Its been a year....technically its been a year and one month since I've moved to Ireland.
Its been 13 months since I've been home, seen any of my family, seen any of my friends. A year since I've had the greatness which is Wawa iced coffee, driven a car on the right side of the road, walked into a Target, enjoyed warm sunny weather and immersed myself in all things familiar that made up my life as I once knew it.
Some days it feels like this past year flew by and sometimes it feels like its been 10 years since I moved over here.
I don't think Ive learned as much or had as many new experiences in my adult life as I have had in this past year. Its been one of the most exciting and interesting time of my life, while at the same time been one of the hardest things I've ever done.
I wanted to try and make a list of some of the things I've learned in one year as an expat- I'm sure I will leave off plenty of things because I have the memory span of a goldfish but here goes nothing!
- First and foremost, just because you speak the same language doesn't mean that things will be the same. In fact, it may be more frustrating because something that seems so common sense and normal in one English speaking culture means jack squat in another. Some days I feel like I would be more accepting of some differences in manners and actions here in Ireland if they spoke a different language because in my mind that would make them more foreign. (But a different country is a different country. I just need to get that in my head!)
- People will look at you weird when you tell them to have a nice day.
- I learned how to drive on the opposite side of the road. With a stick shift car. Two things I thought I might never be able to do. And I've only turned on the wrong side of the road 3 or 4, or 10 times. (but its always when there hasn't been other cars around- its confusing sometimes if there is nothing to judge it against!)
- My tastes have changed big time. I used to never eat pork products. They always tasted like blood to me. But here in Ireland a lot of them are made different and they are eaten a lot more than in the states. I found that I went from hating most all pork type food to enjoying the rashers and sausages here. Even white pudding! (Not black pudding though...that is actually blood. not happening folks.) Its not just pork though, its plenty of different things, like drinking tea at least once a day, learning to cook different types of food and having substitutes for things that I can't find here.
- I miss my family. I haven't always had the best relationship with them, and I still don't. But I miss them, more than I thought I ever would.
- I'm still learning how to shop over here. Sounds weird, but shopping in a different country is a lot harder than you would think. Clothes sizing is really different, its hard to figure out what shops have the best prices for quality, what shops have clothes that I like and that have good fit, or even where to find a lot of things that may be not very common- like a certain house hold item (I remember once I went to 12 different store to find a trifle bowl and STILL have yet to find one.) that in America I would know right where to go.
- My accent has changed some- I know I still sound very American, but even in myself I can hear some changes, or even feel some changes, in my voice and how I say certain words. Its definitely not on purpose, it just happens when your completely surrounded by people saying certain phrases or having a different accent. I know when I go home it will drop right off though haha!
- One thing I really liked about living over here was learning all the new expressions and slang. Some of it I don't use correctly (much to the annoyance of James), some of it I use without thinking, some of it I don't understand still- but its fun and I still have plenty that I haven't learned yet. It seems like the Irish have a saying for just about everything!
- I learned how much sunshine really does affect me. On those few days that its sunny here I can really tell the difference in my attitude and energy levels. I've become a lot less active since I've moved here and I know a part of that is the climate here. Its hard for me to want to leave the house when its so grey and windy out.
- Ireland has such a pub culture- I don't think i still fully grasp it yet, but I would say about 90% of socializing here involves the pubs. People don't really go out on dates here, they meet in the pubs (even if its just for dinner and a coffee), birthdays are in pubs, baby christening parties are held in pubs, the day after Christmas is spent in the pub, meetings are held in pubs, directions are usually given with pubs as the landmarks, pub pub pubbity pub. There is no sort of bar culture at all in the states like that.
-The one thing that I truly and honestly dislike about living here (even more than the weather) is this "Ah go on" attitude that a lot of Irish people have. Its so inbred into the culture here. Its not about what you know here its about who you know and a lot of people feel like they can get away with, or do what they want here with no consequences. A lot of people have a very casual attitude to things like the law, rules and procedures. For example its not unusual to see someone just pull over on the side of a busy road (where there is no place to pull over so they are basically sitting in the middle of the road) and park their car and think nothing of creating a traffic problem. A lot of things that people try to get away with aren't illegal or harmful- but its just frustrating to me. Its a really really different mindset than America and for the most part a lot of what people try to get away with here, and usually do get away with, would NOT fly in the states. It just drives me INSANE.
- but in keeping all things fair, one thing I have learned about Irish people is that they are some of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. There is no shallowness to their culture, they don't put on airs. They have great hospitality and you always feel at home no matter where you go in this country. There is this feeling of "we are all in it together" and you can meet a perfect stranger and feel like you've known them for years after a short conversation. That has made living here and meeting new people a lot easier I have to say!
There are probably about a million more things I could say but I think I've rambled on enough for one post.
I'm really happy that I've hit the one year mark of living here in Ireland. I feel like I've hit a big milestone and its a relief in a way. The pressure of being able to "make it" is off my back and I feel like each new year I face living overseas will get easier and easier.