Since we have arrived in Ireland, we have stuck out like sore thumbs because of our American accents (and perhaps our look or habits, although no one has been cheeky enough to say anything about that). I have made a concerted effort not to be seen as the ‘ugly American’ when interacting with anyone Irish. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I am anything less than thrilled to be here, that the weather daunts me in any way, that I am incapable of adapting to the lifestyle.
Yet no matter how hard we try, we’re still outsiders. We have been asked many times how long we are visiting (but enjoy telling people we’re here for the long haul). I asked Claude today how long we are going to have to answer that question. Our conclusion is, probably the whole time we’re here.
There’s also a fine line that I find it difficult to navigate, as far as use of Irish language nuances. I’d like to assimilate by using colloquialisms but I’m not comfortable enough to be that familiar with strangers. Perhaps once we have been here for a lot longer…
We got nailed for Americans today at lunch when I found (yuk) a hair in my food and pointed it out to the waitress. I wasn’t aggressive or ugly about it, I just pointed to it and suggested (I thought politely) that she should let the kitchen staff know it went out. The manager came to our table and apologized, explaining that Irish people will not complain no matter what is wrong with the food, but us being Americans he thanked us for bringing it to his attention. And he comped the meal, which is what he should have done. However I was trying really, really hard not to be ugly, to be as polite and relaxed as possible, and I’m not sure if he was truly appreciative or just embarrassed at what had happened. However this will not preclude us from eating at Tom Sheridan’s again.
I also find myself missing American customs and familiarities but very much enjoying the difference Ireland offers. I love my ham sandwich at lunchtime but now I use chutney to dress it instead of mayo & mustard. I miss Pepsi Cola but am enjoying trying different types of teas in place of soda. The hardest part to reconcile is being teetotallers living in a large drinking population. I will occasionally have a drink or a glass of wine (so I suppose technically I am not a teetotaller) but I can’t stomach beer – not a distaste I want to advertise in the land of Guinness. However, passing up the pub experience due to a lack of alcohol consumption would be a dreadful mistake. And the infinitely larger number of restaurants which offer vegetarian options is a huge relief for me, as back in America I would always worry that Claude would not be able to find a decent meal when we went out so we ended up going to the same places over and over again. The Irish are a lot more accommodating to people with alternative eating habits.
It’s still funny to tell people where we are from and watch their eyes glaze over. I think they’re hoping we are from some place that they’ve been, or have at least heard of so they have a point of reference. Also funny is trying to understand what someone with a very heavy Irish accent is saying – and having what they said sink in after the conversation has ended. While walking this morning we got gently chided by a nice old lady about Claude walking on the outside of the sidewalk to protect me from the traffic. She said a few other things but I just did not understand what she said. I hate nodding like a bobblehead – it makes me feel so out of place – but at least it’s polite.
One intriguingly redeeming feature of being American is the fact that people of other nations like our current president. Maybe that would be a good political bullet point for Obama’s re-election campaign: ‘At least the Europeans like me!’ Heh.