The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind. Our program started in America with a group dinner at Claddagh and was followed by a night’s stay in towers, a day full of travel, and arriving in Ireland. We had our first full day in Ireland and the country is as beautiful as I anticipated, albeit different. Mainly, I expected the city to be taller and to see more redheads. Buildings are usually only a couple stories high, and I have yet to spot a redhead. Something I was relieved to discover: the food is much better than the American interpretation. My previous travel experience all led to a similar conclusion, so this confirmed my expectations.
In Ireland, after going through customs, we met with one of our program directors — Hayley Ni Bhrian. She actually changed her name to be more authentic Irish and loves her culture. A fun fact: my extended family and her draw from the same area of southern Ireland. I am excited to get to know her more and take advantage of the various suggestions she has for bargain shopping and places to visit.
After lunch, our other program director Susanne Bach took us to Griffin College to discuss relationship management and logistics. It was interesting to hear from her perspective as she is an expat from Germany. As a foreigner, she was able to pick up on many unexpected differences between Irish culture and her own. She highlighted that the Irish people are friendly to a fault and do enjoy a drink. Some takeaways include that if I meet an Irish person that has been drinking, they “might not remember meeting” me. Also, she said that the Irish people “are the friendliest” and it will seem rude if I do not first greet someone with a “How are you?” before asking a question. In the US, we are direct and ask what we wish to know. Remembering to say these types of phrases before interacting with Irish people may prove to be a challenge.
As exhaustion hit, my focus centered on getting supplies for a shower before dinner. My roommate, Ashley, and I walked over to the grocery store nearby. I walked to the counter and immediately asked for shampoo. I couldn’t place why the man working the counter seemed so grumpy. On my way out of the store, item in hand, I realized I forgot Susanne’s rule for greetings. While it didn’t seem like a big cultural difference at first, as in America we greet friends with “How are you?”. The difference comes in with grocery stores and places where you purchase goods. Usually, I am in such a rush when purchasing goods, I do not take the time to properly greet the person behind the counter. I believe that I will adjust to this cultural difference, and perhaps bring it back to the US upon my return. All in all, I can’t wait to see where this trip goes.