Well, I must say that getting on the plane leaving my family and loved ones behind has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. However, the beauty of Ireland, the people I have met and the person I have become from this experience has made it all worth while.
Arriving at the Dublin airport with all tears behind me, I was ready to face what life had to offer. I was quickly greeted at the gate with a sign welcoming me into the country. Wanting the full Irish experience, I opted to live with a host mother.
Pulling up to the house that I will live in for almost four months, I met my host mother, a short, red-haired and elderly woman named Maureen Whelan. Before I even got my luggage up the stairs, I was offered a cup of warm tea.
I was to have a cup of tea and a biscuit (a cookie) because it would be rude to deny the offer. Apparently, you don’t mess with the Irish tea time.
Due to safety concerns, I was placed to live in Portmarnick, the suburbs of Dublin. Although Ireland is one of the safest places for female travelers, it is best to take extra precautions. There is not much crime, just a lot of public drunkenness.
With that said, I live within a five minute walking distance from the beach, but a 50 minute public bus ride into the city, and then another 20 minute walk to my school. With such a small population, Ireland does not have a metro (subway) system.
As a business major, it only seemed suitable to go to Dublin Business School. The school is located in the center of the city, with a lovely view of the Dublin castle. Most castles were built by the Vikings in order to obtain power and then to defend themselves.
The heart of Ireland is surrounded by its history. Everywhere you turn there are statues and monuments of important Irish historians. With there being pubs and other running establishments older than the United States itself, history is a key factor in understanding the city. In fact, this year there is huge event occurring in celebration of the Easter Rising of 1916.
Although it may seem like the feud is settling some, when Britain owned all of Ireland, the country was well divided and Catholics had no legal rights. Therefore, as time went on, a civil war broke out and there was a new sense of equality for religions.
After fighting for religion and facing starvation during the potato famine, Ireland’s population has never recovered. The entire country only has a population of about five million people. Therefore, tourists are vital for this island.
Culture: With Ireland being a part of Europe, I was expecting to arrive to a very mellow, calm area where you sit in coffee shops for hours and businesses close down during lunch like my high school French teacher used to talk about. Yet, on the contrary, Dublin does not fit the role envisioned.
To my surprise, it is a lot like New York City. People are running to catch the buses or trains, and pedestrians jay-walk and don’t look before crossing the street. Taxis line up and down busy streets, tourist shops are located within feet from each other and there are McDonalds, KFCs, Burger Kings and even Papa John’s along the sidewalks.
American Entertainment: The music is Americanized. Although music is a huge part of Irish culture, American music has heavy influences all over the world. When sitting in the University’s lounge, where the floor is covered with “grass” carpet and the seats are bean bag chairs, the students are playing Mario Kart on the Wii and blasting California Girl from Katy Perry and Snoop Dog.
The students love American musicians but listen to songs that were hits several years ago. At one point in time, I went into a pub because there was an advertisement for live entertainment. I was so excited to listen to real Irish music. Once inside, there was an Irish man playing the guitar which I was very excited to see until he started singing “Sweet Home Alabama.”
However, that was not the most shocking thing of the night. When the performer took a break, the DJ continued by playing “Cotton Eye Joe.” Don’t get me wrong, there are many street performers and even signers in bands that do still play traditional Irish music, but the fascination with Americanization is very dominant.
Even the TV shows and movies played are 90 percent American as well. On the “tele,” you can find shows such as “Dr. Phil,” “Judge Judy,” “The Simpsons” and “Criminal Minds.” There is even a show that is based off of E!News where they talk about American actresses worst dressed list.
Currently, Will Ferrell and Michael Jordan are plastered on the buses and on posters in the bus shelters featuring their newest movies. Never did I realize that nowhere else in the world is there something like Hollywood.
Irish movies are just not common, and the acting on Irish TV is not up to par. There was an Irish film nominated for an award, and it was all over the news for weeks. The excitement was unbelievable.
Food: As for the food, that is something I would prefer to be more Americanized. I’ve often heard, “Ireland gets a lot of tourists, but it’s not because of the weather and certainly not for the food.” The coffee shops have excellent coffee and mouth watering pastries, but traditional Irish meals are not for me.
As an example, grilled tomatoes and grilled mushrooms would be considered a breakfast meal here. Additionally, when you think of Irish food, I am sure that potatoes would be on the top of the list. This is, in fact, true.
Potatoes are most common here and served with just about every dinner option. Due to Irish weather (cold and wet all year long), potatoes are the easiest thing to grow. Potatoes are also very nutritious and the Irish believe that you could live on just potatoes for a very long time. I am sure this is true, just not ideal for an American.
Social: There is a huge social difference between America and Ireland. Ireland is still traditional in the sense of what is considered acceptable during conversation and religious beliefs. The two strongly correlate with each other.
In America, we speak freely in conversation about topics such as sex and drugs, but tend not to speak much about our religious beliefs due to being “accepting” of all religions and not questioning others’ opinions. America is made of many different backgrounds and different thoughts. We tend to try to cover our religions so we don’t stand out from others.
However, the Irish don’t have a choice in religious beliefs. Instead, most believe what was passed down from them in their family and have not heard much about other religious sectors. They don’t speak to their children about sex or drugs, and have strong thoughts that their religious beliefs are the only ways.