Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Sam McGrath Cork, Ireland

The assignment this week initially gave me a heart attack. I have been at UCC for almost a month now but the students native to Cork have just come back to campus this week. There was no way I could find someone open and nice enough to answer these questions. Until I realized I have known the most nice and caring native of Cork since the moment I got off the plane, Mary Steele. She is our on-site study abroad affiliate and source of most of the information I now know of Cork. Mary is very experienced with American students and understands the differences in our cultures very well, making her a great ‘host-culture informant’. She knows how big the little differences are between the two English-speaking countries and was a great source of information for this assignment. At a lunch with Mary, my classmates and I asked if we could ask her a couple more in depth questions about Ireland and she readily agreed (I wasn’t lying about how nice she is).

This conversation was actually very necessary to understand where I will be living for the coming months. There are certain things that might be appropriate in America yet might not be appropriate here and vice versa. Right off the bat I was told how rude the stereotypical American is when asking directions. Stereo-typically an American just asks, “Hey, do you know where this is?” This directness is seen as normal in American culture and not frowned upon at all. In Ireland though this questioning is seen as rude and insensitive. Mary backed this statement up and reiterated that Ireland is more indirect with their questioning. Although most Irish people will still answer your question (according to Mary Irish people do not say no) they would prefer it if the question was phrased differently. To not be rude when asking questions, one should strike a conversation with a person and then somewhere in the conversation ask the question.

“Value and culture are inextricably linked. Each can be understood only in terms of the other because values form the basis for cultural differences” (Myron W. Lustig pg. 47). To understand the culture as a whole, it was very useful to talk to Mary about the countries values. By asking more of Sondra Thiederman’s Ten Culture Value sets, my classmates and I were able to get a better cultural perspective of Ireland. One of the big value contrasts that stood out to me was when it came to independence versus dependence. In America it is widely seen as unhealthy to be dependent on one’s family. After college especially it is looked down upon to move back into your parents house. In Ireland though it is the exact opposite. Here most Irish families have their children live with them well into adulthood, some even invite their children to stay with them until marriage! This is never heard of in America, where most people after college look for their own place although they may be struggling with debt. This showed me how much family means to people in Ireland and how the culture has constantly evolved around the family throughout history.

On the other hand culture in Ireland has changed in some ways. In Mary’s childhood becoming a Priest or a teacher were seen as very successful and popular jobs. Now most people search for profit and material instead of spirituality when finding a job. During the Celtic Tiger years Ireland’s income skyrocketed, making a lot of Ireland start to see material as a form of success instead of spirituality. Mary still cares about the spiritual instead of the material and wishes that more people cared less about materialism. I wish America thought that same way some times, instead of flaunting wealth with material objects.

In bringing value differences to my life back home, at Quinnipiac there are a good amount of groups that I tend to distance myself from. I find myself not communicating at all with any of the sports teams. Maybe this is because I don’t play the sports anymore but it definitely limits my life at Quinnipiac. If I started to converse with the sports teams more I bet I would gain a lot more school spirit and broaden my horizons in the Quinnipiac community.

Below is a picture of my Study Abroad classmates and Mary in Crosshaven


One thought on “Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Sam McGrath Cork, Ireland

  1. Having Mary as our “host-culture informant” has been unreal. She has been extremely helpful in all regards of the word, and I wouldn’t want to have anyone else helping us here in Ireland, even if she jokes about how she is a “relic.” I think that the greatest part of being in Ireland is the people. Like Mary, everyone here is so incredibly friendly and it makes sense why they are so big on family here. I think the Irish are more traditional and family-friendly then the U.S. I was surprised at first by how the students here go home every weekend, but now it kind of all makes sense. Home cooked meals and free laundry and being back with your family is an unbeatable experience. In certain ways I wish the U.S. wasn’t so rooted in the idea of young people needing to leave home for good during college; there are many moments were I enjoy just being home with my family away from college.


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