Dealing with Culture Shock in Ireland

Is shock good for you? – When we experience new and different cultures, we often come across things that might seem strange or confusing to us. This blog from Student Ambassador Afroja Ahmed shows us that culture shock is a normal part of moving abroad and can help us to grow and adapt to new things!

I came to Ireland before Covid arrived here. Yes. I am lucky enough to see the normal Limerick life and the University of Limerick (UL). It’s been a year, already!

This is the first time I am living abroad, far away from my home country. As a student of psychology, I was well aware and prepared for cultural shock. And, I thought I won’t go through it. But my expectation was wrong. I didn’t realize that the differences in communication pattern between Ireland and my home country would lead me towards Culture Shock.

The first element of Culture shock was language and ways of communication. Of course, Ireland is an English-Speaking country but the accent and way of using this widely used international language by Irish people made it a bit different from normal English.

Do you wonder, Why? Below I have shared few reasons:

  • Irish people use very high-context language, so it can be a struggle to actually know what they mean sometimes.  When Irish people say, “I will think about that”, it means I am not going to work on that. There are loads of such examples. So it’s better to be more observant and careful. Being very honest and direct can therefore be perceived as rude or arrogant if you’re not careful. 
  • Irish people love to talk about weather. Maybe the reason behind this logic is: weather is a bit dramatic here. Realistically, there are only two seasons, one is much colder with more rain, one is less cold with less rain. But, the best way to initiate conversation is to talk about the weather.
  • This is something I found very interesting that “How are you?” isn’t always a question, it’s a common way of saying hello. So, don’t try to answer how are you or what happened last week which I used to do before.
  • Irish people are generally helpful. Modesty and humility are core aspects of how someone presents themself in social exchanges. People who brag or show off even just a little, or simply accept a compliment can be perceived as arrogant quite easily. I have noticed that Irish people brush off or reject compliments and get all awkward from them.
  • Likewise, Irish reply back as, “no problem” or “no worries” to “Thank You”. It took a while for me to understand that replying “welcome” is a bit strange or rude here.
  • On a similar note, Ireland is also a very low-power distance country in most respects. Staff and students refer to each other on a first-name basis, and the most common way to begin an email or conversation would be “Hi John,” or whoever. Coming from a South Asian background, it was a bit difficult for me to greet my professor without saying Dr or professor.  
  • I love the way Irish people smile or say hi to strangers while passing by. It’s a norm to greet each other when you’re passing by. So, don’t forget to say “good morning” or “what’s up” to people even if you don’t know them. It’s a basic courtesy here.
  • Generally, people thank the bus driver or anyone else who provides any service, support, advice or help. So, don’t forget to say thanks to those who helped you anyway.
  • People do not invade personal spaces and privacy. Coming from a very reserved society I felt relieved that people don’t come forward to hug or kiss. And, Irish people don’t feel comfortable sharing affection or emotion publicly.
  • Got to know about one gesture very recently. The peace hand-signal can pretty much mean the same as offensive as the middle finger if the wrong way around. So be careful about your gestures.

People are generally helpful here. So, if you can’t understand anything or feeling confused just share your context and ask for clarification. Ask about the norm here and it can help to resolve any confusion. I found this practice very useful and again UL has a high tolerance for diversity.

So, be prepared to get shocked and it’s good for you! Because culture shock will help you to test your threshold for further adaptation. It’s always better to test your skills, flexibility outside of your comfort zone.

So, let’s get shocked and own it, accept it to rock it.  

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