Ireland – Culture Shock – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[The Harry Potter corner in the bookstore, put together by the man who worked on the films]
I admit, I perused Pinterest and countless websites before I left for Ireland in search of travel advice and general tips that would make my life easier. The thing that came up time and time again was the notion of culture shock. It seems simple enough to understand, the feeling a person gets when they travel away from home and is unused to their surroundings. I thought I was prepared for everything, including culture shock. I think it is important to note that I am studying here in Ireland with two professors from CSS and fifteen other students, so it helps to be with people from home.
However, then I arrived here and the only jarring thing vastly different from home was the accent. People joke about ‘Minnesota nice’ but honestly, the people here put us Minnesotans to shame. My friends, Arden, Victoria and I, checked out the local bookstore and ended up chatting with the employee (who used to work on films and did the lighting for the Harry Potter movies. I might have flailed internally for three minutes after learning that) and another customer for an hour and a half.
Others will say hello to you on the street. A common phrase here that threw me off at first is “You’re very welcome.” I was confused, what could these people possibly be saying that for, I hadn’t thanked them for anything yet. It took me a few times to realize they meant “You are very welcome here.”
The first time I truly felt culture shock was when we went grocery shopping at Tesco, a store here similar to a mixture of Target and a grocery store. I probably spent half of the time there simply wandering down the aisles, searching for anything that looked familiar to me. There are a few select brands that we also have in the states, but for the most part, they were new brands to me. It was very disconcerting to look for a certain product and realize I had been looking at it all along, it just had not been what I was used to looking for.
There are also a few things the Irish do that I consider extremely odd. One such oddity was that they do not keep the eggs in the refrigerator. They keep them on normal shelves, like one would see bread or canned goods. I have been in numerous grocery stores now and it still throws me off to see the eggs sitting on a shelf. It is recommended that the customer refrigerates them after purchase, according to the carton of eggs I bought.
[The way the Irish keep their eggs]
Another thing that is not odd, per se, but is different is that certain foods that Americans consider breakfast food, the Irish consider candy. I knew I should not have been surprised because as a culture, Americans tend to like sugar more than we should, but it still threw me off to walk into an old school candy shop and see boxes of Pop-tarts and cereal on the shelf. I also like to eat a certain type of fruit filled breakfast bar and they sell them in gas stations in single servings among the candy bars.
[A candy store in Dublin]
Another aspect of culture shock is getting used to the country’s currency. Luckily, the dollar is only slightly higher than the euro right now (about €1=$1.06), so the conversions are not too tricky. However, simply getting used to their bills and coins was an experience especially because they use €1 and €2 coins instead of bills. The first time I received change here, it was €3 and I received two coins to equal that amount. It was the same day we arrived, so I hadn’t had time to study their currency and I was rather confused to receive coins back for change instead of bills, as I would have gotten in the states.
A few weeks into the trip, I counted all of my change and it came to €30, which explained the extreme weight of my wallet. I think this is because I am not used to paying for things with coins, whereas it is normal here to do so. I have had to train myself to go to my coins to pay for smaller items instead of going right for my paper money.
Slowly, I am starting to recognize brands and am quicker with the currency. Hopefully these things won’t faze me anymore and I will become even more used to living in Ireland.
Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.
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42 responses to “Ireland – Culture Shock – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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I’m sure culture shock was a very interesting experience for you. Just when you think you’re going grocery shopping at target you get inside and see nothing looks familiar. Walking up and down the isles you don’t even know that your looking for and what you need from this shopping trip. This is a experience I’m sure will be unforgettable when you feel lost and not at home. You got the opportunity to see what other cultures look like in a ritual setting such as grocery shopping. Great Article Victoria! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for sharing your experiences! As you mentioned, Minnesota nice does exist and once you can recognize the kindness, you are more likely to see it somewhere else. There is a lot of destruction in this world. but there is still kindness. Foreigners can intimidate some natives because some have a bad name, but it is wonderful to know that if I were to travel to Ireland that the people would be kind and welcoming. It is weight off the shoulders knowing that you are in a strange place and the people around you may be strangers, but they are friendly and welcoming. What a cool thing that you got to meet someone who helped film Harry Potter! Our world is so larger and yet we can come across instances like that which are special, rewarding, and memorable.You said you searched the internet before you traveled to Ireland, were you findings similar to what you actually are experiencing? The research can go either way sometimes where you expect certain things to happen or they don’t. Traveling the world is a whole new experience in itself. Enjoy yourself and keep making memories!
Thank you for sharing Allison, I very much enjoy all your reports from Ireland. I can tell you that no matter how much you read and research, nothing will really prepare you for the things you will experience. I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing; if you knew exactly what to expect it would take the adventure and wonder out of the trip. Of course culture shock isn’t exactly a very pleasant experience, but its cause is differences in the way people live which in itself is a learning opportunity that expands our world view (whether we agree with it or not).
I had the opposite experience with the eggs when I first got to the U.S., I wondered why they were always in refrigerators in the store :).
This is an interesting article to me because I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much so I have not known culture shock on a personal level and have only ever briefly heard it mentioned. Now that I’ve been more exposed to culture shock by you, I understand it more. Although it may be a scary time in a new culture, I think that you are lucky to be able to experience it with people from home. I think one of the main parts that make culture shock so ‘shocking’ are the different cultural norms. You can’t really learn these without experience so when you break the norms or see someone doing something different than what you’re used to, you may feel uncomfortable. This article ties into our class because we have been focusing on the importance of rituals. I think that the different rituals a culture has that are different than our own lead to this culture shock.
I am so happy that you have gotten the chance to study abroad in Ireland. As humans, we always to learn more and improve our skills in a lot of things. You are one of the prime examples! Anywho, I cannot imagine myself having to go through culture shock on such a large scale at all. I have definitely experienced culture shock on a much smaller scale, though. I spent my Spring Break in Kentucky with the Christian Appalachian Program and the simplest things such as their accent, style of clothing, and music threw me off. Since it was still in the states, I did not expect much of a change but there were very obvious ones that I could just not not think about. Thank you for the photos and note of culture shock!
Thank you for sharing, Allison. I have read all of the Harry Potter books and seen all of the movies countless times. If you enjoy Harry Potter too, it must have been so cool to have been able to talk to someone who got to work on those movies! All the differences that you are noticing are very interesting. Why do the eggs not have to be refrigerated on the shelves? Is it because they sell so fast that they are not out of a cool place for very long? Or are they a different kind of egg? It is also interesting to me how they categorize food in other countries. All of these differences add to the beauty of traveling. You get to see all of these differences and learn new ways of doing things. I hope you are really enjoying your experience!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! Your experience reminds me of my childhood when I first started elementary school. I come from a traditional Vietnamese family, therefore when I started school, I felt like I was in a different universe. My peers didn’t speak the same language as I, they had different clothing and different foods that I have never seen before. So I can definitely relate to you about the idea of culture shock. It is really interesting to see a different perspective of culture shock. Your visuals are amazing to view, for I feel like you also captured their culture in a single snap.
I can really appreciate the shock with the money. When I was in New Zealand they also used dollar and two dollar coins, probably because of English or U.K inspiration. I remember being amazed how much money I could accumulate just with coins! The lack of sugar is something that I think we in the U.S. forget about, that our food often has lots of added sugar. How is the culture shock you felt at first different than when you first arrived? Do you think you will feel some culture shock when you return home?
I have not traveled much, and the thought of an extreme culture shock makes dissuades me from considering it. I am most nervous about doing something that’s considered normal to Americans but is rude in another country. Luckily, the differences mentioned in this article appear minor. I would also look up common differences between the United States and the country I’m traveling to beforehand, but it is impossible to know everything. It’s some consolation that if you embarrass yourself in front of locals, you’ll likely never see those people again.
Thank you for sharing your story. I found it interesting that you mentioned the eggs in Ireland are kept on the shelves. They must inject their eggs with certain preservatives, otherwise they would not last long. While this egg system confuses me, I believe their monetary system would confuse me even more. When I go to mexico and receive pesos, I become very confused and end up accumulating them. While the currency system in Mexico puzzles me, I believe I would be even more confused in Ireland as it sounds like an even more difficult system. Why do different countries have this difference in currency? Wouldn’t it be more efficient if we all had a universal monetary system?
There are many articles involving trips to Ireland, and I find it interesting looking at all the different perspectives. I see a pretty common theme of everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves, which is great to see! Seeing different cultures around the world can really open one’s eyes. We get so used to our own culture that we forget there are many other diverse cultures to know. I love the part about the candy store. Obviously the U.S. needs to calm down on the sweets. I hope you find out lots of other new things during your trip in Ireland.
The idea of culture shock is perhaps one of the most intimidating part of any travel and especially international travel. I have never studied abroad or traveled internationally, but I have an irrational fear of being unable to charge my devices. It is slightly comical that foods we consider a fruity breakfast bar are among the candy section. it speaks a lot to choices we make as Americans. I can imagine your experiences changing your perspective once you return to the states. Thanks for sharing!
When you began mentioning the issue with currency conversion, I was reminded of my time in Denmark last summer, when we had to convert the US dollar to Danish Kroner, sometimes that can be a headache! But I liked that you pointed out the simple differences, besides currency, that you are experiencing in Ireland. You’re portion of the article about Americans and our sugar intake is extremely accurate, and I wonder how our society would react if we were to place certain cereals and breakfast bars in the candy isle at stores and gas stations? I am sure it would be a bit of a shock, but it is important that you mentioned the hospitality you are receiving from the locals. I think it’s enlightening to learn about a new phrase and finding out its’ intended meaning, as you explained with the Irish phrase, “You are welcome” and its’ meaning with regards to welcoming people to their home country. Great article!
You are very lucky for getting the opportunity to study abroad. I always enjoy hearing of others experiences and what occurred during their travels. I to have traveled over sees, and like you I was afraid of culture shock, but unlike you I was not traveling with a group. I traveled alone to Germany when I was 18 to visit my cousin, I thought for sure I would experience culture shock, and not be able to find my way around. However , I actually never experienced culture shock in Germany, in fact, I found it rather more comfortable then life in America, and did not experience culture shock till I returned to America. I am happy you had such a wonderful time in Ireland, and I hope one day to make it there as well.
I am surprised you described culture shock as simple when you first introduced it, as culture shock in nothing but complex, subjective and intricate. As someone that is living in a different country to the one she was raised in, the changes in food are the hardest part about living in another country and even city. And it is completely horrible whenever you are feeling homesick and really want a specific dish or snack from where you are from yet you can’t find absolutely anything from your home in the grocery store and that homesickness and urge to eat something familiar remains as an afterthought all the time. You mention a difference in some perceptions of food such as eggs and other products that are common in the States, yet I believe that an individual’s perception of food varies depending for our place of origin and culture. For instance, just like the Irish I consider Pop-tarts to be candy, yet I don’t consider cereal (depending on which) or granola bars with fruit-gel but more of a healthier snack to have during the day. I am glad you are starting to get a handle of the money as well as the food, gladly from what I have seen in your posts you haven’t had to deal with metric systems and temperature scales, which believe me are really hard to adapt to, I mean I have lived 3 years in the States and it still confuses me that the weather is measured in Fahrenheit, height in feet and weight in pounds.
Ally, awesome post! I am right there with you and would also be bit in a culture shock with a move like that. I think being with some familiar faces would really help with the culture shock. One of my roommates studied abroad in London last year and didn’t know a single person prior to going. This was really hard for her at first, but she quickly made a lot of friends from the US which helped. I find it interesting that you brought up the grocery stores. When I go to a foreign country I like to go into their grocery stores and see the types of foods that they use and how some of the same foods we have are labeled so differently.
Hi Allison, thanks for sharing! I went to China and experienced very extreme culture shock as no one looked like our group. There was no recognizable characters in their alphabet, and no food that looked like ours in grocery stores. Probably a strangest thing was that we needed a VPN to sign into social media sites, email, and news sites.
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Culture shock is such a real phenomenon, and I think it’s one thats very hard to put into words- you kind of just have to experience it for yourself. I appreciate the way you have written about your time in Ireland because it seems you have paid attention in great detail to the things around you. More importantly, the acknowledgement of the people around you and their customs is something you seem to be doing quite well, and is something very important to do while abroad. I’m so happy you’re enjoying your time in Ireland, I’ve heard it is an incredibly beautiful and hospitable country. One thing I wanted to point out was the idea of reverse culture shock, which occurs once you are back in your own culture. Personally, my reverse culture shock was more profound than my culture shock when I studied abroad, so I’m curious to see if you too will experience this phenomenon.
This was a very realistic article! I do not think that many people take into account the huge difference of these small things when they travel. Money is just as diverse as the countries they belong to. When I think about traveling, I never take into account how different paying for things will be or how different the currency would be to the normal paper bills that I am used to here in America. The food differences are also not in the front of my mind when I think about going to a different country. This could be a problem if I travel in the future because I am an incredibly picky eater. Thank you for sharing your new experiences in Ireland!
I think it’s really interesting how you noticed that Ireland doesn’t consider cereal breakfast food, but rather candy. What do they consider breakfast, then? And what do you think that says or doesn’t say about the US? I think all of your comparisons, even the eggs and the currency, relates to a lot of conversations we’ve had in class about talking with empathy and globally. We might think that them not putting their eggs in the fridge in the stores is weird, but I think it’s a part of humane learning to try to understand why they do that. We may think that everything we do is the right way to go, but experiencing things like culture shock kind of awakens us to the fact that people do things differently, and that doesn’t make their ways good or ours bad, but a little bit of both!
This article is interesting in how we perceive what culture shock is. The book store and common phrases are something that you could come into contact with anywhere really. It is not unusual for other places to have different phrases than we do, like southern states may say “Ya’ll” and we think it is funny. We are stereotyped also, like you said about the Minnesota nice. Your shopping experience to me, is true culture shock. The way food is kept and prepared, as well as style is way different than ours and I believe that I would also be baffled walking through a store in another country.
I’ve enjoyed following your study abroad in Ireland through the NSR. Your experience is one of a lifetime, and I find myself jealous of the memories you are making. It is amazing that you got to meet the person who did the lighting in Harry Potter. It’s comforting to know that it’s not only in Minnesota where you can have an hour and half conversation with a person you just met. I’m sure it reminded you a lot of home.
Culture shock is something that i have experienced even just traveling to other states. I think it is crazy that they don’t refrigerate the eggs in the grocery store, but I’m sure they would think it is crazy that we refrigerate them here. Also i found the picture of there candy store to be very interesting because it looks like one of my favorite cereals is being treated as candy which made me laugh. The currency change is something i had to deal with over spring break when i went to Mexico. After a couple of days of asking what the cost was in dollars i was able to get a sense of what it would be compared to a certain amount of pesos. One thing that i liked after a few days of being in Mexico was the sense that i was starting to pick up on the currency and language better, and i felt like it didn’t take that long of time.
That’s a huge thing for traveling to a place you are unfamiliar with. I guess I have never personally experienced because I have never gone somewhere far away for longer than a week, but it gives me somewhat of a heads up for what to expect for traveling in the future. That is very strange that the eggs are not refrigerated, but they say to refrigerate them after purchase. But why can’t they just do it at the store? Does it make them less fresh? It is really cool that you are able to experience these things and be able to learn and adapt to them.
I like how it is the little things that are getting to you. I would never think of money in dollar amounts as coins, but it goes to show how we are all different as you travel places. I think everyone is always confident going to a new place until they get there and it is totally different then what you were expecting. I never thought about what i would do if my favorite brands are not sold where i am, so i think that is an interesting problem to have as you are over there.
I found this article varying intriguing to me. I had a similar experience when I traveled to Cancun when it came to money. When trying to convert from American currency to another countries currency made it very confusing. I too ended up with a lot of change because I was so used to using paper. What I also thought was funny was how our breakfast foods in America are seen as candy in Europe. I wonder if the companies advertise their products as breakfast food or candy? Who decides this? Again, loved the article nice job.
Culture shock is definitely real! I remember the feeling all to well when I was sitting in the Dublin airport and I kept getting offered shots of whiskey at 8 in the morning! Studying abroad, and even traveling abroad, is a great experience that I wish more people had to opportunity to experience. I’m glad that people are so nice there and they even put Minnesota nice to shame! I think it makes a trip more exciting when the people are friendlier. How exciting that you had to opportunity to meet someone who was on the Harry Potter set! I think I would have passed out right then and there!
Thank you for sharing your interesting experiences of the Irish culture! When you mentioned Minnesota nice compared to the people in Ireland and how they are somewhat similar, but Irish even more friendly, I wondered what the people of Ireland would think about traveling to New York, where people aren’t so friendly! On another note, the fact that other countries have our breakfast foods as basically junk food, it really shows how questionable out eating habits are. It is also very strange to me to see eggs on a shelf. I don’t understand why they are not refrigerated in the store, but should be when you take them home! Overall, I hope you’re having a great time in Ireland and hope that you share more of your experiences on here!
Thank you for sharing more about your time in Ireland. I too thought it was weird that in Ireland they would keep their eggs on just regular shelves in the grocery stores and in one of those refrigerated shelving units. Do you know why they do this? It also doesn’t surprise me that pop tarts and other cereal were categorized as candy with the amount of sugar they have in them. I agree that using coins more in Ireland than in the States would be hard to get used to. I mean if I was supposed to get $3 back and I got three coins I would be confused at first. I personally think that getting used to currency in a foreign place would be one of the harder things for me. Great Article! I can’t wait to hear more about your study abroad experience.
First off, I loved how you began by talking about the fact that Irish people are just as- If not more- Minnesotan nice than we are. This just shows how we form special opinions about our own places of residence, even though the things we idolize can often be seen as universal concepts in other places. This, of course, doesn’t delegitimize the love and appreciation we have for our homes: They are so valuable because of the stories and ideas we build around them. Switching over to the culture shock, it is definitely interesting to see how food varies going from region to region. I remember the morning breakfast spread at a hostel in Copenhagen, and it had four types of cheese, cold-cut meats, and liver paté. Sometimes we forget how culturally distinct our own homelands can be, especially when our cultures satiate the global media so heavily.
I have not been in a different country long enough to experience true culture shock, but I have done a fair amount of traveling so I understand what you mean. Even Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, was strange at first. Seemingly insignificant things such as the distance you stand from a person while talking are hard to get used to. I’m sure it helps that people in Ireland speak English, though. Trying to live in a country that does not speak you native language would be extremely difficult! Have a great time Ireland!
When I took a Cultural Anthropology class last year, we spoke quite a bit about the culture shook phenomenon! Something that we touched upon was how people will crave something familiar from home. For example, in a movie we watched about a man experiencing culture shock when visiting India, he desperately craved a cheeseburger. I suppose it was his way of linking himself to something somewhat familiar. It was funny because he ended up having to settle for a veggie burger to satisfy his craving, but he felt more at ease once it had finally gotten it. Do you find that you are craving anything from home that you have been missing while in Ireland? Do you feel overwhelmed by the culture shock, or do you find yourself adjusting well?
I thought it was interesting that they don’t store their eggs in the refrigerator. Also, the fact that they stored some American cereals in the candy section made me laugh a little bit! I really liked reading about how friendly everyone was! I had a similar experience in Nashville. We went to a hat and boot store, and the owner was so helpful, especially because he could tell that we were not from Nashville. He welcomed us to Nashville, and gave us the best places to go and was overall very helpful.
Allison, thank you for sharing the experience of culture shock. I can somewhat relate as I have traveled to Canada multiple times and it certainly does take readjusting when paying with coins or a different currency than the U.S. dollar. I think this is an example of how we humans are adaptable, but at the same time we somewhat resist change. I think it is really great that you are not resisting change, but in fact you are embracing the differences. This is a really great trait, and something I need to work on is embracing change in my own life.
There were a lot of questions that came to my mind when reading this interesting article, with learning how Ireland culture is so much different than are’s it makes me wonder how much different ours is from many other countries that are much closer than Ireland is. It makes me want to visit other countries and see the many differences. The culture there seems so nice and appealing. Just to see the culture difference in just different states around Minnesota but just imagine another country. It just really gets me thinking. Thank you for sharing your story and time.
I really enjoyed reading your post because it made me realize the culture shock I had when I went to visit Laos and Thailand with my dance group. I also thought I was ready for everything there because I have already seen so many movies from there and I’ve also heard stories from my parents. I definitely thought I would be totally fine. Unconsciously, I was uncomfortable with the squatting bathrooms, crazy traffic, warm weather, and warming up water to shower. It was hard at first but I got use to it and it made me realize how lucky I am back home. I loved my experience and had a blast! There weren’t many similar products like how you had similar products in stores but it was cool trying new things and not looking for comfort. Your experience sound amazing and I’m so pleased to read this!!
I really enjoyed reading this post. I have felt culture shock in a few different places. Although I understand what culture shock is, it is difficult to explain it to someone without them looking at you like you are talking a foreign language.
I hope you enjoy your travels around Ireland.
It was great to hear about your trip and studies in Ireland! I also visited Ireland about a year ago and was also worried about culture shock. When I got there, it felt as if I was just in another place, I do not think the culture shock really hit me as hard as it has hit others. I would have to completely agree with the friendliness of the people of Ireland. They are always smiling and extremely hospitable! If you do not tell them you have to be somewhere they will sit and talk with you for hours whether that is on a street or in a pub! Ireland was my very first out of the country travel and I could not be happier with that decision. I loved it so much I could see myself living there at some point in my life! I highly recommend it to anyone!
Hello, very good article here I really enjoyed reading this to learn a little more about travelling experiences. I have never really experienced cultural shook before. I have done a lot of travelling in my life but I’ve never been somewhere that has such a different culture. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to not be fully prepared for that when it comes to language or food or things like that. It would put you in a tough situation but I feel that many great experiences and life lessons can come with that. Thanks for sharing.
Allison, I plan to student teach in Ireland next spring! You gave me some great insights to be prepared for especially the currency. In Chapter 6 of Worlds Together Worlds Apart, the currency of the Greeks is emphasized and it is all coins (Tignor 218). This shows how old coins are and that they are still important in our world today just like in Ireland. You gave me some great information and I can’t wait to go.