An American in Ireland: The First Four Weeks

Check out my preface on my posts about Ireland!

I expected to post earlier about my first thoughts on Ireland, but the first few weeks have been pretty insane. I had to catch up on work after my sudden cross-country trip to San Francisco, and then I got sick for a week. That naturally meant more catch-up work. Plus, we had family visit for several days, and I’m trying to spend some time learning about my new home.

I’m simultaneously not sure what to say and spoiled for choice. There are a lot of cultural differences, to be sure, but I haven’t really run into many that make me wonder “now why is this?” There are a few that stand out, though.

Talking to People

Right now, I’m the one with the “charming accent,” which is nice if a little unusual (since I have rarely found anyone who thought my northern Ohio accent was distinctive). I expected that, with my hearing loss, it would be harder for me to understand people, since the comfortable flow of American accents would be gone. But so far, it hasn’t been much of an issue, and the few times it has are mostly situations where I probably would have issues with anyone speaking to me.

I haven’t had many opportunities to talk to people, though, as I generally work from home. We’ve tried to head from Maynooth to Dublin at least once a week, if only so I can get out of the house and explore a bit, but we’ve also wandered Maynooth a few times (such as the Summer Festival we ran into a few weeks ago). But all in all, while I’m still struggling a bit, it’s not nearly as bad as I feared.

Similarly, the stereotype of Irish humor seems to be well deserved. Many of the people I’ve chatted with will joke around about the weather (“lovely Irish weather” is code for “rain,” by the way), and more than once I’ve been politely ribbed about being American. I find it all quite comfortable, and it’s nice to live in an area where I can crack a joke with a relative stranger, and not worry that they’re going to get angry or upset with me. I’m still very conservative in my joking, as I want to learn where the various boundaries are culturally, but I do find the general trend to be pleasing.

Weather

I have been told many, many times that the weather now is not typical. It’s been fairly warm by Irish standards — in the low to mid 20s Celsius/low to high 70s Fahrenheit. While that seems positively frigid compared to the high 30s C/low 100s F I was enduring in the US, Ireland just isn’t equipped for this kind of weather. Air conditioning, for example, isn’t really a thing except in very specific situations, and the air is naturally humid. So, most of the time I end up cooling down the house by leaving the back door and front windows open to allow a breeze to come through the house.

Similarly, it hasn’t been raining all that much. I should qualify that a bit, however. It’s rained nearly every day I’ve been here, but only in the very literal sense of “at some point in the day, water fell from the sky.” Much of the time, it’s a light passing shower that’s hardly damp, and occasionally I’ve seen it rain enough that getting out the umbrella for a few minutes is worth it. What I haven’t seen is full-blown rainstorms with dark clouds and torrents of water (what appears to be called “lashing rain” locally). It’s been very sunny and generally quite pleasant, if a touch humid.

The “sunny” part is particularly relevant. Today, sunrise was 05:21 (5:21am), and sunset will be at 21:40 (9:40pm). The sun is up just about the entire time I’m awake. I thought it would bug me, but so far it really hasn’t — it’s a little confusing when I have to get up early in the morning to take Murray out, but otherwise I don’t seem to be having problems sleeping or anything.

Shopping

We don’t have a car here, so we rely on walking, biking, buses, trains, and the occasional cab to get around. Not having a car has made me much more aware of how I shop, since I can’t just expect to toss everything into the trunk and drive it home. However, our situation is closer to the norm, and not a strange exception like in the US. Delivery services and online ordering is much more common and robust here. You can even have groceries delivered to your house at a specified time and date, and takeaway/food delivery services are a lot smoother than in my US experiences.

However, I’m still wrapping my head around the money a bit. Using credit cards for low purchase amounts doesn’t happen often, so I generally need to have a little cash on me when I go out. But taxes (VAT) are rolled into the price of items and services here, so when someone says something costs 5 Euro, I hand over 5 Euro, and we’re done. It’s incredibly convenient compared to the “plus sales tax and state tax and maybe a mandatory tip that isn’t actually spelled out anywhere” of US commerce, but I still occasionally have the feeling that I’m getting away with something.

Also, now that I have loose change with me more often, I find I fidget with the coins a lot.

 

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