Fáilte go mBaile Átha Cliath!
[Welcome to Dublin!]
All day I was trying to decide what my first real blog post should be about. Since i couldn’t make up my mind, I’ll make the post about some random things that caught my attention during my first days here in Dublin.
I’m leavin on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again … After a shaky two hour flight (there will definitely be a blog post about the weather soon) on a half empty plane (having 5 rows for yourself is awesome especially if there are no old snoring men or crying babies on the flight), I arrived at the airport in Dublin. (Ok, I’ll stop with all the parenthesis now). However, instead of wondering when I’ll be back again, I was wondering if I boarded the wrong plane by accident. I looked at the signs and saw a bunch of letters randomly combined to form something that looked like words. Thank god, like in almost every country, the English version was written below and I soon realized that I was in the right country after all. (Can you believe that “Baile Átha Cliath” means Dublin??) I don’t know why it has never crossed my mind that the Irish would actually try to preserve their historic language Gaelic by confronting people with it every day – it is still their national and first official language after all and it is being used in most official written correspondence. (I guess I would have known that if I had just bought that stupid Ireland guide). Well, Ireland, thumbs up for that! Being a language lover and linguistic junky I was fascinated and excited thinking that I would pick up Gaelic in no time. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it might not be that easy. Despite being from the Indo-European family, Gaelic is like no other language I have ever seen. Especially the phonology threw me off. Don’t even try to pronunce the words when you read them, you’ll sound like a baby elephant (or giraffe) looks when it takes it’s first steps. Even reading them without caring about how you sound might make you surrender because some words are just way too long to pronunce in one breath. Just so that you know I’m not lying: Grianghrafadóireachta – this 21-letter-word actually means photograph. Okay enough about the language for now. I’m pretty sure I will have another post where I will dissect the Irish language like a frog in a 9th grade biology class.
Oh, one more thing, my favorite Irish word for now is Sláinte (pronunced as Slahnchə). For those who don’t know what it means, I’ll let you figure it out on your own. Also the Irish slang word “grand” will definitely get it’s own blog post some time soon. (And don’t you mock me for wanting to write a blog post about one single word – if you do, chomsky you!)
Actually, I’m not quite finished talking about languages yet. Having a little bit of an American accent and being used to ‘murica and y’all, I was scared that I’d have trouble understanding the Irish English accent and depending on the blood alcohol level of the person I am talking to, sometimes I really have no idea what in the world they are trying to tell me (well, maybe it also depends on how many guinesses or ciders I have had). After four weeks on this island, however, I have gotten used to the accent and I find it quite charming and amusing at times and if I can’t learn Gaelic, I will definitly try to pick up the Irish accent so cab drivers will stop asking me what city in the U.S. I am from.
Anyways, after my initial language shock at the airport, I took a bus to go to the city center. I got off at O’Connel Street and the first thing I saw was giant, needle shaped something that people call “The Spire” (another thing I would have known about if I had had that city guide). With a hight of 120 meters and bulks of stainless steel, it serves no purpose whatsoever. Nevertheless, I wanted to take a closer look at it, so I made my way to the closest pedestrian light. I think that was actually the one and only time I waited for a traffic light to turn green before I crossed the street. It did not take me long to realize that no one in Ireland gives a s*** about whether the traffic light is red or green. Old people, children, students, parents with their kids or strollers, pregnant women, people in wheelchairs – EVERYONE jaywalks. I think it is one of those things parents teach their children when they are young. True to the motto: time is money and money is tight (Zeit ist Geld und Geld ist knapp). Don’t waste time, even if it means being hit by a car, the LUAS or one of the many taxis or yellow double-decker busses. Especially if you are from a country with right-hand traffic, you should be very careful. Cars in Dublin drive on the wrong side of the road (you can also call it left-hand traffic if you are not as ignorant as I am). I have a tendency to always look for cars in the wrong way and if it hadn’t been for Jenny, I’d already be in a coffin on way back to Germany.
Speaking of busses. Riding the bus in Dublin is like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. During my first days in the city I just walked everywhere no matter how far just because I couldn’t figure out the bus system. Why would the busstops have numbers and how do I know which of the many different busses I should take and how do I know when they arrive and where they go if there is no full city bus plan available? I would have been lost without this awesome app called Dublin Bus which answers exactly all those questions. So if you don’t have a smartphone and you are planning on moving to Dublin, you should seriously consider getting one! When I finally dared to get on a bus, I noticed that first of all they don’t take bills and if you don’t have the exact fare you won’t get back your change. However, what’s even worse is that in most busses the next stop is neither displayed nor announced. How in the world am I supposed to know where to get off in a city that I have been to for less than 48 hours?? Thank you, U.S. Department of Defense, for creating the Global Positioning System (GPS) and thank you Dublin Bus for free wifi (oh and thanks again for that smartphone). I just followed the blue GPS signal on google maps and got off the bus when I thought I was close enough to my destination. As hard as it is to get off the bus it is to get on it. If you ever come to Dublin and you are alone at the bus stop, stick your hand out when the bus gets close to indicate to the driver that you are not just standing next to the yellow pole in the rain in the middle of the night without reason. Should there be more than one other person waiting for the bus you should also make sure to stand in line. I’m not kidding. People actually stand in line to get on the bus here and if you are brave enough to skip the line you better be prepared for some umbrellas hitting your head (no that is not how I got a bump on my head last saturday). Also make sure to thank the bus driver when you get off the bus. That’s probably what I like most about riding the bus here. I think people in Germany should appreciate the service they are given by thanking the bus drivers instead of complaining that the bus is late once again.
It’s amazing how what seems normal to some might be amusing, random or shocking to others. That’s what I love about cultures and their peculiarities. The way you see and perceive a culture very much depends on how you look at it. So stay open minded and don’t judge others with your standards.
(As you can tell I was lying when I said I’d stop with the parenthesis. I just can’t. Get used to it 🙂