A few big obstacles I’ve had to unexpectedly overcome during my time in Ireland are the different phrases and slang, and, most of all, the overall different way of living.
For instance, grocery stores.
Prior to my arrival, I believed every grocery store was the same – give or take pricing and product placement.
Here in Ireland, it’s a whole different story.
First off, the Irish love organic food. However, my preconceived stereotype regarding organic food revolved around it being way too expensive and therefore useless.
The more processed, the cheaper, and that agreed with my wallet.
I spent two hours exploring one massive store called Tesco, which was as intimidating on the outside as the inside. When a store includes a cart (trolley) escalator, that’s when you know the store means business.
While one of the crucial points of this adventure is to step out of my comfort zone, purchasing groceries is where I wanted to stand my ground.
For example, I wanted to make pancakes via Bisquick for one Sunday morning, but was discouraged to find that not only is breakfast unimportant to the Irish but the stores also only sell pre-made pancakes that are not frozen. I found packages of them sitting next to the organic potato chips (crisps).
I proceeded to search for ingredients to make the pancakes from scratch when I came across a plastic bottle labeled “American Pancakes,” which advertised the familiar just-add-water instructions.
“American Pancakes” settled my desire for familiarity.
Thankfully, since organic food is so common the prices are relatively low. However, the expiration date is often just a week after purchase so you have to buy what you need and consume it quickly.
Another aspect of food I have yet to comprehend revolves around my favorite food – cheese.
Again, the Irish love organic cheese, but it often comes in a large variety. An entire row at the store is dedicated to cheese – slices, blocks, shredded. You name it, the common grocery store has it.
Except for American.
While Ireland puts cheese on everything from fries (chips) to potatoes, there are two important products they do not sell – cheese crackers and grilled cheese.
Apparently, Europeans think a grilled cheese is placing a slice of cheese in between bread and inserting it into the toaster.
My roommates (flatmates) were flabbergasted at my simple creation and begged me to teach them.
These small differences played a much bigger role in my transition from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Maynooth.
They are lifestyle changes. The brands and the phrases I grew up with are not only removed from my surroundings, but are also completely foreign to my international peers.
This adventure is not only forcing me out of my comfort zone, but completely eliminating it. I need to convert twelve-hour time to twenty-four-hour time and Fahrenheit to Celsius.
My trip to the grocery store forced me to reflect on how hesitant people are towards a different culture, and I admit I was subconsciously one of them.
Therefore, I am encouraging myself to not be too quick to judge a new culture, but instead adapt that culture into my own in hopes of expanding my worldview and applying it to my everyday life back at home.