A Fulbright student’s (fictional) comedy of errors in the heart of Dublin.
By Bizzy Coy ’06
Folks, gather ’round! The free tour is about to start. Thank you all for assembling here beneath Dublin’s famous statue of a seagull defiling a statue of a seagull. Today, we’ll visit several locations where I made massive blunders during my time as a Fulbright student in Ireland. It can be quite a challenge to adjust to living in another country, and I hope my stories will help you avoid the cross-cultural embarrassment I’ve come to experience on a daily basis.
First, it’s great to meet all of you. Congratulations on busting out of your comfort zone by traveling beyond the United States. I myself have a very small comfort zone, which is why I ask that you not stand so close to me during the tour. Thanks.
As we’re walking, there’s one bit of lingo you should know. Here, a sidewalk is called a “footpath,” and the Irish love when Americans take up the entire thing. So get comfortable. Sprawl out!
We’re now standing on the curb next to a bright, green metal box. You’d never know from looking at it, but this is a postbox and not an ATM. Boy, was my face red the first 26 times I tried to slide my debit card in the mail slot. But now when the postal workers see me coming, they rush outside to say hello and physically prevent me from getting anywhere near the box. Look, here they come now! That’s what international travel is all about, folks — making human connections.
If you look up ahead, you’ll see a street musician. I assumed he was just a simple troubadour, but that was a severe miscalculation on my part. This guy is actually Bono. Yes, the Grammy Award-winning star of U2. Is there any other Bono? I’m 99 percent sure it’s him. The important thing is not to toss any spare change into his empty guitar case, because he already has more money than you or I will ever have. The guitar case is all part of the act. But that’s a secret only Dubliners know.
You may have heard about Ireland’s thriving tech scene. If you look to your left, you’ll see Google’s Dublin headquarters. Exciting, huh? One time I walked in and asked the front desk clerk who would win in a fight, Irish satirist Jonathan Swift or Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. He didn’t know. Turns out the clerk was NOT the human embodiment of the Google algorithm, and I was forcefully removed from the premises. Now I know that Ireland uses Google on their devices, just like any other country. And now you know, too.
Right there near Google HQ is Airbnb HQ. Folks, if you’re staying at an Airbnb while you’re in town, don’t make the same mistake I did. I showed up to this very office building with my luggage and inflatable neck pillow and demanded to spend the night. Can you imagine? What I didn’t realize (silly me!) is that the apartment I booked was 20 minutes away, and that Airbnb has been a major contributor to the devastating Dublin housing crisis. Whoopsies.
I’ve found one of the quickest ways to learn Irish culture is to meet Irish people. Right now, we’re standing next to a restaurant where my Tinder date gave me a real education in the local slang. “Craic” is fun, “grand” is fine, “deadly” is great. “Chips” are fries, “crisps” are chips, a “spice bag” is a late-night delicacy and a “chicken fillet roll” is a hangover cure. “Health insurance” is a thing all Irish residents have — a confusing concept I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
Above all, don’t worry if you get a few things wrong while you’re here. The U.S. has exported so much pop culture, politics and fast food to Ireland that the Irish generally have a better understanding of Americans than we do of ourselves. Embrace it!
Now, look at this. This is something to see. To your right, you can gaze upon the beautiful Samuel Beckett Bridge, where I once got into a pretty intense argument with the ghost of legendary Irish writer Samuel Beckett. He won (he always wins) and cursed me to be a walking tour guide for all eternity. And, well, here I am.
Which brings us to the last stop on our tour. If you look to your left, you’ll see the pub where I once tipped on a pint of Guinness. Turns out, locals don’t tip bartenders — although they DO tip tour guides. Especially cursed tour guides. Especially on free tours. If you want to act like a local, folks, here’s your chance. You know what to do.
Bizzy Coy ’06 is a freelance writer who contributes short humor to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. She is currently undertaking a Fulbright at Dublin City University, where she will receive a master of arts in creative writing. Although the stories here are (fortunately) fictional, Bizzy has made her fair share of actual missteps abroad. Each one represents an opportunity to adapt and an invitation to grow. And some even become fodder for writing.