The Complexities of Irish Culture

I have been in Dublin for around four weeks at this point, and I have been working at my job for about three weeks. I am obviously not fully acclimated to the Irish culture; however, I do feel as though I have learned a lot since I arrived here. This past weekend I travelled to Howth, a smaller, more coastal town in Ireland, and it helped showed me how different the many towns and cities throughout the country can be from each other. With small but preppy houses and shops, massive boatyard, and expansive oceanside it reminded me a lot of Cape Cod. Although Ireland is a relatively small country, I’ve come to learn that while it has a unified cultural background, its many locations also have their own unique cultures, taking great pride in the history of the places they are from. Obviously, many people throughout America take pride in the cities and towns they’re from as well, but I feel like it’s in a very different way. Ireland has a much, much longer history than the United States, as the United States is a relatively new country, and I think that this definitely affects both countries’ cultures. While hometown pride in the United States is typically based off of an area’s modern day features, like major league sports teams, or restaurants, or attractions, much of it here is based off a location’s rich history, often spanning thousands of years. With the pride in such things comes a tendency for Irish people to know great amounts of knowledge about history, and even bring it up or reference it in casual conversation. This is one difference that I have some trouble with, as I do not know very much about Irish history. Tying in with the pride for Irish history, it was also an adjustment to learn about the most popular sports in Ireland. While many international sports are popular here as well, Gaelic games are wildly popular throughout Ireland, but they do not often garner international attention. It can be confusing to hear people discussing sports like hurling if you do not know anything about them.

Another big change for me in Ireland was the bussing system. It is no secret that much of the United States is built to accommodate many cars rather than widespread public transport, and that became even more apparent to me during my time in Dublin so far. I grew up in the suburbs outside off Buffalo, and there wasn’t a public bus system in my area. You needed to own a car if you wanted to get around. This changed for the first time as I went to the University of Pittsburgh, with prevalence of Port Authority buses. However, it was nowhere near as widespread as it is here. Public transport is ingrained into everyday life in Dublin. The buses here are much larger and much more accommodating. They are double decker, and many of them offer charger ports and Wi-Fi. I have to take the bus to and from work every day, and while I’m on it I see everyone from people going to their office jobs to little kids going to school.  It is clear that buses are an integral part of life here, for people of all different stages, and this can also be seen in the way the streets are built. Most main streets have a bus lane, one or two car lanes, and a bike lane. This is interesting to see, as it isn’t too common to see people riding their bikes down busy city roads in the United States. I personally think the popularity of buses and bikes here is great, but traffic can be much slower at times due to this system, which was another change I had to get used to. Overall, getting used to public transport was a bit jarring for me at first, but it became much easier with time.

Lastly, I have mentioned this in some of my past blog posts, but the biggest difficulty I found office-wise was the difference in communication and task assignment styles between Ireland and the United States. Much of the language used by supervisors here can be vague and unclear at times. This is in stark contrast to my experiences working in the United States, where most of my instructions were typically very clear and concise. This was difficult to adjust to at first, but I found ways to make the best of it like asking questions when confused and breaking up larger tasks into smaller steps.

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