Over the course of my time here, there have been a variety of cultural aspects of daily life that are unfamiliar to me. While living here for the past three weeks has helped me assimilate with these lifestyle changes, some things will require more getting used to. I’ve mostly adjusted to answering questions that, in the United States, would raise several eyebrows but are common conversation topics in Ireland, and before crossing the street, I now look in the correct direction to check for cars. However, things as simple as the Irish accent and different food preferences and as complex as my commute and grocery store prices have all been culture shocks.
First, some of the items at the grocery store are a little unique. For example, I have yet to find bread that is of the same texture as the ones I get at home. It is a very minute thing, but sandwiches have been and continue to be a main source of sustenance for me given their convenience and reliability. They’re quick to put together, the ingredients can be varied and are easy to find, and they can easily be taken anywhere. I have had much luck finding quality cold cuts, but the bread here does not have the same taste as the bread in the US. I am not just talking about Irish soda bread, which I have acquired an appreciation for, but regular white bread seems to be denser, drier, and firmer than the bread that I am used to back home. Looking for a new brand to try every time I go to the grocery store has been an aspect of life in Ireland that I did not anticipate. Also, I had never seen or consumed instant coffee before coming to Dublin, and it seems like it is everywhere. In the US, most of the coffee aisle is dominated by K-Cups, grounds, and beans, but the shelves are lined with so many types of instant coffee, it’s hard to differentiate between them. I don’t plan on ever buying instant coffee, especially after feeling unimpressed by my work’s instant cappuccino mix, so it is a good thing there is not a shortage of cafes either. Of course, these are not significant changes, but it is a difference nonetheless.
In addition, adjusting to new speaking patterns was something I knew I would have to do while living in Dublin, but slang, humor, and pronunciation of certain words when interacting with people here can be a challenge. Knowing what people are talking about when chatting sometimes requires additional concentration to pick up on context clues and subtle hits about the speaker’s true feelings about the subject of discussion. Coming from a country, and region in particular, where people are more direct makes this an obstacle. Even after that interpretation, there is a chance I missed a key word in the sentence and have to ask the person to repeat themselves so I can piece together what they are saying.
Not only that, but my commute to my internship in Dublin is probably very different than that of the internship I could have in the States. At school, I tend to walk everywhere I need to go that’s within a two-mile radius, and I frequently take the bus. Getting to my internship here, I follow a similar model; I probably have walked to the office just as many times as I have taken public transport. However, I would imagine that if I had an internship close to my house, like in DC, I would drive a lot more or take the bus – walking would definitely be a last, last resort. Here, it’s just so much easier.
Finally, grocery shopping always brings another set of surprises. Realizing they do not sell Italian-style sausages like they do in the US, finding out that Lays chips are called Walkers crisps, and encountering the same coffee machine in each store were all monumental experiences I had in the aisles of Tesco, SuperValu, and Centra. But the biggest shock came when, after collecting two weeks of food in my shopping cart, my total came to below fifty euros. Yeah, I know. The same basket of goods at Target costed seventy-five dollars, which even with the exchange rate is still twenty dollars more expensive than Irish groceries. Saving money is going to be a huge perk, but I will always be pleasantly shocked by the low monetary value of many goods.
All in all, my participation in this program has allowed me to get better at adapting to new circumstances and navigate issues both big and small. While I will need to continue learning about this new environment and face more culture shocks, I believe that I will be able to adjust by the end of this journey.