Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
An expat in Enniscorthy, County Wexford in Ireland offers a colorful culture shock report. He is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland and offers some great information about the details of moving to 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?
Yes, I am dual Irish - US. Mother told me many things and other relatives did also. I visited many times before we rented for one year and used Enniscorthy, County Wexford for a base to travel around Ireland and other parts of Ireland.
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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?
Language was the same except accent. Not so bad getting used to it as Mother's family had it all my life here in US
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No, but I did have some problems. I had been on some long trips to Ireland prion to moving there for that year. One was 6 weeks in winter.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Worst was the bureauracy getting documents needed. I had never worked in Ireland so I needed a PPS card and TV license. Took 4 months to get both. PPS is three step process and should have been only two. Had to make 2 trips to Social office in Wexford, when the first day all they did was make appointment for a month later. But when we made the appointment, there was about 6 office windows open and nobody waiting. They could have taken our information and pictures then and sent it off for completion, but we had come back a month later.
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?
Anger was the first day I arrived to sign my lease and open bank account. I had already signed my lease and got the keys for my rental house, left my luggage and got a ride downtown with "letting Agent." I went to the Bank and pulled 3000 Euro from the ATM machine with multiple US debit cards. Then went to sign up and filled out the application for the account. One needs Bank account to sign up for electric account, rent, telephone, internet, etc. They require auto pay. Bank Manager told me I had to provide proof of residency so I showed him my lease. Not good enough, it had to be a letter in the "POST" mailed to my new address by either a government agency or a business controlled by the government. He said usually people bring in their first electric bill. I said wait a minute, I don't get a bill for 2 months. However, I asked if car insurance was considered controlled by the government and he said yes. So I called my agent (I had prearranged car insurance from the US) and asked him to send a letter to my new address. He said he would post it that day which was Thursday. I finally received it on Tuesday, and off I went to the Bank. It was accepted and then the Manager told me I had to wait until it was sent BY POST to the main office in Dublin for approval. I was angry at that moment and I blew up at him, asked why they even needed a manager if he could not open a simple checking account. I was raising my voice and several locals supported me saying they treated them the same way with bureaucratic nonsense. I told him and all the others that in the US, I could open an account in 30 minutes. Well, it took 19 more days before my ATM card showed up and papers about my account in the POST. I went to the Bank and the Manager saw me coming and disappeared. I think he was afraid that nasty "Yankee" would cause another scene. A few months later my wife and I were walking down the sidewalk and I spotted him coming toward us. He crossed the street so he would not cross my path. He was afraid of me I guess. It was funny to me then.
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.
No real changes in myself. Maybe just frustration, but I was always confident and sometimes vented anger back here in the states when there was a problem.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
Irish people are friendly enough after they get to know you. Food was relatively cheap and higher quality in some cases than in US. I lived in a 54 individual house development for retired (65) or disabled people less than 65 could also qualify. I was one of the first ones to rent in there.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Bureaucracy. Banks, Insurance, documents, learning bus routes and how to deal with rental agents. I had several problems with "owners" and their agents. No room here to tell all the stories. Did not know about need for TV license until neighbors told us after we bought new TV. License does not cost for 65 + but one still needs to get it. Took 4 months.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I called and initiated a pollution investigation when I found out the development I was living in was polluting a stream at the edge of our development. They had a "temporary" sewage disposal plant with a expired operating permit and dumping partially treated sewage into this brook. That brook ran for a couple of miles through 2 dairy farms and milk cows drank out of it. It eventually ended up in a river where Salmon and trout live. What I did not know was most people in Ireland will not report illegal activity unless it effects their own bottom line. It goes back to the time when the British were in charge and if anyone reported anything, they could end up being penalized. BTW: It cost the owners 120,000 Euros to correct the problem. They knew about it, but were hoping to fill the place with renters before they fixed it. They were happy when I did not renew my lease. There were a few other problems I made them correct. Irish people, especially older ones tend not to complain.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Be prepared for long waits to get anything. Workers promise and then never show up or arrive days later. Phone and internet took me 3 months to get and the house was already prewired into the central exchange. Of course in some areas of the US, the same thing can happen. It is easy to buy a used car (donedeal.ie) and also to sell it. I bought 2 cars and sold both on that website. Both sold in less than 4 hours. I mean the party came to my house and paid me cash and drove the car away in less than 4 hours. The website can be searched by county. I sold one which was automatic for more than I paid for it and probably could have gotten more. Very few automatic drive cars in Ireland.
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