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.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.
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