just to note things like yourself. I understand regarding council tax and also they seem to pay no income tax I am sure these parts would be welcomed by us all. However if you are living in a static home, be it caravan or trailer you are still accessing community health and using the street lighting etc but contributing nothing to it. I see similarities with other cultures regarding the male/female roles like muslims and other religious sects. Again I am only making comments like you on how grabbing can be seen as normal in one culture and sexual abuse in another. That said it has things I would only dream of. The wedding dresses and cakes and vehicles are total dreams to some people and the respect these people have for their parents I think is to be admired. What a pity we cant take parts of one culture and dismiss others to get our own utopia and be allowed to live and experience it. I applaud parts of them and am abhored by other parts but that goes for every culture, even my own. For those of you who have not seen it then it is an eyeopener for some and worth a ganders. We all like to see how others live and interact on this planet
we would not be on sites like this otherwise.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:02 PM
reply to post by lizziejayne

Thanks for posting this! I would have never known these people existed if you hadn't. Really enjoyed it. Hope some others take a peek.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:06 PM
They definitely sound like 'Old World' white trash. Virtually inbred, born thieves, and never to be trusted. It would be interesting to study them from an anthropological perspective.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:09 PM
reply to post by 23refugee


To be honest I was a little hesitant in posting about it because, let's be honest, it's one of those shows that you only watch because the missus makes you

But I have found it very insightful, illuminating and interesting. Next week focuses more on the male roles and expectations (with, as I understand it, particular emphasis on bare knuckle boxing) so it should provide additional insight, clarification and understanding

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:14 PM
reply to post by squizzy

You're spot on there

There's much to be admired and much to be abhorred. It's an interesting juxtaposition.

For me, the most enlightening thing came from much that I admired seemed to be reinforced via ways I abhorred (if that makes sense).

But SO very interesting nevertheless

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:16 PM

Originally posted by EssenSieMich
'Old World' . Virtually inbred, born thieves, and never to be trusted.

American white trash refers to that as royalty.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:17 PM
reply to post by EssenSieMich

I totally understand what you mean. They sound awful, I admit.

However, you should watch the show if you are able to do so - not only is it a very challenging insight, it's also captures a very interesting combination of things to be admired mixed with things that make you think WTF.

Seriously, it's an education... and I never thought I'd say that about something her-indoors made me watch

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:21 PM

Originally posted by EssenSieMich
They definitely sound like 'Old World' white trash. Virtually inbred, born thieves, and never to be trusted. It would be interesting to study them from an anthropological perspective.

What a load of rubbish. Gypsys (or travellers, depending on their origins) are some of the nicest most genuine people you will meet. Yes there are SOME that aren't but that's the case in every culture.
Nobody can make such an adament claim about any culture unless you have a wide experience of it and the people belonging to it.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:21 PM
Buddy in from dublin and as you said they dont travel anymore there all settled onsites when we had a big snow in december everyone was in a bad way yet the army go across the road to give supplys to them. I for one am pissed off with them they ruin the place with there rubbish and breaking things and doing what ever they want the guards dont even go near them because they are afraid. Yet they moan they have to live in filt yet the councel collect there bins for nothing and they have showers and toilets. They drive around in range rovers that are 70 grand and audis that are a 100 grand and there moaning and if i fall be hide on payments im out on my ear with no home and the goverment couldnt give a # so its about time they said how can you pay for all that on welfare and screw them all #ing ass holes im sick of all there poor me there the ones that do it they get everything for nutting make a fortune from there dodgy dealings and have the nerve to moan

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:21 PM
Admittedly, I don't know too much about Irish gypsys, other than that they've destroyed a lot of sports grounds in my local area over the years, and shown little regard for anyone other than themselves.

You provide a good, in-depth summary of your observations, thanks- but, I have to say, all it sounds like to me is a group of criminals, who use the word culture as an excuse to vindicate their criminal activities and thuggish life-style. I feel sorry for these gypsy women, and to an extent, the males too- after-all, they're but a product of a clearly lacking up-bringing. However, one has to be accountable for their own actions at some stage, otherwise it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, such as this.

I'm not saying the 'normal' way of life is perfect, it has many flaws, but their way of life is so counter-productive- one thing that can be said for sure, is they need a 'normal' society to leach off- the weddings and there extravagence are a prime example of that.

I'm trying not to be judgemental, but I really don't see any of this same goodness in their way of life that you seem to, lizziejane, sorry.
edit on 1-2-2011 by ScepticalBeliever because: (no reason given)

edit on 1-2-2011 by ScepticalBeliever because: too tired to type

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:25 PM
reply to post by EssenSieMich

Can i respectfully ask if you have seen this series?
Trash to one man is another mans gold, inbred....they may be, thieves....they may be but their women can certainly trust the men to provide for them and their children to a very good standard materialistically. Personally I think morals etc are far more important as is spirituality in some form but I don't think they should be judged by us just their culture discussed like we would any other culture, we are all too quick to judge what is not our own sense of right and proper.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:28 PM
Sorry one more thing yes you cant say its all of them thats true there is nice travellers out there but they have there hands in it if your not a traveller they will rob from you and i was told that by a traveller you are not apart of there family so they dont care

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:31 PM
reply to post by happydays26

Funnily enough my best mate's from County Donegal and has a similar perspective to yourself. She always wonders why we "on the mainland" in her words "put up with them all".

I appreciate what you're saying about the mystical funds, supreme vehicles etc. I've always wondered - and the show has far from answered this - where does this money come from...

That said, I do have an added appreciation for the impossibility for "travelling" in this day and age. Although that doesn't excuse littering, squatting etc.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:34 PM
reply to post by happydays26

I too know some travellers so I can agree to some extent to what you say but also I have a greater chance of being robbed by some crackhead than a gypsy. Every culture has its good and bad but I dont think it is fair to single out these people and tar them all with the same brush.
Can honestly say I wish I was their dressmaker or cakemaker though wow what a wage I would be earning
so although I would like the wage I wouldnt like to be a gypsy cos then I wouldn't be allowed to earn a wage and make the dresses sheeeeks can't have it all ways as I previously said.
edit on 1/2/2011 by squizzy because: P.S.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:37 PM
reply to post by ScepticalBeliever

You don't sound judgmental at all! Thanks for your input

I don't particularly see a "goodness" in their lives, but from watching the show I do see ideals (perhaps not achieved in the same way this culture achieves them) and I do see positives.

If you haven't seen it, give it a look. Believe it or not, I was REALLY not their fan before I watched it. I'm not saying that these documentaries have revolutionised my perception of the community. Rather, it's given me a better insight and challenged my understanding to make me more informed in my attitude toward them.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:40 PM
Sorry about the royalty quip. Kneejerk reaction.
Actually had the honor of serving Princess Anne once. The very definition of a lady.

Read the Wiki page about Travellers. All news to me.
Can't let those dresses pass without comment. That culture must produce some fabulous drag queens.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:45 PM
reply to post by 23refugee

Hey, don't jest! My missus thinks they are the bees knees and wants "something similar" for our wedding

Needless to say, I'm secreting the money away now so we "sadly can't afford it"

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:50 PM
reply to post by lizziejayne

Well, you could save quite a few bucks if she simply wears a huge cupcake.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 08:50 PM
reply to post by squizzy

You're right - we're in the wrong business, because that dressmaker must be making a mint. With 500 meters for a simple "confirmation" dress and all the LEDs, she must be loaded!

That said, I think she's made enough faux pas over the episodes (regarding some of the things she's said about the community) to have reduced that income substantially from here on in.

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