1. The post office does a lot more than send the mail. Need to collect your social welfare payment? Want to pay your utility bill? Grab some money out of your bank account? Apply for a passport? You can take care of all of that at the post.
2. Debit cards are called Laser cards, and they’re way more secure. Instead of swiping your card through the machine and getting a receipt back right away at the store; the clerk takes your card, puts it into this card reader that is bolted to the counter, pushes a button, then swivels the card reader toward you. It asks for your PIN. The clerk typically asks if you want cash back. Since it takes a little longer to complete the transaction, you can use the grocery store as an ATM, purchasing a pack of gum and €40 cash.
3. Unless you actually share a room, it’s not roommate, it’s flatmate.
4. If you stay in the same job, you don’t have to do taxes every year. My understanding of this is still a little sketchy, but here’s how I’ve come to understand income taxes here: When you quit your job, you get a P-45. It’s sort of like the American W-2, but instead of sending it to the IRS, you give it to your next employer. They use that form to figure out how much money you made in your last job and tax you the appropriate amount. No more annual income tax forms.
5. The days get brighter here way faster than they do back in Minnesota.
6. Everything about cell phones is better here. Most people aren’t locked into a two-year contract here. They exist, but most people go for the pay-as-you-go option. Within an hour of arriving in Galway last November, I walked down Shop Street, walked into the Meteor store, told the guy I wanted the cheapest phone and a €20 top-up, and I was using my phone in ten minutes. “Topping up” is what it’s called when you add credit to your phone. You buy a code, then you call a number on your phone, enter that code and the credit is instantly added. You can seemingly do it everywhere. At the ATM? They’ve got an option to withdraw cash or to top up. Buying groceries? Tell the cashier you want to top up. They even have top-up vending machines all over. To encourage customers to keep topping up, most carriers incentivize topping up by €20. For Meteor, when I top up by €20 I get free calls and texts to other Meteor customers for a month. How do you know who other Meteor customers are? It’s right there in the area code. All Meteor customers have phone numbers that start with 085. O2 customers’ phone numbers start with 086, and Vodaphone numbers start with 087.
7. Gender roles are much more institutionalized here. My evidence of this is only anecdotal, but you can even look in the Irish constitution to find evidence of sexism. Here’s what I’ve found: While job hunting, more than one store manager told me, “Oh, we only hire women here.” I work in the stock room at my current job, so lifting heavy things comes with the territory. But I can’t tell you how many times a (male) supervisor will approach me to ask if I can bring these ten boxes of pillows upstairs for his (female) employees. “I don’t want the girls to have to lift those [5 pound] boxes,” he’ll explain to me. I have no problem doing it, but that attitude is new to me.
8. When they want to get something done, Irish people walk really, really fast.
9. McDonald’s are way classier over here. They’ve also got way better apple pies. Instead of having the slits in the apple pie and a cinnamon dusting, these babies are just one solid mass that’s been deep fried and put under a heat lamp so the outside is reasonably warm but the inside holds a scalding hot, molten apple mixture that tastes so good you can’t help but burn your mouth to eat it.
10. They don’t have stick deodorant for men. Only that spray on stuff. They don’t call it Axe over here though. It’s called Lynx. So much do I miss the stick deodorant, I asked my coworker who is currently on holiday in Boston to pick me up two sticks to bring back with her. I can’t wait until she gets back. Then I won’t have to feel like I’m getting ready for the junior high dance every morning when I get ready.