My first impression of Europe as whole came when the plane was touching down in Glasgow, Scotland. The first thing that I noticed were fields and lots of them. When you are on a plane in the U.S, you don't really notice fields unless you are high up enough in the clouds. But in Scotland, even in the descent to touch down, you can definitively see fields and land, as opposed to buildings. I'm probably going to mention my trip to Scotland in a different post, so I'll skip over some of that to get to my first impressions of Ireland. Many of the impressions that I got early on in Ireland also apply to Scotland as well, so I'm not totally leaving out Scotland. Anyway, I'm going to list a few of the general first impressions that I got of Ireland:
1) The side that the Europeans, including the Irish, drive on is the left side. I have always been fully aware that the Europeans drive on a different side of the road than we do in the U.S. However, that awareness did not prevent me from freaking out every time we turned on a road in a taxi or on a bus. To an American, it really feels like the cars are going to collide.
2) Tipping-In both Scotland and Ireland tipping seems to be a less common occurrence. I am guessing that the hourly wage or something similar may be the reason why, but it seemed very strange to me because in the U.S tipping is expected when you encounter someone working in the service industry. This isn't necessarily the case in Ireland. Tipping seems to be more of a choice here for the customers, not really a necessity.
3) Even the big cities, such as Glasgow/Edinburgh in Scotland or Dublin/Belfast in the country of Ireland feel a lot smaller than the ones in the United States.
4) Ireland, particularly in the rural areas, is more of a cash-based society than credit/debit card, unlike the United States. One of the things that I thought was a bit strange when I first got here were the 1 and 2 euro coins. I hadn't expected there to be coins with such a high currency value, but I have actually grown to appreciate the fact that there are more than one ways to pay (paper money or coins).
5) The Irish people are very blunt, and not in a bad way. I appreciate the bluntness, the strong opinions on politics and the honesty.
6) Public transportation is widely used and is a major way that people get around. They have a great train and bus system. In the U.S, everyone generally just drives to wherever they need to go, but in Ireland, the public transportation system seems to be used much more than I anticipated. Walking is also an option, especially walking into the city center of Cork City.
7) There aren't really skyscrapers that make up the cityscape, which is completely different than in the United States. There are taller buildings in Ireland, but the don't make for a distinctive cityscape like they would in New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles etc.
8) Stores close by 6 p.m. Initially, I did NOT understand this AT ALL. I thought it was one of the strangest things about Europe. I could not fathom why a restaurant, grocery store etc. would close by 6 p.m. because I am so used to going to Walmart or Giant Eagle at 7 p.m. to buy things. However, I think it is just one of those aspects of European life that just happen and you have to get used to.
9) In a similar vein as the stores closing at 6 p.m. thing, nothing really opens on Sunday until noon.
10) There are not a lot of highways. There are major roads, but I would not really call them highways like we have in the United States.
So that concludes my list of first impressions that I had of Ireland. None of them are negative impressions, I will admit that some of the things were a bit of a shock (such as the driving thing or the stores closing at 6) but overall, my first impressions of Ireland have been extremely positive.