6 Things That Surprised Me About Ireland

Oh, dear. I made a list of the things that surprised me about Ireland so I could tell you all about them, but I seem to have lost it. I cleaned my room recently and it’s entirely possible that I tossed the list into the recycling bin.

Soooo… this list isn’t gonna be as long as the original, since I’ve forgotten some of the items I wrote down. But I still remember enough to write this post! Here we go!

My absolute favorite sign, although it was difficult to choose: Why does Ireland have so many dramatic caution signs?

1. The signs are in both English and Gaelic

I mean, it makes sense, since there’s been a huge effort to educate the population in both languages, but it was still unusual to me! The US doesn’t have nearly the same emphasis on bilingualism. Plus, where I live in both Indiana and Iowa are overwhelmingly English-speaking areas so putting up signage in multiple languages – say, English and Spanish – probably isn’t considered necessary.

Anyway, back to Ireland. By the end of my stay, I knew a few words of Gaelic! Mostly location-related vocabulary, because I rode the bus a lot and the signs and announcements over the loudspeaker gave information about streets, roads, buildings, bridges, et cetera.

2. The vehicles tend to be small

Of course, semitrucks, vans, and buses are used to transport people and things. But that’s for business and infrastructure. The average citizen owned a car, as far as I could tell, and usually a small one at that. I don’t think I saw a single pickup truck in the six weeks I was there, and SUVS and station wagons were few and far between. I can understand why: The roads are narrow!

3. Police uniforms have a different color scheme

Honestly, this was probably the most surprising thing I encountered! The Gardaí, or Irish police force, wear baggy neon yellow jackets of the sort that crossing guards or perhaps construction workers wear in the US. The meaning Americans attach to those uniforms had so embedded itself into my mind that I often did a double take every time I saw a garda.

And while we’re on the subject, I know the Gardaí aren’t perfect and have had problems of their own in the past, but it feels so much safer to be around them than around American police officers because very, very few Gardaí carry guns. As a white person, I’m not even the target of police brutality, but I still had a noticeable sense of relief.

4. Businesses close early

I love this in theory, but boy was it frustrating sometimes. I think the American expectation that convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and the like should be open 24/7 is ridiculous, but at the same time it’s what I’m used to! And businesses in Ireland closed especially early: Sometimes whole blocks were dead by six PM.

5. Many of the names were startlingly familiar

Three main things I noticed here:

  • Sometimes Americans pronounce traditionally Irish names differently than the Irish do, so I might not have heard a particular name said that way ever before
  • Even though some Irish have anglicized names, fewer of them do than Irish-Americans, so some names were incomprehensible until I realized I’m used to a simpler spelling
  • I had no idea how many names common in American are originally Irish, such as Allison and Kevin!

6. The country feels claustrophobic

This has me so conflicted, because I kind of want to move there now. Every time I get carried away remembering how nice the people are and how beautiful the landscape is, I remind myself that it also felt tiny. Cramped. I don’t mean that people are living practically on top of each other or that there isn’t enough nature left, but you can traverse the country from top to bottom or side to side in a matter of hours. I’m not sure that’s the place for me. I love how vast and wide-open the US is, how it stretches on with seemingly no end in sight.


Have you ever been to Ireland? What surprised you the most about it? OR if you haven’t been there, where did you travel most recently and what was surprising about it?

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Nevillegirl's Travels, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 6 Things That Surprised Me About Ireland

  1. orphu44 says:

    Can’t relate to the claustrophobic thing … “stretching on with seemingly no end” sounds too much like prairies. The store hours thing was true in Germany, too, (especially since they apparently have laws about stores being closed Sunday) as well as the vehicle thing, though that I only realized retrospectively when I read this blog post. They didn’t have a different colour scheme for police officers, though, but the police that I did see looked very young. Also, in the interest of addressing all the points on the list, the signs were in German, but that was pretty much the opposite of a surprise. And this isn’t a point on the list, but things were old! You could see things from two thousand years ago, whereas where I live, a history tour won’t show you anything from earlier than the 1800s.

    • nevillegirl says:

      WOW FIGHT ME I APPARENTLY LOVE PRAIRIES. You know, if you come to Iowa we could visit a prairie or two. 😉

      Wow really, the signs in Germany were in German?

      Oooh yes! I loved that about Ireland too. Houses older than the state I was born in, etc. Lmao.

  2. themagicviolinist says:

    Ooh, I love hearing about all the strange, specific things that are in other countries. I can’t imagine police being in bright yellow colors!

  3. Pingback: Quarterly Rewind, Summer 2017 | Study Abroad, “Jenny,” & Reconnecting With Old Friends | Musings From Neville's Navel

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