thirteen – awkward americans

First things first: I am now living in the heart of Dublin (aka Dublin 2, not the outlier that is Dublin 6)! That’s right, the third and hopefully-final-move of the term has been completed. In other news, the semester start up program is almost finished. I’ve really enjoyed learning about Irish culture through these courses — its history, literature, art, architecture, even politics if you can believe that of me!


Dublin, as seen from the stairwell in my new building

My friend Lis and I have been compiling a list of things about Dublin/Ireland in general that completely boggle the mind of any American. Well, hers is a bit more… efficiently titled, but I enjoy using ridiculous phrases like “that totally boggles my mind,” so here we are: the results of this particular anthropology student’s forays in Ireland (to date).

things about ireland that boggle this american college student’s mind

  • There will not be wi-fi in your dorms, even if you were told there was. There will be ethernet. There will not be wi-fi.
  • However, we will personally guarantee that every dorm kitchen will have its own kettle. Every. Single. One. Wi-fi you will not get, but a nice, hot cuppa is just around the corner.
  • The eggs do not go in the refrigerator. I don’t get it, either, but they don’t (and yes, I am still keeping mine in the fridge). 
  • There will be course registration… the week before classes start, and on paper. The timetables will not be available until then. No, you may not make mock-schedules until you can’t tell which is which by their names and have ten classes vying for positions.
  • There will not be skyscrapers in this major metropolitan area — except for that monument we don’t like to discuss (it’s generally considered a sore spot — or, to put it more bluntly, an eye-sore).
  • The libraries will let you take out books… four at a time, and for a single week, and only if they say LEN on the binding. Oh, you wanted that novel that was stored elsewhere? I’m terribly sorry, you’re an undergraduate. Items from the stacks must be returned on the same day they’re taken out, and they may not be removed from the library itself. Trying to avoid buying textbooks? Terribly sorry, you can only check this book out for seven days.
  • Not only do they drive on the other side of the road… but their cars are backwards, too (okay, this one was expected. Still, it’s taken some getting used to. The car-thing is more disconcerting than the traffic-direction-thing).
  • There are no preservatives in that food you just bought. You want bread? Better put it in the fridge, elsewise it’ll be molding by the end of the third day.
  • On that note, the food is amazing. Have I mentioned this before? Oops. It deserves being mentioned. Ireland seems to have this reputation for iffy food, and for eating a lot of potatoes. Okay, there are a rather disproportionate amounts of potatoes and chips consumed (and I do mean fries, not potato chips), but the food here is so. good. Comes from island life, I suppose! Mmm, the fish… and the cheese… and the pastries… and the tea… and the eggs… and the meats… and the biscuits… and th– well, you get the point.
  • The money comes in different colours and sizes — and don’t get me started on the coins. There are just so many of them: 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1€, 2€. Yes, I knew this one was coming, but still — my wallet seems to weigh more now than it did before I started spending! I’m getting a bit better at using them, though, and fumbling with the change a lot less than I was.
  • Military time is everywhere: signposts, schedules. I’m so glad I decided to put my watch in military time last year; it’s really saved me a lot of effort and confusion.
  • Being an anthropology major is an oddity. A lot of this is because Trinity doesn’t have an actual anthro department, but a lot of the responses have been “That’s so fascinating!” This is rather a contrast to being at Penn where, for a bit of perspective, out of the dozen or so people in my organic chem lab section — organic chemistry, of all things — four of us were anthro majors. FOUR.
  • There is major humidity here, folks. Again, something for which I was reasonably prepared –due to the country’s reputation for rain and grey, you know. Still, my hair has reached heights of frizz as yet unknown to mankind.
  • When you say you live in West Philadelphia, you will still hear the Fresh Prince theme song coming from somebody in the vicinity. I honestly thought I was safe from this one, but nope; in fact, somebody even pointed me towards this, which I had not seen.
  • People talk to youToday, whilst packing up our groceries, Eileen and I had a lovely old gentleman tell us he liked our “ponytails” (they were braids, but you know. Details). He asked where we were from (Philadelphia! “I’ve been there. Saw the Liberty Bell… and some other things I don’t remember… and Lancaster County, and Reading”), and told us that if we wanted to hear Irish music, to try O’Shea’s at Talbot Street. Free live music every Thursday night from 10-12! We have plans to check it out tomorrow — update to follow!

It’s not all fun and games — that library confusion about the books from the stacks stems from a real event that had me owing €7 (which the kind librarian waved as I explained my case!) because I wanted to check out some of the fiction books on my to-read list, things are rather expensive, and, yes, I do have homework. Even so, I’m incredibly grateful to be here, and I certainly plan to keep enjoying every minute of my time here! Three weeks down, a number-I-haven’t-counted-yet to go.

Ah, the awkward Americans. We who know not what to expect when we discover, suddenly, the lies we’ve been living: The U.S. is not as big as you think it is, people. Seriously. Take a look around every once in a while! There’s a whole bunch of history you’re missing by starting in the 1770s! For goodness’s sake, I passed a pub today that’s older than that!

& yes, in case you were wondering, I am one of the awkward Americans. Gotta embrace it, you know. I can look the part completely — brown curly hair, blue-ish eyes, freckles, pale skin — but, like my friend’s mom warned me years ago, the second I open my mouth… All that comes gushing out is a stream of American.


Which really isn’t so bad, as things go — so long as I’m still ready to learn, and not to expect what I would at home: there’s no Trader Joe’s or unlimited access to books via library here, so those dreams dissipated quickly anyhow.

Don’t worry, that picture was taken when Eileen and I were trying hats on at Cashel as a joke. I don’t actually own one… yet?


2 thoughts on “thirteen – awkward americans

  1. Connor!! The book thing: yeaaaaaaah. So annoying. The libraries are small and don’t like to give you books. I missed VanPelt soooo much while abroad.
    The heavy wallet thing. yeahhhhhhh. But it’s a cool yeahhhhhh. 😉
    The people talking to you thing: especially with older people! They will come up to you out of nowhere, even if you look like you’re busy. They’re just really nice and personable; reminds me of home a little bit actually…but they’re gutsier somehow…less concerned with interrupting. 🙂
    The kettle thing: yeahhhhhh! But YEAHHHHHH!
    The egg thing: yeah. suuuuuuuuuper weird. I didn’t trust it, but everyone swore they’d be fine. meh. it’s just weird going to the grocery store and not finding them with the dairy items.

    Keep writing!

  2. I know just what you mean about the backwards cars. It takes a while to not freak out when you see, for instance, a DOG in what you expect to be the driver’s seat! LOL.

    Bummer about the book borrowing. Might necessitate finding a good used bookstore. You can always donate what you don’t want to schlep home.

    Love the Fresh Prince story. Ha! You’d think after all these years people would forget…

    I get mistaken for British a lot. People would ask me for directions every time I’ve been in the UK (never had that issue in Ireland). Eventually you learn to fake an accent for a sentence or two just to stop the constant stares.

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