I have recently moved from America to study abroad in Dublin's fair city for one semester. After spending a couple of weeks getting acquainted with my new home, there are some things that required a bit of getting used to. Here are the things I have learned. From navigating the city to learning what it's like to be in Ireland, this is what you need to know while living in the wonderful city of Dublin.
But first, here I am goofing around in Dublin Castle!
To get to class on time, you might not be inclined to wait every time there is a “do not walk” signal. Jaywalking is common in Dublin and sometimes feels like a sport. Keep in mind that traffic moves on the opposite side of the street. This takes a while to get used to; your first instinct will always be to look over your left shoulder when looking for traffic. Many intersections abroad are awkward, and it is hard to anticipate where the next car is coming from. Be patient and wait for a good window of opportunity before making the mad dash across the road.
Image credit: Kieran Lynam
In large cities, bikers are everywhere, be sure to look for them because you seldom can hear them coming. The city buses in Dublin are everywhere which makes them a good way to get around the city. Get your Student LEAP card as soon as possible for cheaper fares. Also, the LEAP card allows you to get student discounts at a ton of places. The LEAP card can be topped up with credit at most convenience stores and can be used for the bus as well as the DART. The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) is the train system in Dublin and the best way to get out of the city to places like Bray and Howth. Public transportation such as these offer free wifi but does not always work the best.
Depending on where you are from the time difference can be between five and eight hours ahead of the US. This is one of the hardest things to get used to; the initial jet lag will take around a week to get over. But once you’ve settled into daily life abroad you will want to share all of your adventures with friends and family back home. If it’s before noon chances are everyone you know is still sleeping. Even in the early afternoon, most people are just starting their day. Social media will be dead during this time and will just pick up with activity when you’re going to bed. This can make staying in touch a bit tricky. Anything you want to post you might want to wait until after 5 pm so that people will see it.
When you want to Facetime your parents or significant other, you might find yourself staying up until 10-11pm for them to get out of work or classes. If you’re a sports fan, good luck. Most games start at 8 pm eastern time, which means roughly 1 am in Dublin. If you can find a place that airs American sports, they generally will stay open late if it’s a big game. I recommend subscribing to your favorite team's Youtube channel which usually posts highlights of last nights game you can watch as you eat your breakfast
The farmers market in Meeting House Square, Dublin. Image Credit: William Murphy
Europe has different regulations when it comes to food safety standards. The biggest thing you need to know is that food will spoil quicker in Europe due to the lack of preservatives. You may need to buy less and shop more often to keep from throwing out half of what you buy. A pro-tip would be freezing anything you know you are not going to eat in the coming days. Throw your bread in the refrigerator to keep it from growing mold too. Plan out your meals for the week then buy what you know you are going to eat.
The good news is groceries are far cheaper in Europe than in the states. In a typical week, I do not spend more than €30 on groceries. Other than beverages it is hard to find American brands of food, but you did not come abroad to eat the same stuff so try new things that you can not find in America. When cooking keep in mind that the temperatures are in Celsius, this is not that big of a deal because the appliances will be too. Another thing to remember is that the price you see is the price you pay. The tax is added into the price so if something says €2 then you can hand them a two euro coin and walk on out
There are endless dining options in Dublin, but they don't always operate the same as in the US. Chances are if you’re eating at the pub you will have to order at the bar and when it’s ready, you will have to get it. Even if they have service to the table, you will need to go up to the bar to pay your check. In my first week in Dublin, I wasted so much time sitting at the table waiting for someone to bring me a check. In the US you are considered a jerk if you do not tip, that is not the case in Europe. If you order at the bar and bring your food back to the table there is no reason to tip. If you have full service at your table, then a tip of 10%-12% will suffice. Water is not automatically brought to the table when you sit down like in American restaurants. Ask for tap water, sometimes called still water, or they might bring you mineral water, and it can cost up to 2 or 3 euro.
Not your average fish and chips!
Most apartments in Dublin don't have a clothes dryer. This is one of the hardest things to adjust to while abroad. Air drying clothes takes a lot of time, so you need to plan ahead when doing laundry. When packing for your semester abroad, keep in mind that thick sweaters and jeans take a long time to dry. If not having a dryer bothers you, there is always the option of going to the laundromat which will have dryers although it will cost more to do this.
While abroad you will want to have a cell phone, it's important for safety, and it can help you find your way around. It's smart to contact your service provider and see if they offer a cheap international plan. If you have an iPhone, find out if it is locked or unlocked. If it is unlocked then while in Dublin you can get a sim card from another cell provider. You can get a prepaid sim card on many of the national networks for €20 a month. This pre-paid sim card will get you unlimited data and texts as well as free calls to other phones on the same network. This is great because you can pay month by month as you need it without committing to a long-term contract. Unlimited data for €20 a month is a great deal. Remember to tell people back home your new number and be aware that people trying to contact you via your old number will no longer be able to reach you. If your phone cannot be unlocked then I would recommend downloading a map of Dublin onto your phone to help you get around, Google Maps and Citymaps2go both work well.
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