This weekend I took a short trip to Dublin, Ireland and took some time to just walk around and explore a little bit while seeing the sights. Before coming to Europe I never would have imagined Dublin as a very appealing vacation spot but having visited I can now say that it was an awesome experience. A couple things I noticed while in Ireland, first was that although most people would consider Ireland to be an English speaking country, that doesn’t always mean you’ll be able to understand the people 100% of the time. Accents in Ireland can be very tricky not to mention that hearing Gaelic is not an uncommon experience. Another thing was that the city itself was filled with plenty of other tourists from other European countries; on several occasions I heard people speaking Spanish, German, French, Italian, etc. As I was on the plane ride back I started to think about this and how simple it was to travel from place to place in Europe. With only about a 2 hr or so plane ride and fairly low rates, for people who live in Europe, trips like these could very easily be a more routine occurrence. I was trying to think of some sort of comparison with home but I couldn’t think of anything that was very similar just because of how much bigger our country is and how traveling 3000 miles to the other side America won’t have as much of a cultural difference when compared to the much shorter trip from Spain to Ireland. As I was thinking about this I was honestly quite jealous that Europeans had this convenient and efficient way of traveling and exploring new cultures.
That being said, I think this mentality also skews how Europeans think of the United States. People I’ve talked to at work, home, etc. know that the country is big compared to European countries, but I don’t think they truly understand how big. Once you introduce yourself as an American in Spain, you’re most likely going to have a expectation to know about the major cities like New York or Los Angeles because for Spaniards, everything is so close that at one point or another everyone has seen all the major places in Spain like Barcelona for example. A lot of times people will say how they’ve travelled to the States and visited New York an so on but I don’t really have much to relate to with this conversation since my experience with New York is limited to just a day or two when I was younger which for a lot of Europeans can be confusing. Also, most people aren’t too familiar with Pittsburgh especially when compared to Philadelphia. Nearly every time I tell someone I’m from Pittsburgh I then have to clarify that its in Pennsylvania and several times that rings a bell with them because they know of Philly. I then usually explain to them that yes it is in the same state but by no means is it super close. When I tell people it takes around five hours to drive from one to the other they are baffled. When you compare that to the size of Spain, it only takes about six hours to drive from Madrid to Barcelona, which is basically across the country.
I found this insight into other people’s perspectives to be quite interesting and enlightening to see how people think of the US on a more simplistic basis even when talking about something such as sheer size and distance.