A few key takeaways from my time in Ireland so far:
You know how when babies learn to swim, they’re often just tossed right in and they eventually get the hang of it? That’s a fairly accurate description of my early adjustment period in Dublin – in a good way! Keeping with the aquatic theme, it can really feel like a sink or swim situation when you’re far from home, but keeping a can-do attitude helps plenty. I knew it would be hard to get comfortable if I never engaged with all the unknown and uneasy stuff at the beginning, so I just threw myself off of the deep end (last swimming pun, I promise). Without pushing myself too far, I made a commitment to say yes to as many new experiences as possible if I thought that they would help me get acclimated to life in Dublin. My friends recently recruited me for a county-wide search for the ultimate fish and chips. Neighborhoods that weren’t even on my radar are now mainstays on my recommendation list – in short, just say yes and get on out there!
In my early attempts to get adjusted, I almost forgot what I was trying to adjust to – being on a different continent! Since then, the surprise hits in little moments – I can be going about my day, and then bam – I remember that I’m on a different continent. It’s been simple things, like milling about the grocery store and finding US products in the world cuisine aisles; it’s not every day that you see “American-style” hotdogs in a jar presented as an imported delicacy. A more recent instance was this past weekend, perhaps Ireland’s busiest of the year. It was a double feature with St. Patrick’s Day and more importantly, a high stakes Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and England (the Irish side handedly took home the Triple Crown Trophy). While watching the match, one of my friends mentioned offhandedly that one of the lead scorers of the Irish side was her neighbor. I laughed it off but was met with a puzzled look – she was entirely serious. From an American point of view, this is akin to having Tom Brady or Lebron James living next door – practically unimaginable. Moments like this remind me that the Irish population’s small size makes the country more tightly knit than any other.
As for culture shock, it hits me every time I cross the street – not in a literal sense, fortunately. I don’t think I’ll ever really get used to the whole opposite side of the road thing, no matter how many times I have to do a triple take in the middle of the crosswalk!