“Dublinisms” and other things you may encounter during your stay

By Catt Kim

I’ve been asked some variation of the question “How’s Dublin?!” dozens of times in the month that I’ve been here. From small talk with strangers at bars to friends from home curious to hear, I’ve been getting by with “It’s good! Dublin is really small but I’m having a really nice time and I like it a lot.” That’s nowhere near the full story, of course, but come on, it’s a loaded question! Being in a new place is complicated and confusing and exciting and amazing in varying degrees.

If you’re preparing to spend time in Dublin, especially if it’ll be your first time living in a foreign country, you may be worried about adjusting to a new place or dealing with independence far from home. I can’t provide you with total reassurance, but I may be able to give you a little context and heads up about what you may experience here. The following are a few differences that I’ve encountered in everyday life that I’ve found a bit jarring since moving to Dublin.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago my entire adolescent life, and since graduating high school have lived/studied in Seoul, Shanghai, Madrid, and now Dublin. So while I really am American, I haven’t actually lived or gone out in big American cities, and while I have done those things in international places, I was still very decidedly not native in those locations and did not have an entire lifetime’s worth of experiences and nuances to draw upon. So while these are aspects of life in Dublin that I have noticed and had to get used to, they may not be so different for you even if you are American, Korean, Chinese, or Spanish.


1)    A city with no metro (but double decker buses)

To me, it’s wild that a big metropolitan city doesn’t have an underground system. Living in China I took the subway every single day to work, in Madrid the metro system was open past 1 in the morning so I would use it to go out or visit new places, and subway systems have always been easier for me to figure out than bus routes in a foreign country. But, I guess Dublin makes up for that fact considering all the bus drivers I’ve encountered have been super friendly and helpful, and every single city bus is a two-level giant.

2)    Only using one door even if they are double doors

This is more of something I’ve noticed on the Trinity campus, but there are so many instances where I’ve been at a double door and only one is in use while rows of people are trying to filter through it going opposite directions. Sometimes the other door is locked, but sometimes it’s just not in use. Not sure why, will get back to you on it.

3)    “Tea” automatically being black

Most places that I’ve been, “tea” on a menu is followed by a long list of which type of tea you could get (green, black, mint, earl grey, herbal, etc. etc.). Most places in Dublin, however, have “tea” and then “herbal tea” (or something similar) listed as two different options, the latter of which is followed by the different kinds you can get. But rule of thumb, tea is black tea, and you’ll get milk and sugar with it.

4)    Free water (!!!!)

If you’re from the USA you’re probably confused why someone would be excited about free water because it’s just a given back in the States. In most places in Europe, though? Not so much. Dublin is great for my constantly-dehydrated soul because water is free, though! Even in bars and clubs, which is really amazing because in most places I’ve been to you may be able to get water for free at a restaurant but at venues that serve alcohol you suddenly need to buy their $5 bottles. I’ve only been to one place that charged for water, but they actually only charged on one of the two nights I went.

5)    Jaywalking being the norm

Personally, I’m a big fan of this one. I’m always safe about it, I never make cars slow down to accommodate me crossing the street illegally, and I’ve never been hit or honked at, but I’m really just too impatient to wait for a green light when the roads are empty. In Dublin? Not a problem. Large crowds of people, older folks, and even mothers pushing their babies in strollers will all speed-walk across the street with incoming traffic not too far away. Just be smart and considerate, and watch out for Luas trams when you cross.

6)    Age restrictions when going out/strict carding

When I go out (but once again note that I’ve never tried to go to an actual bar or club in America), it’s about a 50/50 chance whether or not I’ll get carded. Which is pretty low, honestly, because as a small Asian girl we tend as a type to look quite young. Anywho, I’ve gotten into clubs, bars, etc across both Asia and Europe without showing the my ID. In one city, I had a group of friends that got three different girls into a club based on one girl’s IDs (one used her driver’s license, one used her passport, and another used a picture of her passport). In another city I’ve frequently seen visibly high-school aged kids in bars. Not so much in Dublin. In Dublin I’ve had to provide another form of ID because my government issued card was only temporary, and my friend, who has a Minnesota driver’s license, was questioned and not allowed in for 20+ minutes because the bouncer didn’t recognize her state’s IDs.

Oh, some places also have 20/21+ nights (despite the drinking age being 18). So to any American friends out there who have found ways to deal with a high legal drinking age… it’s just something to keep in mind that you may need to prepare to go out in Dublin.

7)    People being kicked out/turned away for being drunk

I was pretty surprised all the people that I’ve seen get kicked out of clubs/bars for being intoxicated, and how strictly bouncers uphold those verdicts. Outside of certain venues I’ve met people who seem pretty sober, can hold a conversation, aren’t stumbling, yet when we go to return to the club the bouncers won’t let them back in because they were previously kicked out. I’ve also had friends who, while yes pretty drunk but not sloppy yet, were turned away from bars and even warned bouncers on the next shift not to let them in. Honestly, I’m kind of a fan of this. Yes, drink, have fun, but just don’t lose control.

8)    General friendli-/chattiness

I think I actually like this one. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it, but in general I find it nice that cab drivers, baristas making your coffee, and even random people will smile and greet you. I’ve had people apologize to me on the street for almost being in my way (not even actually bumping into me), make eye contact and say hello to me as I’m passing them on the street, etc. And seriously- cab drivers are mad chatty.

You discover a million little things you didn’t even know you took for granted at home when you go someplace new. The slang a city uses, the societal norms when you’re standing in line or paying, and the right place to shop for every little odd knick-knack you need.

While acclimating to Dublin has had its ups and downs, I’ve been having a great time either way. And hopefully this short list has given you a little more background on what to expect when you get here.

Visit www.tcd.ie/study for more information on studying at Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

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