We have now passed 40 weeks in Ireland! Thanks for being part of this journey. In honor of the milestone, here are 40 things we (Americans) have learned living in Ireland.
- Learn to say it like the locals. If you start “Ireland” with a sound like “eye”, you might be laughed at. Practice with me… it’s more like “Are-land”.
- I hate roundabouts. Anyone who thinks that it’s just a matter of getting used to them or learning to love them is flat-out wrong.
- Any vowel sound can slide. Don’t believe me? How else could the word “five” have two syllables?
- There is no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes.
- In a place where the weather changes drastically in any given day, refer back to #4. Maybe just wear all the clothes.
- There is something magical about a properly poured Guinness in a local pub.
- Unlike in the US, religion and politics are definitely allowable topics for conversation. Even with strangers.
- The term “walking distance” is a lot more open-ended than I ever thought.
- In a land where driving (without getting lost), parking, and buying fuel are as painful as possible, public transportation is a welcome refuge.
- Having no plugs or switches in the bathrooms is something I get… but don’t like.
- The question, “Where’s your bathroom?” becomes silly when every house has basically the same floorplan.
- It is possible to talk through and even de-escalate road rage here. “Sorry I cut you off there. What I was trying to do…”
- Say “sorry”. Want to get around someone? “Sorry…” Want to get someone’s help? “Sorry, but I need…” Server brought you the wrong meal? “Sorry, I think…” Even the buses say “Sorry, Not in Service”.
- Who needs street signs? (Evidently, I do! I’m sure I make Irish friends crazy when I try to figure out exactly where to meet them.)
- Sometimes decoding both thick accents and unfamiliar slang just wears you out.
- Don’t mess with the buses. They are the undisputed kings of the road.
- Living in an agricultural country means fresh food. So good!
- Living in an agricultural country means food spoils quickly. Plan wisely!
- You don’t say the food has spoiled. You say it’s “gone off”.
- I don’t know what it is, but I have been in far more objectively cold weather than here, but here feels colder.
- Dublin simultaneously is and is not Ireland. If you come to visit, make sure you see more than just the Fair City.
- Of the three major types of whiskey, Americans tend to favor scotch or bourbon. Irish whiskey is so much smoother than both.
- Hot water on demand is not a universal truth.
- …unless it’s from your electric kettle, in which case, would you like yet another cup of tea?
- You don’t go out for coffee. You don’t go out for a cup of coffee. You go out for a coffee. And if you do, you had better do it in the morning or early afternoon, since only Starbucks seems to stay open into the evening.
- Everyone has to take their turn to buy a round at the pub. I still haven’t figured out how to carry that many drinks back to the table though.
- Someone who asks you, “Where’s the craic?” is not asking where to buy illegal drugs. “Craic” is an Irish-language word in common usage that means “fun” or “sport”. It’s a basic informal greeting, not unlike Americans say, “What’s up?”
- Also, if someone asks you, “What’s the story?”, they aren’t asking for your autobiography. Just another friendly greeting.
- Tea is universal. If someone offers you tea, it’s not herbal, not decaf, not green or white tea. It’s Irish black tea, served with milk, and would you like sugar? If you’re not up for that, speak now or forever hold your peace. (Certainly don’t order “breakfast tea” in a cafe. They will bring you breakfast and tea.)
- Regular Irish roads are very narrow by American standards. On the narrow Irish roads, you can’t really even fit two cars across. But they do.
- Most Americans will be slightly uncomfortable with how long the gaps in conversation last. Don’t be afraid! Hold your tongue, as there’s no need to move the discussion along.
- Irish people love to vacation in the US. The top four places in our non-scientific poll are New York City, Florida, Las Vegas, and Southern California.
- For a small country, there are sure a lot of local accents! Even the city of Dublin has two distinct native accents.
- Hard work is valued. At the same time, there is a much stronger sense of work-life balance in effect.
- There’s a strong sense of community, which means people look out for each other. But it also means that, if a Public Works crew is building something in the neighborhood, some building materials might go missing overnight and no one will bat an eye.
- Garbage trucks are different. Instead of having one operator and a fully motorized truck that he or she can run without leaving the driver’s seat, there will be two or three guys who run down the street and empty the cans into the truck as it comes by.
- Can’t find zucchini or eggplant? Try looking for courgettes and aubergine, respectively.
- Autumn (not “Fall”) lasts a long time. Leaves started turning colors in August, but they haven’t all fallen off even months later.
- There is history all around. The ruins of a 12-century church sit less than a mile from here, jammed between two suburban housing estates.
- Kids get into new culture much more quickly than adults. My children probably knew all of these things long before I did.
“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 [NLT]
Heather McKay says
You certainly have learned a lot…well done!!! Question is…are you all having a good time? Hope so!
Ben Linn says
Oh my! I was laughing throughout the whole list! Maybe I’ll have to do something similar: “36 weeks, 36 lessons learned”