CulturePersonal Interest

Lost in Translation: Irish in Alberta

Emigrating from the Ireland to the Canada was at times a bit of a culture shock for a person like myself. As I imagine for anybody that moves to a new country to live in, there are going to be similarities but also some differences in certain aspects of life and the way things work. Some things can be simple and straightforward to get used to while others can take a bit of time to become adjusted to and comfortable with.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest differences I’ve found when adjusting to life abroad in Canada compared to living Ireland.

Driving All Over The Shop.

Learning to adjust to driving a vehicle on the opposite side of the road can have its challenges. Everything seems to be the opposite of what you are familiar with. It is akin to learning to write with your bad hand, albeit probably not as difficult, but it does take some time to acclimatize to.

No matter how long or how used to it you get it can still rear its ugly head.

It can happen at any moment, where a doubt will creep into your mind as to whether you are currently on the correct side of the road. When I jump in my car, I will occasionally find myself questioning my sanity with brief spells of anxiety and paranoia thinking, “Aw crap wait, what side of the road am I supposed to be on?”

Canadian roads seem to be much bigger and spacious when compared to driving on some Irish roads. It is not uncommon back home to find yourself in the back arse of nowhere on some small rural road with on two narrow lanes and so many bends and bumps you might as well be on a rollercoaster. The directness and grid-like layout of many roads here in Canada is a welcome change to topsy turvy roads you sometimes have to experience in Ireland.

Irish road with sheep

Tipping Isn’t Just for the Cows

I was greeted by the server with a dirty look so ghastly you’d swear I was just after murdering their dog.

The concept of tipping in restaurants, bars, etc. is something I had never encountered before arriving here in Canada. It was only something I had only ever seen in movies or tv shows and had never really gave consideration to it being an actual thing. Back in Ireland, it is not really something that is considered a part of our culture. I’m sure the occasional customer would leave a little extra cash to a server but in general it wasn’t something done or expected by the majority of people.

So to my shock when first paying a bill at a restaurant here in Canada, I made the god awful mistake of not offering a tip when paying for my food. I was greeted by the server with a dirty look so ghastly you’d swear I was just after murdering their dog. I left the restaurant confounded and thinking what the hell was that all about. The following day, after a discussion with a co-worker, I came to the realization of the error of what I had done and learned on the importance of tipping etiquette and to do not so you could potentially leave you in the bad books with a restaurant or bar server in the future. I have never failed to add a tip to this day.

cow tip me

Winter Is Coming

Oh this isn’t so bad; it seems grand!

Ireland is a country blessed with one everlasting season of constantly wet weather. We pretty much get one day of sunshine and one day of snow per year in which the entire nation will go into shutdown. Just take a look at the great Beast From The East bread crisis from March 2018 in which the country learned it was going to snow for a full weekend so the entire population ran out and bought loaves upon loaves of bread. You’d have sworn the apocalypse was coming with the reactions.

While Ireland had one weekend of the Beast from the East, Alberta is the proverbial Beast of the East, with its harsh winters, something of which I never imagined before experiencing it. For a foreigner like myself, in the beginning of my first winter here when I got to experience proper snow for the first time I thought to myself, “oh this isn’t so bad; it seems grand”. It was quite a welcome change from the constant dreary rainy wet winters we have in Ireland. But slowly but surely, as the temperature began dropping and becoming colder and colder so did my thoughts and feelings towards an Alberta winter.

For my first winter here, I worked as an electrical labourer and got the pleasure of working outside for periods of time during that winter. When it began to hit those -30 / -40 temperatures, I came to the conclusion that hell is not some fiery put that devours you in flames. Its the icy cold tentacles of mind numbing winter that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. After the experience of that first winter, it really made me admire and respect Canadians who have spent their lives living in this year after year. Its tough tough going.

On the plus side though, I must say the summers here in Canada are top notch. You power through the winter with the thoughts that before too long a nice hot and sunny summer is just around the corner. The summers here are fantastic and something you could only dream about experiencing back in Ireland. I’m telling you now, if Ireland had a summer like we have here in Canada, nobody would get a ounce of any work done.

rain: I'm looking forward to summer; the rain gets warmer

Early Morning Matches

As a massive Liverpool FC supporter, my favourite times of the week are getting to watch my beloved team play. This ongoing pandemic has put the current season on hold, which has been very irksome due to the fact we were two games away from winning our first league title in 30 years, the first in my lifetime. I think we’re cursed. Win, lose or draw, I try to watch every game I possibly can but it can pose its difficulties catching as many games living here in Canada compared to being in Ireland.

The 7-hour time difference between here and back home means matches over here generally take place in the mornings between 5:30 am and 10:30am on the weekends and around 1:00 pm during the day for midweek games, which can make it a bit more awkward trying to catch all the games. If I’m working or can’t catch a game live, I have to shut down and avoid all forms of news and social media on match days and wait until the evenings to watch the games. There is nothing more depressing than spending all day avoiding spoilers only for something to randomly pop up on my phone or TV that tells me the final score before I get to watch the match :’(.

Back in Ireland, I only have maybe a handful of friends who also support Liverpool and the majority of my friends support our biggest rivals, Manchester United. When it comes time to go watch games with them it’s not always an enjoyable experience. But here in Edmonton, we have a large community of supporters all a part of the Official Liverpool Edmonton Supporters Club. While we may have to get up early in the morning to head in to the bar where we congregate to watch the games, we all come together in unison to support the Reds. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and exhilarating experience, one in which I would not get to experience watching games back home in Ireland.

what's the craic

Thats Sound

No I wasn’t looking for crack, I was just asking ‘how’s the going’.

The Irish vs Canadian vocabulary has been at times a confusing one for me and for people who may have interacted with me. For starters, since coming to Canada I’ve come to the realisation that some of us Irish speak at a speed that can be incomprehensible to others at times. I’ve had to work on slowing down the way I talk for people to understand me and half of the time slowing down still do’t make a difference.

There’s also the vocabulary aspect, in which some phrases and words used back home do not translate well over here and can lead to some interesting interactions to say the least. For instance, when meeting someone on a night out, I have in the past greeted people with saying “Whats the craic?” meaning “How are things?, Whats going on?”. On occasion I’ve been looked at like I’ve got ten heads and met with a response of “What crack, I don’t have any crack”. Trying to then go on and explain that “No I wasn’t looking for crack, I was just asking How’s the going,” still leaves people baffled and confused.

There’s a long list of various sayings and phrases, that I could go in to detail about but I thought it be easier to provide a mini dictionary to make life easier.

Irish dictionary

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