Coming from England, going to Trinity wasn’t nearly as much of a trek for me as for some of my international classmates. I can still pop home for the weekend if I need to, and there’s no time difference if I want to call home. However, the fact remains, I am living abroad. The cultural differences between the UK and Ireland may not be nearly as acute as I experienced when I spent a year on exchange in Toronto, however they are still there. There are various little quirks which those who have grown up here won’t even notice, yet stick out to us ‘foreigners’ as unusual. I came prepared for a new currency, ready to concentrate on a new accent and excited to discover a new place. However, it is the small things that make living in Ireland special for me, and here are a few of my favourites:
“Your man over there’s great craic”
Although knew that I was going to hear “grand” a fair amount, no one had explained to me what “craic” meant (so I briefly thought that Halls had a massive drug problem when I moved in!) “Your man” also confused me as my friends seemingly pointed out strange men I had never met before as mine. I’ve now appropriated lots of Irish slang and know that “craic” sort of means “fun”, and that “your man” is simply a different way of saying “that guy” (although I have to be careful not to use my newfound slang when I pop home).
Everyone knows everyone!
With a population of only 4.5million (of which over half a million live in Dublin) it can sometimes feel like everyone is connected to everyone else when you come to Ireland. I remember getting on a bus in Freshers’ Week and hearing over and over complete strangers deduce their connections to one another (through cousins, friends of friends and incredibly bizarre coincidences).
This might just be my friends; however the pub appears to be Dublin’s default meeting place. Rarely will a cinema outing, or an evening meal finish without someone enquiring “Pints?” If you’re not a drinker don’t be put off; pubs in Ireland are a sociable space where friends meet to chat, not necessarily get drunk, so no one will mind if you stick to something soft.
Planes not trains
One of the biggest differences between my friends who studied in various parts of the UK and me is that every time I need to pop home I fly, whilst they take the train. Although the security checks and baggage restrictions of airports can get a little repetitive, I love the fact that in a short flight I can switch between one country and another (often taking less time door to door than some of my friends spend on trains). There’s something exciting about looking out the window as Dublin comes into focus and you can see just how close it is to the sea, plus you can use your time before the flight to check out some of the other destinations you can travel to during weekends and reading weeks.
“Thanks a million”
Dubliners are very polite, so you are likely to hear choruses of “thanks a million” as passengers get off a bus. Since coming to Ireland I’ve taken up the phrase, on the basis that after “thanks a million” a mere “thank you” practically sounds rude (and after all good manners don’t cost a penny, or should I say cent!)
“You’re English, but you’re alright”
Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain remains ingrained in the country’s architecture and culture. Monuments to revolutionary leaders and buildings of political significance are scattered throughout the city, and conversations on Northern Ireland can divide a room. All this means a whole lot of jokes about the English (I think I’ve heard them all). Despite our fractured past, relations between Ireland and Britain remain friendly and every joke I’ve heard about my heritage has been in good humour. Remembering their country’s history remains hugely important to the Irish; however, things have also moved on since the days of revolution and I’ve never felt anything but welcome at Trinity.