When questioned as to my purpose in his car, “You are giving me a ride home” I told the little boy in the back seat. His mother looked at me disconcertedly and said “We call it a lift here.” Turns out, a ride is something completely different in Ireland. Sometimes, I’m not sure they speak English here.
Making mistakes has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time abroad. I like to have control over myself and my surroundings, but control is a luxury in a foreign country that relies on public transportation. I have ended up on the end of a bus line on the last bus, insulted store clerks by not saying “How are you?”, and made Deirdre laugh at me because I was working on a paper instead of an assignment.
I adore making lists, so here are five things I’ve discovered about Irish culture through making a fool of myself.
- Talking about money is taboo. Rich or poor, filthy lucre is not a topic of conversation. It makes people uncomfortable.
- No bragging on your family or accepting compliments graciously. I told some friends that my sister was a good artist, and they told me they would never so something like that about their siblings. While I’m all for humility, sometimes even Irish people admit it gets a little ridiculous.
- There are céad míle ways to say “How are you?” in casual conversation (I still don’t know how to respond to any of them). An craic, what’s the crack, what’s the news, how’s it going – the list is endless. It’s a necessary opener to any conversation. Even if you just want to ask where the bathroom is. Furthermore, if someone in Ireland asks if you are all right, that’s your cue to order food or pay for groceries. It’s not that you look wrecked and caused concern. I used to answer the question and wonder why I never got service. Now, I know the correct answer to “Are you all right?” is “Yeah, I’d like a chicken roll, please.”
- Don’t mention the Irish language unless you know you are on safe ground. It’s a very politically and emotionally charged subject. Stay away. Same goes for the English, Northern Ireland, and Protestantism.
- Irish people will not tell you you are doing something wrong unless they actually care about you. They may look at you in their particularly judgmental way, but they will not say anything. It takes a friend incessantly mocking you to figure out how not offend everyone. I’m thankful for those people.