Katerina Russo is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A communications and political science major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Katerina talks about stereotypes and identity and shares some of the observations she has made of both Americans and Irish since arriving in Dublin.
As an American study abroad student living in Dublin, I have surely had the chance to consider and challenge my own identity in a much different way than I ever would’ve had the chance to at home. I have gotten a few different reactions from Irish people when informing them of my American nationality. Mostly, they are quite positive and accepting enough, often being interested in what part I am from and asking if I’ve ever been to places like New York City, Chicago, and California. Only a small handful of times have I ever been greeted with a more negative reaction, those usually involving politics.
The way I see myself and my culture has also surely undergone a few changes since being here. In the US, everything is so straightforward and to the point, there is no time to be wasted and every second is precious; time is money. Here there is much more time for talking to one another, socializing, having a cup of tea, and just generally enjoying the day. Irish people also commonly seem to be much more humble and less demanding in some ways, which is very unlike American culture. I have noticed this where I intern as well as in my classes, as everything seems to be much less straightforward and a bit more relaxed.
I have also surely picked up on the way that Americans seem to be much louder on average than Irish people, and most other Europeans for that matter, in the way that they communicate with one another. I’ve noticed many a strange look when hopping aboard a bus with a group of friends as we laugh and yell across it to talk to one another, or even when just simply walking down the street together or sitting at a restaurant. Our voices are always much louder than anyone else around us which I’m sure makes us appear rather obnoxious at times, but it just seems to be something we’re all used to. I can surely see why Americans are stereotyped as loud or rude from the way that we often behave based on what is normal in our own culture.
However, there are many stereotypes I had heard of before arriving in Ireland that I very soon found to be untrue. For instance, I was told that the Irish food was very bad and bland, having no flavor to it, while this surely could not be more false. While I will admit that a great deal of it does often involve beef and potatoes, I’ve still managed to find many delicious options while living here in Dublin and even when venturing outside of the city to more rural areas. There is a huge emphasis on eating locally grown Irish products which are much more common in most grocery stores as well as in restaurants.
The idea that Ireland’s culture and people are stuck in the past or outdated is another fallacy that I quickly encountered soon upon my arrival to Dublin. Irish people are very forward-thinking and progressive people who happen to have a long history, religion and tradition, yet are not defined by this one thing alone. Progress is quite evident as many people are strong supporters of marriage equality and leading tech companies such as Google and Facebook have recently set up European headquarters here.
Throughout the time I’ve spent in Dublin I have learned a great deal about myself and my own culture, as well as Irish culture and I am thrilled to be able to continue to learn and see more each day.
Katerina's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.