“You’re from New York…do you love living in such a big city?”
“Do you like Donald Trump?”
“Are you American?”
Each time I’ve been asked the above questions, a further conversation has been initiated between a Northern Irish person and myself, regardless of my response. It’s been fun and entertaining to engage with the locals and to talk about the cultural differences and similarities between us. Politics aside, finding commonalities amongst ourselves has been easier than I expected.
Even though they drive on the opposite side of the road and car (I just got comfortable riding in the front seat without feeling out of place), have a different grading system and slang terminology, it’s all good craic and has been loads of banter. Chances are those two phrases made you raise an eyebrow, but it simply translates to, “It’s all good fun and we’ve been joking around a lot.” Interacting with junior golfers, engaging in community outreach programs and attending class with local students and players has fully immersed me in the Northern Irish culture despite living with five other American Victory Scholars.
Accents aside, there isn’t much distinction between us. Finding ways to connect with the people here has been key in order to continuously strengthen a positive relationship. By showing the kids we mentor and coach that we’re not that much different than them, we have a greater impact and a better chance at forming a strong connection.
It was only fitting that we ended our fourth week in Northern Ireland at Culture Night in Belfast. We had a blast experiencing more of the Northern Irish and Irish cultures as well as a variety of other European cultures. Coincidentally enough, the first showcase we stumbled across was a Northern Irish American Football team demonstrating drills trying to expand the sport in the area. We approached one of the players and he was delighted to talk to us about the game and how it really isn’t that much different here than in the States.
Attending Culture Night enhanced my appreciation for America and reminded me that it’s okay to miss it, but it also made me love Northern Ireland that much more as they showcased and embraced the various cultures that form their country.
Bringing some of my slang and American knowledge to the locals is just as exciting to them as it is for me to learn about their slang and knowledge. I will always be a proud American, but I have been quick and eager to engage with the Northern Irish people so I can learn, understand and appreciate all aspects of their culture that I will actively be a part of for the next 9 months!
Below are some fun words that I’ve been hearing (and starting to use) pretty regularly and their American meaning–
Cheers: thank you
Banter: joking around
Rubbish: bad, unappealing, useless
Grand: marvelous, fantastic
Mad: crazy, outlandish
Cheers to everyone, keep an eye out for some more updates in the coming weeks about my journey!