A few weeks ago, I came across a conversation on the Facebook French Expat group. Yeah, the same group where French people ask stupid questions, but this time it was very interesting.
One of the members was trying to compile a list of things that, as French people, we found odd, funny or just plain crazy about Ireland. And trust me, there were a lot of comments, many I could relate to. Even if I’ve lived here for a long time, it reminded me of my first months in the country, and there are still a few things I can’t get my head around (like the lack of shutters, but I’ve talked about this way too much already). Once again, it proves that even if France is close, there are many cultural differences…
1- Rectangular puff pastry
French people like to bake tarts and eat quiche. I know it sounds cliché, but we do. How come pre-made puff pastry only comes in rectangular shape? I mean, a quiche and a tart are supposed to be round, but here, you have to cut each side and then stick them as best as you can in your round tin. This doesn’t make sense at all. It’s a bit like the rectangular pillows. Maybe Irish people just like rectangles…
2- Getting your pictures developed at the pharmacy
“Why do they sell cameras at the chemist?” is usually one of the first questions my lovely French students ask when we talk about what they find funny about Ireland. Every time I tell my mum I have to get photographs, she starts giggling and says “Oh, you’re going to the pharmacy then…” I don’t know why the chemist sells cameras or develop pictures. It’s a very puzzling question.
3- Having to pay the exact change on Dublin bus
The journey cost €2.25, and of course you only have €2.50. But that’s fine, just get your ticket and walk all the way to Bus Eireann central office to get you 25c refund. Yes, this is Irish logic for you. And that’s one of the reasons why I gave up using public transport after a month.
4-Strange opening hours
This can actually come as one of the biggest culture shock. In France, shops are opened Monday to Saturday, 9am to 7pm, with 2 hours lunch break. Almost all shops are closed on Sunday and some of them on Monday as well. Banks are opened Tuesday to Saturday with the same opening hours as the shops (but they’re closed on Saturday afternoon). Supermarkets would open a bit longer, but not later than 10pm.
So imagine the utter surprise when discovering you virtually cannot go to the bank because it only opens from 10am to 4pm! But there’s no problem if you run out of milk or bread because Tesco next door opens until midnight. And when Sunday is a dreadful day in France, here, it’s the opportunity to go on a shopping spree.
5- The fact that people don’t care how you dress
As a girl, it’s something that I find very refreshing compared to France. I don’t come from a big city, but still, there is always this feeling that people are judging you on your appearance. Sometimes, I still have the French reflex of wondering if I should wear that skirt, or that top, or those shoes… And then I remember, Irish people out there in the street don’t give a shit about what I’m wearing. And I love it.
6- The love affair of Irish people with Ice cream
I mean, the sun comes out for about 5 minutes and you’re guaranteed to see someone with a 99. Even in winter people buy ice-cream! That’s something that actually surprised Fabrice when he arrived from Mauritius. Everyone was all wrapped up, and still, they were eating ice cream…in January! My guess is that if people were waiting for hot weather, they’d never get to enjoy an ice-cream.
7- The price of wine and cheese
Sometimes I feel like I’m a walking cliché, comparing wine prices in Tesco, and feeling how hard is the Camembert before buying it (yes I do that, don’t judge me!). Then I ponder if I should really buy that 15 euros bottle or that 5 euros Camembert. Does it really worth it? Am I that desperate to eat French cheese and drink French wine? I usually refrain and buy the cheap wine (which most of the time turns out OK, and I know feck all about wine anyway).
8- The kindness of Irish people
I will always remember that old man who walked me to my destination when I got lost and couldn’t find the post office, or the total stranger who stopped and changed my tyre in the middle of the motorway. You only have to open a map in Dublin and someone will come over, offering to give directions. Believe it or not, most Irish people are nice and helpful.
9- The weather
This country has the most changeable weather I’ve ever seen (and I come from Brittany so I should be used to rain and wind). But we all know that right? We don’t come to Ireland expecting tropical weather (although some summers it can feel like it). What’s more amazing is the lengthy conversations Irish people can have about the weather, and the 20 different words used for rain, wind and sun.
Did I forget something? What cultural shock did you experience when you moved to another country?