One of the biggest surprises I have experienced in my time in Ireland has to do with the topic of gender, which I am tentative bringing up because it is such a sensitive subject—not just in Ireland, but across the globe.
When I moved to Ireland, I was aware from a previous visit to Dublin that it was a predominantly Catholic country. But visiting a country with a tourist’s eyes blinds you to the societal tensions that run deeper than what you are faced with on Temple Bar during your vacation abroad. Until I moved here for graduate school, I was completely oblivious to what defined Ireland beyond the live music, dancing and pints of Guinness.
In my literature classes, I very quickly noticed the time spent dissecting gender roles, particularly the role of mothers, within novels exceeded any class I remembered taking in my undergraduate career back in the States. It wasn’t until one of my lecturers told me that coming to Ireland from the States is like taking a trip 30 years into the past that I began to see it in my day-to-day life. I noticed the heavy Catholic influence in the signs on the public transit systems; I took the time to read the “Repeal the 8th” flier I was handed on a trip to the city centre; and I tried to wrap my head around what my classes defined as the “Irish Mammy,” but to me it sounded more like a 60s American housewife.
I have been open and receptive to all the traditions and colloquial quirks, but had been resistant in understanding Irish views of gender and their roles, and the current social upheaval surrounding those views. Being an American woman in Ireland comes with cultural and societal differences I didn't know existed. I unconsciously used the United States as my standard of comparison in my first few months here, which I will describe as my most major mistake in transitioning into my life abroad.
Cultures and countries are shaped by their histories, and no country in the world is the same. Coming abroad not only with an open min, but an informed mind is vital to a successful transition. Had I been more informed on Irish history, I would have been better at understanding those social differences.Add this article to your reading list