The weekend was jam packed with fun and excitement because two of my friends flew in from the London study abroad program to come wish me an early happy birthday. We went to the Irish Whiskey Museum, Guinness Storehouse and walked through Grafton Street. I learned a lot of the history behind Irish whiskey and how the Irish always wanted to be better than the Scottish, such as being triple distilled in copper pots than double distilled in steel ones or aging their whiskey for three years and one day rather than just three years. The Guinness Storehouse was incredibly huge to the point where my friends and I ended up getting lost. I definitely was not expecting the Guinness Storehouse to be that large. The guide said it is only in this Storehouse that everyone will be able to taste the best and freshest Guinness, so I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet and smooth the Guinness tasted. It is amazing how much history goes behind one pint of Guinness or one shot of whiskey. Furthermore, the timing to do all of this could not have been more perfect as the weather showed no signs of rain. We walked through Grafton Street which was nice as we enjoyed some gelato, as well. It was sad to see my two friends leave but I am undoubtedly grateful they stopped by.
One of the things I have always wanted to do during my time in Ireland is to go on a tour trip by myself. On Sunday, I went on a small group tour in which only a total of nine people were on the tour. We traveled to Boyne Valley to visit the sites Newgrange, Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara. I highly recommend small tours if someone is interested in traveling alone because there is a sense of intimacy that is void in larger tours. There is no rush when touring the sites and, of course, there is a lesser chance of someone ruining your pictures.
The tour focused on the spiritual side of Ireland’s culture and history. As an atheist, the information was intriguing and going to the sites gave me another perspective of the world. Even if I do not believe in the spiritual or religions as a whole, I always think it well to at least learn more about them so I can continue to be mindful of others’ beliefs. Overall, I would absolutely go on another solo trip again because you get to befriend new people and learn more about the sites you visit.
Fortunately, I have yet to experience a stressful moment of culture shock; however, in terms of Ireland’s culture, specifically within my experiences in Dublin, there are several parts of the country’s culture that I find difficult to assimilate. Granted, a majority of these aspects are rather small details that make it harder to adjust and even now, I still find myself uncomfortable.
Quite blatantly there is the Irish accent, yet it is not the accent that is difficult to understand, but the manner of speaking. A majority of people I have spoken with talk extremely quietly with a slight mumble that makes it very hard to understand what they are saying. Another small aspect is the use of the euro. Even though the euro is not particular to Irish culture, the use of coins automatically makes me uncomfortable because in the United States, the use of change is not so common anymore. If I were to use coins back in the States, I would feel pressured to quickly pay the cashier, so when I use euro coins here, I unconsciously feel that pressure even when using coins is normal in Ireland. As peculiar as it sounds, it is something that continuously bothers me.
A huge component of Irish culture that I find difficult to become accustomed to is the typical conversation topics the Irish converse about. This topic is particularly centered around politics and family which are usually sensitive subjects to speak about in the United States. I end up being caught off guard when someone asks me what I think about a specific political party or something personal within my family. I always tend to go on a moderate route of response to these types of questions.
As mentioned in previous blogs, the work culture is a lot more relaxed. I think it does help with stress, but I have built this mentality of completing my work on a strict deadline and always having to do something whereas here, everyone is very calm. I remember my tour guide leaving me with this message as I told him how different the work culture was in comparison to the States: “Time is short. You have to have fun. So, keep your flow and off you go!”