Hello again!! We have just made it to our final stop, in our Ireland and Northern Ireland study abroad trip, in Carlingford, Ireland before heading to the Dublin Airport to go home. Here are some things I have noticed as our trip is coming to an end:
Studying abroad in Ireland and Northern Ireland has been an eye-opening experience that brought me face to face-with a distinct cultural shock. While some aspects reminded me of my home state, Virginia, there were numerous striking differences that I couldn’t ignore. One of the best and most striking observations was the genuine politeness and friendliness of the Irish people. They effortlessly strike up conversations, particularly the older generation, creating an atmosphere of warmth and sociability.
In the realm of politics, I discovered an intriguing contrast between the Irish and American systems. In the Irish Parliament, certain words are banned from being spoken on the floor, such as “hypocrite,” “handbagging,” “yahoo,” and various other derogatory terms. This commitment to trying to maintain a somewhat respectful discourse reflects their dedication to fostering a harmonious political environment. In contrast, the American government allows a broader range of expression, where almost anything can be said.
Another cultural shock awaited me at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Parliament. Visitors are prohibited from wearing clothing that depicts topics being discussed on the floor. For instance, if sheep farming is the subject of debate, one cannot wear a shirt with a picture of a sheep on it. This level of restriction on attire starkly contrasts with American culture, where we have the freedom to wear almost anything when visiting governmental buildings, specifically as a way to protest things that are being discussed in our government.
Bathroom facilities in Ireland also surprised me. Most bathrooms are designed to be all-gender, meaning that while using a stall, individuals of a different gender might be washing their hands or occupying the stall next to you. These bathrooms typically feature full-height walls and doors that ensure privacy. Although initially unexpected, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe in these shared spaces. I believe a similar system implanted in America would solve some of the discourse surrounding the topic.
he difference in driving was another amusing cultural shock moment for me. In Ireland and Northern Ireland, people drive on the opposite side of the road, with the driver’s seat positioned on the right side of the car. This led to several moments of confusion when I mistook passengers for distracted drivers engrossed in their phones. Adapting to this change required some mental recalibration, but it ultimately added an element of novelty to my experience.
A distinctive aspect of Irish culture that impressed me was their approach to repurposing old buildings. Instead of tearing down historical structures, Ireland and Northern Ireland often transform them into new establishments. Old warehouses and other buildings become museums, churches, and cathedrals find new life as bars, restaurants, and meeting places. This dedication to preservation extends beyond buildings to nature as well. The lush greenery and well-preserved landscapes throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland showcase their commitment to environmental conservation. They implement sustainable measures in lighting and water systems, demonstrating a genuine concern for their surroundings.
Comparing this to the United States, it became evident that we tend to prioritize development over preservation. In America, we frequently tear down buildings and uproot trees without considering the impact on our environment. We overuse precise and natural resources with no care for the impact it has on our Earth. Witnessing Ireland’s dedication to repairing and preserving old structures, as well as their conscientiousness towards nature, left me feeling sad about the lack of similar practices back home.
Studying abroad in Ireland and Northern Ireland broadened my horizons and made me appreciate the diversity of cultures. The politeness, sociability, and respect for history and nature that I encountered in Ireland left a lasting impression on me. It’s my hope that we can learn from these experiences and strive for a more considerate and sustainable society in our own country.
The pictures above showcase some of the gorgeous buildings and landscapes I got to experience while in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Thanks for reading!! <3