I was planning a big trip to Europe: I would spend a few weeks’ backpacking the continent with a girlfriend from university before heading over to Ireland where I would have two weeks’ to see the whole country. Ireland’s a small country so that was easy done and gave me more of a chance to see the whole place rather than just sample a few cities as I had done on the European Continent.
I hadn’t chosen to spend two weeks in Ireland for any reason you’d think of yourself: it wasn’t the Irish people who’d drawn me in with their friendly yet conservative ways, it wasn’t great whiskey and it certainly wasn’t the food. I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone. That’s the only reason I spent my final two weeks’ of my trip in Ireland: a stone. No, I’m not kidding. But I didn’t regret it one bit and would recommend Ireland to my friends for a visit.
While I was in Ireland I saw pretty much all of the tourist places: the Cliffs of Mohr; had a feast at a castle where I had no other utensils but my “dagger” (I just picked up my soup and drank it, awesome!); I experienced Dublin nightlife and explored the city as well as a day in Belfast; I spent a very long time looking at castles and trying every whiskey, ale, beer, cider, whatever I could get my hands on. I even met a local who I’d later end up dating for a year. I had such a wonderful time and learned plenty of history (with a very obvious Irish bias) as well as enjoyed a culture that wasn’t quite what I expected.
A few weeks ago I read a book by a marketing genius (I won’t specify the book here as this is not a marketing blog and I don’t want to bore you), she stated that sometimes if you wrap something up in an attractive way, people will buy and you’ll get your message out there even if it’s not exactly what the person thought they were buying. This was true for me in Ireland. I went to cross something off my bucket list and I learned so much about Ireland and the culture of her people. I thought they were similar to me for a long time as much of Australia’s early cultural influences were from the British Isles (Ireland, England, Scotland and in smaller part Wales as well). I felt like a fish out of water when interacting with locals more than a few times and I think this was a great lesson in culture for me. It’s good to feel foreign sometimes, even when you assume it won’t happen.
Later the same year I did a semester abroad for university on Prince Edward Island, Canada. I found the culture alien and was unsure of it. After having a similar albeit milder experience in Ireland, I knew it came in part because I expected the Canadian’s to be like me, how could they be like me when they were Canadian’s not Australian’s?
I love the Ireland taught me some valuable lessons about culture and people. The whiskey was nice too.
Have you experienced unexpected culture shock or the feeling of being a fish out of water somewhere new where you didn’t expect it to happen? Please leave your story in the comments below.