Navigating Irish Cultural Differences

Maya Reiser
January 18, 2022
Dublin Castle

Today marks one whole week in Dublin. This week has been full of exploring, meeting new people, and learning all about a new culture. Coming to a different country, I of course was expecting cultural differences in many different aspects. I have been able to travel around Europe a bit in the past which made me think I would adjust with absolutely no problems. While in some regards, this did make things easier, there are also many things I have to learn while I’m here. So, here is what I have learned after one week in Dublin:

The old Irish men want to talk to you

My first night here, my flatmates and I went to a pub just around the corner from us, aiming for a true Irish pub. The second we opened the door, we knew it would be an interesting experience. The pub was full of almost entirely old Irish men that had to be above the age of 60—we stuck out like a sore thumb. As soon as we sat down, there were multiple of these men coming over to talk to us—the group of five obvious American’s—and ask us all kinds of questions. Mainly, we didn’t even have to respond to them as it was mostly a long stream of them talking and us smiling and nodding. It was a perfect introduction to Ireland and a learning moment that the old Irish men are intrigued by us.

There is a relaxed sense of urgency

The most common difference that I hear about when Americans come to Europe is the stark difference in the sense of urgency. The typical "go, go, go" mindset in the United States is something that is typically not common to the rest of the world. The first place that I really felt this was while eating in restaurants. In the United States, we all know the feeling of being rushed out and given the check as soon as possible so they can seat a new group of people. In the restaurants I’ve been at in Dublin so far, this sense of rushing is not present at all. Instead, we usually have to flag down our server to get the bill and spend as much time as we would like sitting there (at least until 8 p.m. when the covid curfew sets in). So far, I would have to say this is my favorite cultural difference and I can definitely get used to a more relaxed environment.

Birds will steal your food

Dublin is swarming with flocks of pigeons and seagulls. Not only this, but they are not afraid to come near you. Essentially, if you are eating outdoors you better be protecting your food with your life because a seagull will quite literally swoop down and grab it out of your hands (as some friends saw on day two of being here). They also will not move out of your way, so if you are not a fan of birds, Dublin may not be your favorite place.

A red walk sign does not mean stop

Okay, well technically when the pedestrian crosswalk sign is red it means to stop. However, we learned on day one that the crosswalks do not make sense. Here, they have pedestrian crosswalks that go green, yellow, and red the same way they work for cars. Even with this, the timings make absolutely no sense. It feels like at every crosswalk, the light turns green for about 5 seconds, it turns yellow for double that, and then it turns red way before it needs to be. Overall, the time you think you have to walk safely is much longer than expected. Additionally, you will stick out as a tourist simply by waiting for the light to turn green. Instead, you just look if there are cars coming and make a run for it, or at least that’s what the locals do.

I’m sure that as I continue to experience life in Ireland this list will continue to grow. However, I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, we are all more similar than we are different and as long as you are willing to adjust to a new culture, you’ll be just fine.


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Maya Reiser

<p>Hi! My name is Maya Reiser and I am studying Psychology, Sociology, and Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. I am studying abroad this Spring in Dublin, and I can't wait to share all of my experiences. My favorite thing in the world to do is travel anywhere I can go. The best memory I have while traveling was watching the sunset on a bridge over a river in Tuscany, Italy.</p>

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