Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Countryside, Ireland
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
No, I didn't get training, since I thought the culture would not be too different from other Western European cultures. I lived in the UK before, and I believe Ireland is very similar.
If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
Yes. I learned the English language at a young age. I started using it in my twenties though.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not at all/
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
It was worse than I thought.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
I think I am still in the irritation-to-anger stage, but I'm glad to read that will be over soon. In the beginning I definately has a honeymoon phase, since I loved (and still love) the beautiful nature and the peace and quiet. Nature is more beautiful in other European places, such as Switserland and France, but it is more quiet. Now I am in the irritation-to-anger phase, because the people are very annoying to me.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
I did start eating more, but that was caused by the great and cheap food they have here, especially the meat. I do eat less vegetables and fruits though, because they are more expensive. But when it comes to emotional changes, I have felt depressed, because I am all alone and new here and it is hard to really connect to the locals. They seem pretty nice on the outside, but I feel it is just superficial. I cannot really get closer to them, because they are offended by almost everything I say or point out (which, in my view, is just stating the obvious). They don't like sharing personal information and they don't like to talk politics. Also, it seems the way to get a job is not by expressing your personality and showing your achievements, but rather by knowing the right people. And I know nobody, so I do also not know the right people. This makes me frustrated. I get angry because of the inefficiency here. Importing my car is one example: I drive to an office to get license plates and instead a woman writes down some information that I could have given her over the phone or internet. That took me about two hours of my day! And when I call the main office to complain about this procedure and I give them tips on how to improve their system (if you can even call it a system...), they get upset instead of thanking me! Another example is the fact they don't have postal codes and people refer not to streets but to estates. But these estates are not helpful when you are using a GPS system. Everyone just expects you to know every little neighbourhood in the towns. Furthermore, bureaucratic offices here do not explain what the procedures are. I believe they don't have any set procedure. They would rather not be held responsible and just go with whatever pleases them. There is no equality. One person gets treated better because they happen to know someone. This doesn't provide for the best outcomes, everything takes too much time, and the system is not dependable. It's tiring to me. And then the lines... Please. I am not interested in who got to the busstop first, and so I will not remember. So don't be mad at me when I try to be the first in line, even if I arrived last. When the bus arrives, I will try to be the first person getting in and everyone else should do the same! It's so dull when there is no competition getting in the bus first.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
People do smile on the streets, are nice in shops and in restaurants, and generally helpful. In my home country everyone looks grumpy and acts arrogant.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Getting to meet 'the right people'. That could be the baker, for the freshest bread; the postman, so he can give you your packages sooner; the handyman, so he won't let you wait for a day to fix your problems.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I had a clash regarding directness. The people here are not too direct and don't say what they mean. I on the other side want to know how things work. I was getting gas, but there was no fuel coming out of the gaspump. I was talking to an Irish customer about it and she said she didn't know why it didn't work either. I tried another pump, on the other side, and that one also didn't work. The Irish customer had moved up to the first pump I tried out, and she did manage to get the gas running! I went inside and asked a woman in the store why the pump wasn't working. She said that it was pay first then get gas. I was surprised and pointed out to her that for the other woman it worked without pre-payment. The woman in the store was a bit shocked and she said that she had not seen me stand there, so she didn't push the button for the pump to start working. She said that she would press the button now and that I could get gas. It was only later that I realised that the woman in the store and the customer both had lied to me. The woman in the store did not want to admit that she make the pump work for the other customer because she knew her and that she refused to make the pump work for me, because she didn't know me and I had foreign license plates. I understand she didn't want me to get gas without payment, but instead of just saying so, she made up a story about how she did not see me. And the customer knew all along why the pump did not work for me. I also had an experience where a shop owner said to me: great weather, isn't it? I looked outside and it was grey and it almost started to rain. I said: well, I don't like it at all. I would have liked to have sunny weather, because I am showing some friends around today. I thought it was the most normal response, since I was stating the obvious and I felt like the shop owner had this answer coming. But still, she was shocked. Weird.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Ireland