The Visa Collector

A blog about travelling with a Filipino passport, and life overseas

Irish houses and their names

Posted by admin on September 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm

In July 2009, my company sent me on a week-long business trip to Cork, Ireland. It was my first trip to the country, and my third trip to Europe.

The hotel that my company booked me into wasn’t all that far from the office, and I liked to get to know new places by walking. So instead of taking a taxi to work, I opted to hit the pavement.

As I walked through residential neighborhoods to and from the office, one thing that stood out for me was the absence of house numbers. Street name plates were affixed, European style, to the fences on corner homes so you knew what street you were on. But if you were looking for a specific house, I imagined that that would be a bit of a challenge.

I ran my observations by my office mates, who were mostly expats from Germany, France, Spain, and a few other countries, and they confirmed my observations. There were indeed no numbers. But, they were quick to point out, mail and parcels all still found their way to them. Somehow, postal workers knew where everyone’s house was. There was a system, but nobody really quite new what it was.

That day, I started looking at the houses a little more closely. Each house seemed to have names. At first I thought that they advertised the owners of the house. Then I started seeing wording that seemed reminiscent of places in the Lord of The Rings. Hmmm.

Later in the week, I shared a cab to the Cork city center with a co-worker. While we were making conversation with the cab driver, I ran the house-name observation and the mail delivery mystery by him. To my surprise, the cab driver turned out to be a retired postal worker, and he was happy to clear matters up.

Each Irish homeowner, it turned out, was free to choose whatever name they wanted, register it with the local government, and voila, the house had an identity. Our driver chose the name of his favorite vacation spot (somewhere in Europe, forgot exactly what) for his house. These names often stayed with the house even as they changed owners.

I guess the semi-permanence of the house’s name helped postal workers find their mark. But man . . . I’d definitely need help if I ever accepted an invite to a house party, and had to find the house myself.

Filed under Ireland, Slices of life
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