November 2007 Reflection

This should serve as a warning: The Irish, apparently, don’t say “Have a nice day.” For me, “Have a nice day,” is a force of habit—it is a conversation ender, a goodbye, a polite reminder that though I just selfishly pestered you for library books/information/shoes in a size 10 for the past fifteen minutes of your life, I still am concerned with your well-being and the remainder of your day.

The Irish don’t say it—don’t like it, barely tolerate it.

After two weeks of trotting around happily, meeting new people, acquainting myself with UCD, and getting to know Dublin, I was sitting in my marketing class, diligently taking notes when the lecturer said, “…it’s like the way we Irish never say ‘Have a good day.’”

I nearly knocked my computer off of my desk as I was immediately flooded with memories of every time I had uttered that now-taboo phrase to an Irish person. My face flushed and I slouched low in my chair. The lecturer continued the conversation on “have a nice day” for the next 10 minutes and it only got worse as my Irish classmates joined in. “I worked for a phone company in Sydney and part of the script was to finish the conversation with ‘have a nice day,’” announced one member of the class. “It was so unnatural.”

Needless to say, I immediately changed my ways, the way a child adjusts after being severely scolded by a parent. But without “have a nice day,” I was left with little to end conversations with. The true shock, I suppose, was the fact that I am was so socially and conversationally stunted at 22 years old that I had nothing to do with myself after “have a nice day” was stripped from my vocabulary.

I expected there would be an element of culture shock upon moving to Ireland, but I had no idea that a staple of my language was an ugly and unnatural phrase on this side of the pond. The trade-off, however, has been the fact that I have gained a number of new words that commonly fill my conversations—craic, brilliant, grand. As for “craic,” I was a bit thrown the first time I heard it, when my housemate said, “The craic was so good at home we decided not to go out.” There’s really no need to explain what I thought that meant.

I could go on about the things that have constituted my culture shock—language, food, bus schedules, class schedules, attitudes about work and leisure—but really, the best and most interesting parts about being in Ireland have been the other scholars. Allison practically taught me everything I know about the city of Dublin and has properly dragged me out of the house to experience new things—like the crepe shop she would move into if possible and the joys of shopping on Grafton Street. Our regular Dublin Mitchell dinners have been incredible, full of pasta, wine, and—because the other scholars are brilliant, intelligent people—debate on current issues, discussions about the topics in their programs, and hilarious and informative anecdotes on their experiences both in and outside of Ireland.

The sense of camaraderie amongst the scholars is overwhelming. Whether it is Dublin Mitchell night, traveling north to visit Sarah and Frank, or cheering Allison, Jeff, and Jimmy on in another road race, the activities we partake in as a group truly foster a sense of community, trust, and friendship. I am so happy to be able to share these experiences with the other scholars; they are what have made my time here so memorable thus far.

Plus, I can say “Have a nice day,” to them and I won’t go down in history as the most ignorant American on Earth.

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