After only one week in Galway, I never want to leave. I’m in love with this beautiful city and all it has to offer. I wouldn’t say there has been much culture shock for me, but there were a few things that would’ve been helpful to know before studying abroad here. For anyone considering visiting or studying in Galway, here are a few tips and tricks to help you become more comfortable and settled into your new environment:
1. Not everyone is nice. I know, I was shocked too. Don’t fall for the stereotypical Irish persona and believe that everyone in the streets of Galway and everyone you meet in Ireland is going to be nice and easy to converse with. This was hard for me because I wanted everyone to be nice and welcoming. The fact is, you are a “tourist” and you probably won’t be greeted with open arms and smiles by everyone.
2. Take your rain jacket and umbrella everywhere. The forecast may say there is 0% chance of rain for the day, but that could easily and quickly change. Don’t get caught downtown without a rain jacket or umbrella because a fifteen to twenty minute walk back to your house in the pouring down rain is not a fun situation to get stuck in. Stay on the safe side and bring one, even if it is a gorgeous sunny day outside when you’re leaving.
3. Bring comfortable shoes. The absolute most important thing you need to pack is comfortable shoes. I am not exaggerating when I say that you spend all day walking. Galway is an easy city to navigate and not many people take a taxi because they don’t want to spend the money. You walk everywhere, everyday. Bring comfortable shoes that won’t give you awful blisters like I got after my first week here. You can wait to buy cheap rain boots here, so don’t worry about packing that extra weight. Just make sure you pack a comfortable pair of shoes or plenty of band aids for the blisters you will acquire.
4. Learn some of the slang ahead of time. There is plenty of slang that you will hear on a daily basis in Galway. If you are not at least familiar with it, you will have a difficult time conversing with the locals or even ordering food or drink at a restaurant or pub. Don’t use the stereotypical phrases like “top of the morning to you” or try to imitate the accents because it is offensive and really makes people mad. If anything, be familiar with phrases like these:
- Cheers/Sláinte: You can say cheers or sláinte (pronounced slancha) when having a drink at a pub, thanking a waiter for your meal, saying goodbye to someone or to express that it was nice talking with someone. Don’t overdo it, but you will hear “cheers” a lot to express gratitude or wish good health for someone. Don’t assume it always has to do with clinking glasses.
- Do you sign local? Someone might ask if “you sign local”. They are asking if you are a local or if you are on holiday. It is often difficult to understand if their accent is stronger and can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the phrase.
- Craic: Craic (pronounced crack) means fun. If someone asks you if you’re interested in some craic, it’s okay to say yes! They are not trying to sell you drugs; they are asking you if you’d like to have some fun. If someone asks “what’s the craic”, it is similar to “what’s up” or “what’s new”. It’s okay to have some craic while in Galway!
- Lift vs. Ride: Do not ask someone to give you a “ride” or thank them for the “ride”. This means something much more suggestive in Ireland. You may say “thanks for the lift” or “could you give me a lift” instead. Remember this and avoid any uncomfortable situations!
5. Always be aware of your surroundings. I know you’ve heard this too many times, but take this seriously. Galway is a fairly safe city, but it is important to always be aware and pay attention to the people around you. Keep an eye on your bag/wallet, never set your drink down, do not let anyone buy you a drink when you haven’t seen where it has been, stick with a buddy when walking around town in the evening and don’t set your bag/purse down anywhere. It is easy for people to take advantage of “naive Americans” when you allow them to. Be smart and make good choices kids.
Although this is a short list of tips and tricks, there is plenty about Galway that is diverse and somewhat unexpected. I’m comfortable and happy in my temporary home in Galway and I love exploring this city. It is important to keep the subtle differences in mind during my daily life here though out of respect for the culture I am entering into. Learn it, love it and get ready to experience something absolutely amazing!