While planning my study abroad experience in the great city of Dublin, I was unsure of what to really expect. The typical question I received was, “They speak English there, right?” Well confidently I would answer that their common language was English. At this point, I was unaware of their long-lasting Irish Gaelic—the Gaelic word being Gaeilge per our lecture—still spoken. I just assumed like everyone else, that English was it. Just like the language assumption, there were many other details I failed to know before coming that have now come to my attention.
Very quickly after my arrival, the weather is the most obvious cultural difference. Rain is a normal part of life here. The temperature doesn’t drastically change, like the Midwest, but it seems as if it might never stop raining. This has been something that I have had to engrave into my head when I am getting ready in the mornings; I will need waterproof shoes, a jacket with a hood and possibly an umbrella—that is if it the wind doesn’t break it within the first five minutes of walking. It has also been an adjustment switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius. I constantly remind myself that 10 degrees is a good temperature for here, but that doesn’t mean snow will be falling. I don’t remember what I was thinking before I left the States, but I hadn’t prepared myself well in the weather category.
Another obvious difference is the constant Irish accents—I am in the minority without one. It never fails that as soon as I open my mouth to let words come out, the next question I receive is, “Where are you from?” Clearly, the “American accent” is very noticeable. I am a fan of the Irish accent—any form, because there are quite a few to pick from. First, due to the split of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, there are differences in the Northern and Southern dialects, despite being on the same small island. Through further research done by Professor Raymond Hickey at Cambridge University, I found, “Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have diverged politically and socially, rendering even more distinct the differences between varieties of English in each part of the island.” Then I must take in to account the English spoken by the elderly rural population and the English spoken by the younger urban population. The differences here are due to the elderly commonly speaking a form of English closer to that of when they transitioned from Gaelic Irish to Irish English. However, the form I most often hear—at least I think it is what I am hearing—is the Dublin English. I never realized there could be as many forms of Irish English as have been made obvious to me. There are probably a lot more dialects I have yet to hear, but so far, I am enjoying this change, despite my difficulty to fully understand most of the time.
Lastly, the culture difference that has cause to get me more lost than anyone should admit is the city. Let me clarify this better. I grew up in small town. Not far away from civilization but it’s not common for me to drive into the city, let alone wander around it by myself. I have only been here for three weeks, but somehow, I have found myself wandering the streets of Dublin alone. This hasn’t necessarily been bad. I have gotten lost more times than I can count on my hands. I have jumped on the wrong train multiple times. I have waited for a bus, to then realize I didn’t have the right change to pay my way on. Throughout my confusion, there has always been a nice Irish person to help me out. The bus drivers have let me get on the bus for free, random pedestrians will stop and guide me to the right location, and shop owners are more than willing to give a helping hand. On a more-than-average basis, the Irish people are delightful people. This is great for a country-ish girl like myself. Therefore, it hasn’t been so bad frequently getting lost because I have the Irish around to help.
This country has blown my preconceived notions out of the water. There are major cultural differences than that of the States, but most of the time, I feel right at home! I don’t have to be Irish to fit in with the Irish.
Hickey, Raymond. (2007). Irish English, History and Present-day Forms. Cambridge University Press: New York. Retrieved from < http://npu.edu.ua/!e-book/book/djvu/A/iif_kgpm_Hickey%20R.%20Irish%20English%20History%20and%20Present-Day%20Forms..pdf>.