Cultural Differences

After being in Ireland for several weeks, I have learned so much about the differences between it and the United States. The cultures of both of these places do have similarities, but focusing on the differences allows me to not only appreciate the place I am visiting, but also my home. While in Ireland, I have been all over the city center, to a small beach town called Howth, and to every tourist attraction you can imagine. In some ways, I feel very adjusted to life here. I enjoy having a constant, independent routine. Going to work, cooking meals, visiting something new every day, all those things I find a lot of joy in despite there still being things hard to assimilate to.

Some differences between Ireland and the States is how friendly the people here are. Whether I’m talking to a cashier, coworker, server, or person on the street, everyone is incredibly kind and interested in who I am and what I have to say. I was told multiple times before I left for this trip that I would be asked a lot of questions, and people would be more forward in their discussions than in the US. At home, people generally try to shy away from discussions revolving around religion or politics. Here, it isn’t a tabooed topic. Many of my coworkers have asked me about my studies, my thoughts on the current US president, on Brexit, even on the public education system. Adjusting to such honesty and interest has proven to be difficult to assimilate to. In some ways, I feel like it is better to answer short or not at all, but that could also be conveyed as rude to someone who is simply trying to be friendly. To overcome this, I first try and get to know the other person better. Asking the other person questions, gauging their opinions, and gaining their trust has been a great way for me to continue a great conversation. These can be tough to assimilate because of how set used I am to the closed off, low context society I’m from.

Another small thing I have found difficult to adjust to is the weather here in Ireland. Many people have mentioned to me that the previous summer in Ireland nonstop said of sun and warmth. Since arriving here, we only get a couple of hours of sunshine and lots of cold weather. My body hasn’t done too well with this, as I feel like I’ve had a never-ending cold since arriving. When I first felt sick, it was only 2 days after arriving, so I attributed it to jet lag and germs from the plane. I’m not over 3 weeks in and am struggling to battle off a cold that won’t seem to disappear. Thankfully there is always tea at work and at home, so things could be much worse.

I’m still struggling to think that I am approaching the halfway mark of my journey in Ireland. All my trips are booked, my boss is doing my midpoint evaluation now, and my time is running out! Currently, I intend to travel to the west of Ireland (Galway, Aran Islands) and the north (Belfast). I am very excited to compare the differences I have seen in Dublin so far compared to other spots in Dublin. I’ve already heard of some cultural differences, as well. For the Republic of Ireland, I am in one of the most urban areas. Galway has been described to me as a great summer spot to experience history and nature. Northern Ireland is completely different, as it isn’t even considered a part of Ireland other than the island it shares. I am excited to see how different people, traditions, languages, and foods are!

As a student who has traveled abroad before, I knew I wouldn’t have a terrible time adjusting to cultural differences. I would, of course, struggle with things, but have been trained to be adaptable and flexible during my time at Pitt. A week from today, my parents will be arriving in Dublin to visit and experience the culture themselves. I am excited to see what they think of the differences I have noticed during my time here. Not only are they here for a short vacation stay unlike my extended internship, but my parents haven’t traveled as frequently as I have. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who are supportive of my goals and push me to do things like travel. So I am excited to see how they enjoy their stay and the differences they experience from home. I already know they won’t like adjusting to change in food, such as no Keurig!