Before my trip, I was mentally preparing for the struggle I would eventually have to deal with when faced with homesickness, and the likely lifestyle change I would have to adapt to. I hadn’t blinked an eye at the thought of culture shock. I wasn’t going to a third world country, after all. I had been to Europe in 2005, and I don’t remember being shaken up by anything really. That was until my friend Paul (who spent a few months abroad in England and travelled around while he was in Europe) mentioned something about reading about possible culture shock 8 days before I left for Ireland. After that, I put a little bit of thought into it, but for the most part, I was too busy to even begin to wrap my head around what might be so different that it could shock me.
WELL! As you can probably tell from my last post, landing in Ireland and fending for myself after an exhausting travel experience was a very different experience than the school trip I took to Europe in 2005.
I figured that after a couple of days, I am in a better state of mind to be able to take a step back and lay out a few of the things that are different in Ireland than they are in Canada. Some of these are cute or funny. Others, not so much. Bare with me!
1) Taps. Yes, the hot water, and the cold water. In Canada, in 99% of cases (in case there is that one case that debunks my 100% theory), the hot water tap, and the cold water tap are combined into one single faucet in which the water temperature can be adjusted by maneuvering the hot and cold as needed. In Ireland, especially in washrooms, you make a decision. Either you will scold your hands with blazing hot water, or, you freeze them and wonder for the rest of the day if your hands are REALLY clean or not. This is especially confusing because showers are normal, kitchen sinks are normal, and some updated public washrooms offer the ‘single faucet special’, so why on earth is this still a thing!?
2) Jaywalking. Jaywalking in Ireland is legal. Imagine my horror when the busiest intersections are suddenly flooded with pedestrians when the walking light is red. Here, they have a stoplight colour system for pedestrians. Why they bother, though, is beyond me. I have watched people time and time again cross the street in front of double-decker busses, and, more dangerously, cyclists. I shit you not, the bicycles here can do more damage than the largest vehicles. This is because they do not have to follow the rules of traffic. They are trusted to make sound decisions while operating their pedal powered vehicle. I am NOT used to this yet. I never know which way to look, so generally I run across streets after looking around about 400 times. So far, so good.
3) TV License. I found this out today. I went through the local orientation program for working holiday participants landing in Ireland. Apparently, back in the day, there were only 4 television stations in Ireland. All publicly funded. The government decided then that it would; be a brilliant idea to issue licenses to television owners across the land in order to fund these stations. Things in TV land have changed here, as they have everywhere else, with the introduction of Netflix and other similar products. The TV license remains. It is a 160 Euro fee, payable every year by TV owners, regardless of whether or not you suscribe to cable television. While this seems laughable, there is a job here called ‘Television License Officer’. This person essentially knocks on doors, and checks to make sure TV Licenses are paid up. Should you answer the door to this person, and not have proof of having a TV license (even if it’s not your television), you will be charged a 2000 Euro fee. I am not kidding. This is a thing here!
4) Chips, Crisps, Minerals, Jumpers and Beanies. Most of these, I was able to figure out, or knew already because I have lived with international students in the past. But still, it’s always fun to translate foreign expressions for Canadian ones. So here goes:
Chips are fries, crisps are chips, minerals are pop, jumpers are sweaters (and hoodies), and beanies are toques. Other expressions have popped up here and there, but these have been the predominant ones so far. Mineral is my favourite. It makes pop sound like a health food! Hahaha!
5) Population Stats. SO! Ireland is populated by roughly 4 million souls. 1.6 million of these reside in Dublin. The rest are scattered mostly among the other main centres (Cork, Galway and Limerick). The inner counties are fairly empty except for the agricultural specialists that tend to fields, animals, etc. I suspect the sheep population outweighs the human population in these areas, but I’ll have to ask a farmer to be sure. Also, only about 9% of the (human) population has naturally red hair.
6) Views on touchy topics. Yesterday, before I even had the chance to get a coffee, I was stopped by an Amnesty International representative from Ireland. I am usually able to walk away with not too much guilt from charities asking for money or sponsorship, or whatever. But, yesterday, for whatever reason, I stopped to listen to this man. It’s not even 10 am at this point, and before you know it, we’re talking about abortion.
Now, whether you side with the pro-life or pro-choice is up to you, but in Canada, the reality is that women have a right to abortion. In Ireland, they do not. In fact, if they choose to get an abortion, regardless of the reason, the woman is jailed for 14 years, and the doctor doing the procedure loses his or her license to practise (the one they spent 7 years getting). At this point, my jaw is surely on the floor, but wait! There is more. If the woman was raped, and the man who raped her is found guilty, he goes to jail for 7 years. If he has good behaviour in jail, he can be released in half that time. Well. I had no money to give to this man, but had I been a rich woman (or had any type of income, at all), this would have been a worthy cause in my mind. Amnesty International is working towards getting a referendum in place so hopefully the law can be amended to support women’s rights in Ireland. Phew. That was heavy stuff.
7) Luas. Let’s conclude with something light and cheery, shall we? Luas is Dublin’s light rail tram system. In Ireland, all signs are bilingual. Irish and English. Busses display their destinations in both languages, and pretty well everything that is publicly owned here has both languages. I know basically no Irish, but, today I found out that Luas means Speed. So there you have it. Luas = Speed.