Things that surprised an ignorant American


After spending nearly a week out of the United States, on my first ever extended trip outside of the country, I wanted to share some random thoughts on things that have surprised me about Ireland, being in Europe, and basically being outside of the comforts of home.  To my better-traveled friends, some of these may be amusing, some may be self-evident, but perhaps a few these thoughts may be enlightening. These may be things that are true with all of Europe or may simply be localized to Ireland or the UK.  I’d definitely love some comments to help me confirm and clarify some of these things.

  • Given how narrow these roads are, and how there doesn’t seem to be a method to dictate who has the right of way on these one lane roads, it’s a wonder that there are now more accidents here. On the contrary, in all of our driving we have yet to see cars on the side of the road from accidents or breakdowns.
  • Just because the architecture and infrastructure is old in Ireland, don’t mistake that for being dirty or run down – it’s quite the opposite. Many of these hole-in-the-wall local pubs are quite clean and well-kept
  • In Ireland “Bacon” is what Americans refer to as “Ham”
  • The water here is relatively decent. It’s nowhere near Colorado-level taste, but I would say it’s on par with Texas water
  • Most power outlets have their own switches on them, very convenient if you’re too lazy to unplug your device.
  • The bathrooms in our cottage and hotels have the light-switches on in the outside. I’m not sure if the designers of these houses have ever had kids or mean siblings.
  • The term for “bathroom” here is “Toilets” more direct, but perhaps a more graphic image, especially when you’re in a restaurant?
  • For men: The public urinals don’t flush. Many of them are tied to the same flushing system that seemingly goes off on its own schedule. Thus the men’s rooms typically smell worse
  • Many of the sinks here have different faucets for hot and cold water, I’m not quite sure how to create warm water unless you create a basin of warm water, or run both faucets at the same time and alternate your hands between them.
  • Nearly all public toilets/bathrooms don’t have paper towels, but rather have air dryers that only work for a few seconds at a time.
  • Police here are called “Garda”.
  • When we eat out and have finished our meal, every single time we’ve had to ask the waiter to bring our check. We thought this may be simply that things move slowly and didn’t want to be rude, but there have been instances where nearly 20 minutes have passed between when we finished our meal and when we saw our waiter again.

I’ll add more to this list as I notice more things, but I wanted to shoot a few of these surprises out there. What aspects of international travel has surprised you?