The first week of classes have officially come and gone. While I took an early class during August, this is the first week where all students have been back on campus. It is has been interesting to see how busy the campus and the streets surrounding UCC are when 20,000 additional students arrive. We have gotten our two roommates finally and they are from France, which has been awesome. They speak English really well and they have been trying to teach us some French phrases as well. It is fascinating to discuss some cultural differences with them, very similar to this blog’s theme “conversations.”
Since this is the first week that Irish students are back, and clubs haven’t begun yet the only local whom I know to interview is our mentor Mary. For this reason, myself and the other QU students taking this class all met to interview her in the main restaurant on campus. When we began the interview Mary made a comical, yet relevant point that she considers herself a ‘relic’ in terms of her age and viewpoints. With that being said, she
offered that we talk to her niece Ruth who is in her 20s, as she would see things slightly different than Mary does. In the near future, I hope to sit down with her and have a chat about her take on the cultural values of Ireland and how they are similar or different from the U.S. Having cultural conversations is important. As a foreigner in Ireland, I reserve no right to judge or criticize Irish way of living because I am not from here. Until I have spoken to a native and understand where these customs come from, often rooted in complex, historical context, I have no right to jump to assumptions. The reading this week touches upon the point of seeing moral and ethical issues not across cultures, but as within one culture. Hess writes, “Within the boundaries of a cultural sense, morality is more or less understood and agreed upon. But across cultures, one can hardly predict moral preferences because communities differ in what they consider to be taboo in their management of morality” (Hess 47). Essentially, no country can try to compare their morals to another’s because each culture’s notion of morality is shaped on a cultural level, not an intercultural level.
There were ten different values that we discussed with Mary and how they contrasted or compared to the U.S.’s take these values. While it generally seems that the Irish are fairly similar to the U.S. in much of their values, there are some differences that should be noted. I think the biggest difference comes in materialism versus spirituality. Mary talked about how during the 90s when Ireland had an economic boom people became obsessed with material culture, much like the U.S. However, when the worldwide economic crash happened in 2008, Ireland suffered greatly and Mary thinks that this is when people began to go back to their basics. She said that they learned that tourism is an important part of their economy and they needed to go back to their traditional Irish culture of being hospitable and not overcharge people. Personally, I feel as though Americans still haven’t learned this important lesson of living within “your means,” which the Irish seem to understand. Another interesting difference that we found had to do with direct vs. indirect questioning. Mary noticed that American are very blunt and to the point when asking questions. She feels that the Irish are the complete opposite, they never like to give people a straight answer or say “no” to someone, they aren’t very direct when communicating. I would say the one value that the U.S. and Ireland are most similar in is informality. Like the U.S., the Irish are generally informal in friendly situations, but do address people by their formal “Mr and Mrs” when it is someone older or an authority figure. Mary did mention that this formality is even changing and that she has nieces who just call her Mary now, she personally doesn’t mind that.
When considering a part of Quinnipiac that I am not involved in or have a certain stigma towards, I immediately thought of Greek life. Like most people not involved in these organizations it is easy to jump to conclusions about what they are about. I have never been to any sort of meeting that explains the details of what Greek life is about. I have a fair amount of friends involved in Greek life and through asking them about it I have learned some, but I should consider going to a meeting to understand what it is really about. While I was never really opposed to joining a sorority, I felt that it never really suited me either. It would be worthwhile for me to go to an info session on Greek life next year and learn more about it because I know that they do a lot of community service and other projects that are helpful to the surrounding community, but I know little about that.
This past weekend I had to opportunity to go to a farm in Durrus located in West Cork. This was probably one of my favorite experiences so far. It was fascinating to see the vast differences in lifestyle between not only back home, but also compared to the city of Cork. We went to a cattle farm and were able to talk to the farmer about the daily activities of running his farm. One thing that I found interesting is that he gets paid not on the volume of milk he produces, but rather the amount of fat and protein content within the milk.
Further, using breeding information he is able to predict what each cow will approximately produce each year for him, and he can therefore approximate how much money he will make. While I can’t say that this would be a lifestyle fit for me, I could tell that Nick, the owner of the farm, was thoroughly content with his life and this made me appreciate the differences in people’s way of living. This upcoming week, the clubs are going to start and I am so excited. I have signed up for mountaineering, table tennis, soccer and regular tennis. I hope to take advantage of these amazing clubs they offer here at UCC and finally getting to know some locals.