I moved to Dublin, Ireland in June for a career opportunity. Leaving rural Minnesota for the biggest Irish city, I was bound to experience a bit of culture shock. I realized I’m more flexible than I thought and have even adopted some of the Irish ways. Change isn’t a bad thing. Of course this is still a work-in-progress.
34 American Habits I Lost When I Moved to Ireland
1. Not carrying coins
At home I literally threw away pennies or left them behind at the store. I usually dumped the rest of my loose change in a jar that would eventually be cashed in … maybe once or twice a year. Here in Ireland coins add up. Real fast. Since there’s no paper money less than a fiver, a pocketful of coins can easily add up to a pint of beer or an Irish breakfast roll.
2. Never carrying cash
At home I rarely had cash, but here it’s a necessity. Many stores don’t take cards. Yes those still exist.
3. Looking left when crossing the street
Since cars drive on the left side in Ireland, you have to look right before crossing the street. This took a long time to get used to. I’m still getting used to this. My solution is to just look both ways.
4. Thinking the “third floor” is literally the third floor of the building
I found this out the hard way. After wandering around a local store not finding the department I was looking for, I realized the the first floor is actually called the “ground floor.” The next level up is called the “first floor” and then the “second floor” is the level after that, which is literally the third floor. Makes perfect sense, eh?
5. Seeing cops and people carrying guns
You will not see Garda (the Irish police) or civilians packing heat. No one carries a gun. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
6. Late night trips to a super center and doing all my shopping in one place
There are no super centers and the stores all close early. If you need a video game, a cake pan, a bath towel and a loaf of bread, plan on stopping at four stores all before they close at 19:00, or sooner.
7. Buying in bulk
There are several reasons why buying in bulk is not common here. There are no club stores like Sam’s Club or Costco, refrigerators are absurdly small (think college dorm room size) and whatever you buy at the store you need to carry home.
8. Eating fries with ketchup
Here chips (french fries to us Americans) come with vinegar and salt and/or mayonnaise. And I’m not complaining either.
9. Washing my hands with warm water
Remember separate hot and cold water faucets? Probably not. There’s a reason those went out of fashion in the U.S. … decades ago. Having the choice between washing your hands with freezing cold water and water that can boil anything is like choosing the lesser of two evils, and could be why I often witness people going to the bathroom and not washing their hands.
I love not having to tip. Sorry but it’s true. America, please take note.
11. Expecting free refills
No free refills? This is bullshit. I don’t drink a lot of soda, but when I do I like to know I have the option to refill for free just in case my super-sized thirst isn’t quenched. And my €3 cup of coffee should have free refills. That’s just basic human decency.
12. Looking for street signs on the street corners
I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s a better idea to have street signs attached to the side of buildings in the general vicinity of street corners than on actual signposts on the street corners. This is only if there is a street sign. Sometimes, there just isn’t.
13. Not talking about politics or our president
I tend to stay out of politics and loathe listening to people’s opinions on said topic. Here when people learn that I’m American, they have to comment on Obama and/or the American political race. They are usually shocked to hear that I don’t give a shit about either.
14. Getting pizza with garlic butter
Thank you America for serving pizza with butter. The horror on my friends’ faces was priceless when I mentioned this. Never mind the embarrassment and shame for America (and myself).
15. Having A/C
I like my air-conditioning best served cold and running constantly. Here it doesn’t exist. Really hot days are few and far between so you just tolerate the heat until the next day when it’s cold and raining.
16. Falling asleep to the sound of thunderstorms and the anticipation of severe weather
This is sad. I love thunderstorms, and they rarely exist here. Same goes for tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes and hurricanes.
17. Expecting cars to stop for pedestrians and crossing the street at crosswalks
Crossing the street wherever and whenever you feel like is totally acceptable. However, do NOT expect cars to stop for you.
18. Using a clothes dryer
It’s normal to not have a clothes dryer. And even if you do, most people still just hang their clothes to dry on a clothesline outside or clothes rack indoors. I find this to be ridiculously tedious.
19. Sipping ice cold drinks
Ice cubes, where art thou? Not in Ireland. Also, room-temperature soda and beer happens more often than I’d like. Irish grocery and convenience stores, please take note: you need to turn the thermostats down on your coolers.
20. Going days/weeks without doing math
I can now quickly calculate euros to dollars in my head. Same goes for centimeters to inches, grams to ounces, kilometers to miles and 12-hour to 24-hour time. Celsius to Fahrenheit, why do you have to be so fecking hard?!
21. Expecting to see Wednesday in the middle of the week on calendars
Embarrassingly, this took me far too long to realize. After missing a few meetings, never knowing the date and being confused about which day my friend would arrive at the airport, I finally realized Irish calendars start with Monday, whereas American calendars start with Sunday. Doh.
22. Buying everything online with 2-day free shipping
Why is Ireland so behind in the world of online shopping? They don’t have Amazon Prime 2-day shipping … and I really miss that. It’s a hassle to go to a physical store to buy stuff. #firstworldproblems
23. Eating American food
Obviously the food is different in another country. I expected that. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it. Heartbreakingly, these foods just don’t exist here: Mountain Dew, Twizzlers, Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos, ranch dressing, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, peanut butter that actually spreads without ruining your toast, tater tots, Peanut Butter M&M’s, Italian sausage, oh and real American bacon. Sigh.
24. Not eating ethnic food
In my hometown, if I wanted ethnic food I had exactly two choices, Chinese or Mexican. Both of which are delicious and highly Americanized. Obviously, I didn’t have the culinary options that I have here in Dublin where I can eat my way around the world just by walking down Moore Street or through the Epicurean Food Hall. Now if you’ll excuse me, my burek is getting cold.
25. Letting someone else bag my groceries and free plastic bags
Bagging groceries should be left to those trained to do so. And paying for plastic bags. Absurd.
26. Driving everywhere
I never walked to the store or really anywhere at home. Now I walk everywhere or take the public transportation, which also involves lots of walking. I still sometimes forget this when I’m grocery shopping and buy too much. Then I pray the whole way home that the handles don’t rip off.
27. Assuming organization, clear rules, and definitive answers
This just creams my corn. Irish bureaucracy makes no sense. Long queues, vague websites and not getting a straight answer is the norm in Ireland. Plan on making several inquires with different people before finding anything out. Just make a trip to the GNIB or Irish Revenue, take a number, have a seat and you’ll feel the pain.
28. Only half-ass listening to people
When people speak with an accent, you have to actively listen. I not only hear Irish-English spoken daily (which should be a separate language), but also non-native English speakers too. I’ve gotten better at understanding and deciphering what people are saying. It still can be exhausting.
29. Only hearing English
Dublin is full of diversity. No matter where you go, you will hear other languages. I live with non-native English speakers so I can literally go entire weekends without hearing more than a few sentences in English. I waffle between feeling irritated about being excluded from conversations and feeling relieved that I don’t have to particpate in said conversations. Usually it’s irritation. (Sorry, roommates.)
30. Thinking “craic” is a drug
If someone says “Where’s the craic?” they are in fact not asking you where they can find some crack cocaine. Actually they are asking where the fun is at. Although it’s pronounced like “crack” people don’t really joke about how much it sounds awfully close to the illicit drug. This is shocking and disappointing.
31. Pronouncing fillet as fil-LAY
The chicken fillet roll, that’s fil-LIT, is an institution here in Ireland. This delicacy is super cheap, dangerously messy, and can be purchased almost anywhere. De-fucking-lish.
32. Over planning everything
Irish bureaucracy, Dublin buses and masses of tourists can interfere with your meticulous planning. So just don’t do it. It’s more fun anyways to throw out the map, go with the flow and see where you end up.
33. Traveling far to see a bit of history
In the U.S., you usually have to travel long distances to see anything classified as historical and even then the history is nothing like that of which you can find in the Old World. Ireland has structures dating back to 3200 B.C. and countless buildings, walls, castles and streets that are older than America.
34. Having a tan, going to the beach and wearing shorts in the summer
Why did I waste precious space in my luggage for shorts? Amateur! And now I understand why the Irish are so pale.