Even though I was born and raised in North Carolina I had never really considered myself as a Southern girl. After arriving in Dublin, I found it difficult to explain to people where North Carolina is as the East coast covers a lot of states and many people don’t know where North Carolina is geographically off the top of their head. Dubliners often use the county or town they are from instead of state and only the most common/popular states are really known. This is only one example of cultural aspects of Ireland that I thought would be easy, but have found to be quite interesting and harder than I thought.
Since I’m from the South you would think that I would be used to navigating through thick accents and deciphering what an individual has said, since the South is often stereotyped as having thick country drawn-out accents. Unfortunately, this part of my culture and background has not been as much of a tool as I thought it would be living in Dublin. I find myself often having to ask people with Irish accents thick or not to repeat themselves, having to really lean in and listen as well as watch their lips sometimes to make out what they are saying.
Another example of differences in the cultural aspects that have left me in some awkward situations is walking into restaurants and having to seat myself, as well as others with me, instead of being seated by the host. Although I had spent time familiarizing myself with the local currency and being aware of my surroundings when walking around in the city center, I thought that my experience living in Los Angeles every summer since my Freshman year of college would prepare me for dealing with walking around a huge city and a prevalent amount of homelessness. I found myself unexpectedly caught off guard one day when approached out of nowhere by a woman who didn’t seem homeless asking for change for a €10 bill to use for the bus.
It was midday, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have stopped and engaged in conversation with her honestly, but again I thought that my tactics used in Los Angeles for navigating these situations would work in Dublin. I did my normal routine of making sure my back was against the wall, holding my wallet tight against me and only taking out the change they asked for. I repeatedly asked and saw the €10 dollar bill to make sure that it wasn’t ripped in half or damage. After exchanging the two fives for her €10 bill, we both went on our way. Sadly, it wasn’t till later that night when I was doing my budgeting that I realized that the €10 bill she had given me was a prop copy.
Now I could have gotten angry at this. I could have regretted trying to help someone out and had this event make me feel differently towards helping out homeless people, but it hasn’t. Instead, this event and the others mentioned previously have made me appreciate the experiences and cultural differences not only within the United States, but in Ireland as well. Cultural aspects found within every society show a part of that area’s history and experiences that invoke those cultural aspects negatively or positively will continue to educate me in ways that I can’t be taught from a book, video or without traveling to different cultures than my own.