If there’s one thing you need to know before you go to Dublin, it’s that you’re not Irish. This was one of the first things that my Irish friends taught me during my time abroad. It doesn’t matter what your last name is or how you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or which county your great-great-great grandparents came from. None of these things make you Irish. I hate to break it to you, but if you were born and/or raised on American soil, you are American. Irish American, yes, but American nonetheless.
It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being American. For the most part, the Irish like Americans just fine. They like our president. They like making fun of Jersey Shore. They like our fascination with their country. They do not, however, like obnoxious American tourists. To truly immerse yourself in Irish culture and make the most of your trip, you need to let go of your tourist tendencies.
Turn down the volume. Americans are notoriously loud and obnoxious. Nine times out of ten, the voice you hear above the rest on the streets of Dublin is an American one. (The other times it’s someone who’s drunk. This, too, is often an American.) Blend in by simply lowering your voice. To really have some fun and impress your Irish friends, try picking up some slang. Wear a raincoat when it’s lashing out, take a nap when you’re knackered after sightseeing and always ask for a lift home rather than a ride. Use Irish slang well and you’re likely to get some laughs and a cry of Good on ya!
Ditch the brand names. Although clothing stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister are becoming increasingly popular in Ireland, these clothes aren’t really appropriate if you’re older than college age. The classic North Face jacket paired with Ugg boots, ubiquitous on Notre Dame’s campus, is unheard of in Ireland—go for a faux-leather jacket and brown or black boots instead. The one brand name you can feel free to embrace is Converse—Chuck Taylor All Stars are far better for blending in than white Nike or Adidas running shoes.
Close the tour book. I know Fodor’s, Frommer’s and Rick Steves are the three best friends that anybody could have, but keep your nose out of the guidebooks at least while you’re in public. The best way to get to know Dublin is to wander it on your own, so don’t be afraid to explore and get a little lost. Don’t just cross big tourist destinations such as the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol off your checklist. Leave yourself some free time to try to get to the heart of the city, rather than dealing only with its touristy exterior.
Take a breather. Find some peace and quiet on an afternoon stroll through Saint Stephen’s Green or take a nap in Phoenix Park. Buy a three-euro meal deal lunch at the Tesco on Lower Baggot Street and have a picnic lunch in Merrion Square. Take the DART in one direction to Howth and marvel at the gorgeous views from atop Howth Head, or take it in the other direction to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced “Dun Leery”) and stroll down the beach to Sandycove and the James Joyce Tower and Museum.
Save some for later. Come to Ireland with the assumption that you’ll be back again. There is no way you can see all that the city or country has to offer in a few short days, and if you try you’ll be setting yourself up for exhaustion and disappointment. Pick a couple of priority destinations to visit each day but don’t get worked up if everything doesn’t go as planned. Be like the Irish and go with the flow. And once you get home, start saving up for your return to the Emerald Isle.
Meg Morrison ‘13 spent her junior year at Trinity College Dublin through Notre Dame’s Office of International Studies Dublin program. She is the magazine’s summer and fall intern. Contact her at email@example.com