May 2, 2023

Culture Shock in Ireland: My First Impressions as an American

Culture Shock in Ireland: My First Impressions as an American

After traveling to Ireland for the first time, Kristin shares all the things that surprised her the most during her visit. Join her for a walk around the Enniskerry Powerscourt castle grounds to learn her first impressions of Ireland as an American.

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Keep your money safe while you travel with Wise International Banking.

After traveling to Ireland for the first time, Kristin shares all the things that surprised her the most during her visit. Join her for a walk around the Enniskerry Powerscourt castle grounds to learn her first impressions of Ireland as an American. Hear her candid thoughts on everything from the food and weather to transportation and strange town names.


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What You’ll Learn:

  • The cost of visiting Dublin vs. smaller towns in Ireland.
  • The food scene in Ireland.
  • Weather in Ireland: How good really is it?
  • Friendliness of the locals.
  • The reality of mental health problems in Ireland.
  • Tips for using the bus system and taxis.
  • Issues with internet and 5G connection
  • Why Ireland’s population is still so small.
  • Ireland’s nightlife and shopping culture.
  • Strange town names.


Extra Resources Mentioned: 





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See the show notes pages on or  for time stamps, transcripts, and more resources from this episode.




Kristin:    00:00:00    While traveling the world, one of the things that I never leave home without is my Wise account. Wise is a multicurrency account that you can use with 50 different currencies in 175 countries, more than 16 million people use Wise for their everyday living expenses or for work, travel and transferring money abroad. You can open a business or personal account and get a debit card that you can use worldwide. Try Wise today and save up to six times when you send, spend, and withdraw from 50 different currencies all in one account. 


Introduction: Welcome to Badass Digital Nomads, where we're pushing the boundaries of remote work and travel, all while staying grounded with a little bit of old school philosophy, self-development, and business advice from our guests.


Kristin Wilson, Host:    00:01:01    Hey there, Kristin, from Traveling with Kristin here, and welcome to episode 205 of Badass Digital Nomads. I'm coming to you today from the UK, sipping some tea as you do, but as you're listening to this episode, I will be in Ireland and more on that in a future episode. But in honor of that, today's episode is a video that I did for YouTube on Irish Culture Shock, and you know how I love talking about culture shock, and it seems that you guys do too because this video in the first month has almost 70,000 views so far and some really great comments. And so since it's so popular, and it's a topic that everybody loves, I wanted to share it with you here on the podcast today and see what you think. We'll play through the top things that shocked me when I went to Dublin, and then at the end, I'll read some of the viewers' comments.  


Kristin:    00:02:07    Seems like I'm losing my voice a little bit. Maybe I need more tea. I just wanted to thank everyone who left a review this week during our first-ever Badass Digital Nomads giveaway of a $100Merino wool gift card. So there's still time, I decided to extend the deadline by a couple days until midnight on Friday this week because last week's episode went out a day late. So yep, you've got a few more days to leave a review and email me at with a screenshot of your review to enter. Uh, you can leave a review on our website on Badass Digital Nomads. You can also leave a review on any of your favorite podcast platforms. We love them all, but we got more reviews this week than we've gotten in the entire year. So thank you so much. It seems like you guys like free stuff.  


Kristin:    00:03:06    Maybe we'll do some more fun giveaways like this in the future. Stay tuned, but I'll announce the winner next week. But we're definitely gonna have to do a random winner because there is no way I can pick a favorite here. And also thanks to all of my, um, newsletter subscribers. If you, if you're not on my newsletter, you can join at I sent the newsletter out this week asking her four reviews and I got like five reviews in three minutes. So I really appreciate, uh, the support from everyone on my email list. Nathan says, awesome insight. Kristin does a great job of covering topics relevant to a travel lifestyle. As someone who's been nomadic for four years, she still provides value to me. Awesome. Nathan, thank you so much for the review. We'll read more of these as the weeks go on, and also shout out this week to my Patreon patrons.  


Kristin:    00:04:04    As I really wasn't sure about the video that I posted this week on YouTube, it's about this viral CEO rant that was going around on the internet on Reddit in the news headlines and <laugh>. You just couldn't ignore it like it was everywhere and it just really, I felt I had a lot to say on, on that topic. And uh, so I made avideo about it, which I'll, I'll probably put that on the podcast too. I feel like I need to let some more of the comments on YouTube like really marinate because I'm getting a lot of really different perspectives on that. Um, people who disagree with me, people who support the CEO, a lot of people who don't. So if you wanna check that out, it'son my YouTube channel now at Um, but that's a topic that, you know, I care a lot about, but there was just a lot of the things that he said that didn't sit well with me.  


Kristin:    00:05:09    And so I created this video, but I wasn't sure after I made the video if it was too controversial. So, um, my Patreon patrons get to watch the videos before they go on YouTube, so I asked all of them and everyone was really supportive. So thanks to everyone over on Patreon and uh, yeah, let's get into it and stay tuned for a culture shock in the UK video and podcast coming out soon. I've been taking notes in my first week here in the UK and actually, a guy that I was talking to on a dating app asked me what my thoughts were and what were my first impressions on the UK and he was really curious to hear my perspective. Um, he had lived in the US for three years and had just gotten back recently. So he really, um, has seen, you know, both sides in both countries and was asking me a lot of questions about that.  


Kristin:    00:06:11    I'm thinking it over and when the time is right, um, we'll get into that because you know, it can take some time. You've got your first impressions of a country and then after a month, after a few months after a year and, and you know, it just gets deeper and deeper into your understanding of the culture. But so far I've been googling a lot of the slang in northern England. Um, I'm in Manchester right now, and so I've been learning a lot. So we'll be passing that on to you soon. But today it's all about Ireland. So enjoy this podcast. And also a, a funny note about how this even came about. I was going around Dublin asking locals about their city and I stopped for lunch at a cafe and I asked the guy sitting next to me if he would want to be in the video and he didn't wanna be recorded, but he was just talking to me about Dublin.  


Kristin:    00:07:10    He offered a lot of places for me to see around the country and one of the places that he recommended was actually the setting for where I filmed this video and it's called Powerscourt House & Gardens. So the whole reason that I even made this video is because I was sitting in a cafe next to this guy, he told me to go to this place, I took the bus, I went there and as I was walking around I thought it was really beautiful and it would make a great backdrop to just kind of talk about my experience in Ireland to date instead of doing it from inside my Airbnb or just in the middle of Dublin. So if you haven't seen it, go check it out on YouTube. And also if you want more of this type of content, then also make sure to leave a review.  Let me know what you like and much more to come. Enjoy.




Kristin:    00:08:03     It's my first time ever here in Ireland and there are some interesting things that I noticed in my first few days staying in Dublin. The first thing is that it's really so green. It's like everywhere you look there's green, whether it's part of nature or green lights, green paint, greenhouses, green is everywhere and it's really beautiful. But I was just very taken aback by how green Ireland really is. Another thing that I noticed really quickly is how expensive it is, especially compared to the rest of Europe. And I've heard this is mostly within Dublin and that once you get outside of the city that the prices are a lot more reasonable in the villages and smaller towns throughout the country. So I'm here in Enniskerry at the Powerscourt House & Gardens and I can say that you notice even 30 minutes or an hour outside of Dublin that the prices do start to go down. 


Kristin:    00:09:08    But Dublin is a city that's known for having very high housing prices, but also the prices at cafés, coffee shops, restaurants, stores, everything seems to be quite high, very similar to the prices where I'm from in Florida, taxis are also quite expensive, and I found it funny that strangers on the street offered to split a cab with me at night after leaving a bar because they wanted to reduce the price. You could pay around 11 to 20 euro within Dublin city center for like a five or 10-minute ride. And I even paid 30 euro one time because there was no availability of taxis and sometimes the buses can be a bit slow. So that was pretty shocking. Something that was a very pleasant surprise was how good the food was. I really wasn't expecting that much. As far as the foodie scene, I haven't heard that much about the scene here in Dublin or throughout Ireland.  


Kristin:    00:10:12    I was kind of just expecting a lot of burgers and pub food and while of course there is plenty of that, I was surprised by the variety of food and how many healthy options there were as well. So if you come to Ireland, definitely enjoy the local food, everything at the cafés like soups, sandwiches, scones, everything seems homemade and made within that location. So that's something that shocked me in a good way. Another thing that surprised me was the weather. It's actually been like this the entire time I've been here. Yeah, it's been a little bit windy, it's been a little cloudy and cold, but it hasn't rained yet the whole time I was here and I was expecting it to rain pretty much every day. So I've been pleasantly surprised at how mild the weather has been, although maybe I just got lucky. Something that legitimately blew me away is how friendly the people are in Dublin.  


Kristin:    00:11:15    Now I've always heard that people are friendly in Ireland as they are in many countries, but I definitely noticed that people seem more laid back here. They also seem to know each other like it seems like a very small town, like a big city with a small town feel. And I've noticed a lot of people like running into each other on the sidewalks, greeting each other, stopping for a chat. And that's not something that you typically see in big cities. People are usually in a hurry. But I was definitely surprised by how many people seem to know each other and would just bump into each other on the streets. And then how uh, happy and open they were to talking with foreigners and strangers. And so that's something that I really enjoyed. They also wave to each other a lot and that's something that stuck out to me.  


Kristin:    00:12:08    And they're also very nice to their bus driver, so whenever you get off the bus everyone says thank you and I think that's really nice as well. But one thing that a local told me is that even though people may seem friendly and happy on the outside, it's not always that way on the inside. And he said that a lot of his friends suffer from mental health problems and also feeling like they're not doing anything with their lives, that they don't have enough opportunities and that they're just kind of stuck. And I have seen some signs, um, around just around the city that have numbers to call for, um, like a mental health hotline. And I mean that's something that I think all of us can relate with because mental health is a universal issue and I don't know what the reasons for that are.  


Kristin:    00:13:04    Maybe if you are Irish or you're from Dublin, you can give us some more insight into that. But although it's something that you know, definitely we can all relate to, life isn't all sunshine and roses and rainbows and pots of gold. Another thing with the buses, I learned the hard way that you have to flag down the bus if you want it to stop for you. So even though I was kind of standing at the side of the bus stop and there was only one bus that stopped at the stop I was at, the guy just kept driving. So yeah, if you wanna catch the bus, you have to stand outside and flag them down. Lesson learned something that I didn't like so much that I thought was strange, especially because of all of the tech companies and multinational corporations that are based in Dublin is how slow the internet is.  


Kristin:    00:13:59    The Wi-Fi is really slow at hotels at my Airbnb and also the 5G connection on my phone with my local sim card was also pretty slow. So in some countries you can get 50 or a hundred megabit downloads per second on your phone and here it was like 10 to 15 to 20, whereas my Wi-Fi has been like one to five megabits per second. So I've heard that that is pretty common throughout Dublin and possibly the rest of the country. But that's something that really surprised me. Something else I wasn't expecting is to hear that the population still hasn't recovered from the famine of the 1840s. Over 1 million people are estimated to have died during that time and many immigrated as well. And so the country is still trying to rebuild its population from hundreds of years ago, so that was quite shocking. I also didn't expect to find a Japanese Zen garden in an Irish village, but here we are.  


Kristin:    00:15:08    Something that really confused me is that there don't seem to be any electrical plugs in any of the bathrooms now. At first I thought it was just my hotel, but it was also at my Airbnb and I noticed other people talking about it. So yeah, apparently there's no plugs in the bathroom, so when you go to look for your hair dryer look in the kitchen or in a drawer in the desk or something like that, and you may have to blow dry your hair in the living room. On the plus side though, just like in the UK you can actually turn off the individual electrical outlet. So I think that's really cool and I wish we had that in the US as well. I remember when I was in college, my roommate used to unplug all of the appliances so we could save money on our electrical bill and yeah, if we just had plugs that you could turn on and off, we wouldn't have to do that.  


Kristin:    00:16:06    Something that I thought was really cool is that all of the signage and the road signs are in English as well as Irish. And even though I knew that Irish was an official language here, I didn't expect to see all of the signs in Irish. So I think that that's really cool and it looks like quite a difficult language to learn. But something else that really surprised me is that it could be quite normal for people to be late around here and that's not something that's very customary throughout Europe, so I was pretty surprised to hear that yeah, people could be 15 minutes late, an hour late and it's really no big deal, but also things are open quite late, so I notice people out having dinner really late, like 10:00 PM 11:00 PM clubs are open till 3:00 AM and then there's also people out and about like just walking around on the streets in the middle of the night having kebabs and things at four or five in the morning.  


Kristin:    00:17:06    So, uh, I was surprised at how lively the nightlife was and how late people were out and about. And the towns outside of Dublin have quite interesting names I saw such as Stepaside, Goats Town and The Scalp, and I'm sure there are many more. Those are just a few of the towns that I've passed through. So what other interesting things do you know about Dublin and Ireland in general? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe for more videos. See you next time. Okay, so I hope that you learned a few new things about Ireland and maybe even some things that resonated with you that you experienced in a different country. I find that sometimes the experiences that you have in one place can kind of feel like dejavu or can really give you some perspective for what you're experiencing in another place.  


Kristin:    00:18:02    In this particular video, it looked like people were really interested in this, the section about the slow population growth and immigration from Ireland. I learned that there's over 80 or 85 million people of Irish descent living around the world. So maybe there's a lot of people who have, uh, relatives that came from Ireland way back when or even recently and, and people are interested about that. So maybe we can talk more about that in another podcast. People are also pretty interested in the electrical plugs and how there's no outlets in the bathroom, and many people commented that it's because of the voltage in the UK and in Ireland where it's 220 instead of 110. And because this is a risk of getting electrocuted, they don't put any outlets in the bathrooms. And it made me kind of think like, well, maybe, maybe none of us should have those in the bathrooms, but I still do really enjoy being able to turn the outlet on and off.  


Kristin:    00:19:07    And I feel like that would be something that's useful anywhere in the world. People are also interested that, um, people are late and that shops are open late and um, lots of funny comments about the weird town names and uh, yeah, what I learned about that is that the town names are spelled after the way that the words are pronounced in Irish and that's why they're so weird. So it's not like a literal translation, it's just that's the way they phonetically sound. Some of the top comments, one is from Barbara. She says The Irish are super friendly and helpful, it's a great country to visit, but that stuck feeling is universal and even more significant for island dwellers. I think, I think that she's right because when I think back to all of the, the islands that I've been on, there is definitely a sense of being stuck.  


Kristin:    00:20:06    Even if you're living on a beautiful island, it's like you could be stranded right on a desert island, um, but then you're stuck there. And I, I sensed this the first time that I went to Hawaii when I was 16 and I have a lot of friends from there and they can have some of the kind of the same complaints. Like it can be hard to find jobs, it can be hard to find opportunities, it's expensive to leave, it's far away to get off of the island. And I also felt a similar sentiment when I went to Puerto Rico. I used to go to Puerto Rico a lot from Florida to surf and would spend, um, at least about a month there every year. And I, I definitely felt that people had a similar attitude there. And my friends that live in Miami from Puerto Rico and a lot of them in New York and around the US, they want to leave the island for mostly for economic opportunities or just career opportunities because there are limited opportunities there.  


Kristin:    00:21:09    So that seems to carry over regardless of what island you live on or if you live on an island that is a country in and of itself. But yeah, I would be curious if, if you are from a country that's on an island or if you live there, if you feel the same way. One guy, Mr. Alpacas, uh, wrote a pretty cool comment about how he was giving some travel tips to a friend from the US and told him to like get away from the touristy areas. Like he says, the majority of us tourists do Dublin ,Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway. And he says, I'm not knocking those places, they're great, but they're so much more <laugh>. And I'm laughing because that's what I did. I went to Dublin, I went to Giants Causeway, I was gonna go to Cliffs of Moher. I mean I think that those places are so popular because they're so stunning and um, I definitely still wanna go to Cliffs of Moher but I also agree about getting off the beaten path. 


Kristin:    00:22:11    And so he says he arranged a tour for one of his friends in the county of Cork, which was supposed to be one day turned into three. And then he says, as typical Irish things happen, the first night we got invited to a village meal where a different American man and his wife were visiting and they had lived in Ireland for a good while, but then had to return to the US and as soon as he found out, my friend was also from the US and an ex-serviceman, we ended up with a meal and a sing song after a day of mountains, coastlines, castles, ruins and hill forts from 4,500 bc. The second night we ended up in a lock-in at the local pub until 3:00 AM and his last unplanned day with us was spent recovering, having a huge Sunday roast with family. It's been about six years since his trip and he wants me to come back again.  


Kristin:    00:23:08    The best part was he said it was better than the other touristy places he went to by miles. I would advise anyone to travel to different places than the usual. If you want to see what Ireland is like outside of the tourist traps, um, by all means do the touristy things too, but don't make that the only part of your visit. I think that's a really cool story. I love how, how this experience just things were very spontaneous. I think we can all relate to that. Like when you think back on your best travel memories, it might not have been taking a photo at the leaning tower of pizza or I don't know, being at the Tower of London. Like it's probably just some moment like that where you met someone in a pub or you got off the beaten path and did something that you weren't planning and weren't expecting.  


Kristin:    00:24:01    Like I still remember my first time having gin and tonics, which was at a bar in Rome with some other girls that um, were in my tour group and just like running amok through Rome. And, and here are these people like meeting each other and singing toge singing songs together, drinking Guinness and just eating a Sunday dinner. I mean, that's life in a nutshell, right? That's just like the little things of life that are so fun and so memorable that six years later he's telling that story here in the YouTube comments. And I think that just also shows the importance of stories both travel and stories together. And I think that's part of the reason that we travel is to create our own story and to see where the story leads us. Sometimes it leads you to a flat tire <laugh> on a dirt road surrounded by sheep, but other times it leads you to a day exploring castles and ruins and then ending it with a really good meal and a beer.  


Kristin:    00:25:12    So I love that. I really felt like I was there in the pub with them. And I could also relate because a random guy on the street in, um, Belfast who I talked to who also wouldn't be in my Belfast video, he invited me to one of those pubs where they sing the local songs and anyone can go in and sing, play live music, like whatever instruments you just bring it with you. And that was a really great experience. So I can definitely get like a visual, uh, picture of what they must have experienced there. Oh, Elaine is here, Elaine's Brennan, she says, I love your podcast. I'm from Dublin, recently immigrated. And what I will say in regards to mental health is that work instability and the insecurity created from not owning a home creates a lot of anxiety among people in Ireland in their twenties and thirties.  


Kristin:    00:26:08    Some people opt for antidepressants rather than going to face-to-face therapy as it's much more affordable. So it could be 10 euro per month for a supply of antidepressant pills versus 40 to 70 euro for an hourly session. Uh, there can also be really long waiting lists to see specialists and their health system. And so this is also contributing to that. She says, I do think Irish people have become more aware of their mental health in recent years as before there was a huge stigma attached to it, it maybe 50 or 60 years ago. And, and people are now more willing to discuss what they're going through in their communities. She says people like to hear someone listen to them telling their own story, which I think you do beautifully here. I really hope you enjoy the rest of your stay and keep us laughing with your many interesting tales of travel.  


Kristin:    00:27:02    Thank you so much, Elaine. I'm so happy to hear that you listened to the podcast and you love the YouTube videos as well. Thanks for sharing more of those insights into the mental health situation in Ireland. It, it must be worse in places like the US where pharmaceuticals are more expensive as well as therapists, but you can take advantage of those mental health resources for people who are from Ireland, uh, that I link to in the video. And then, um, in the US most people have to go through their insurance, but there's also sites like Better in the US where you can get, um, online therapy. It seems that as she mentions, the weather can also contribute to that. Um, I know that being from Florida and being used to all of the sunshine, I really can tell the difference when I go to places that have a different climate.  


Kristin:    00:28:02    But something that helps me so much and that I, I think I would go crazy without it is exercise. Um, if you saw my packing video, you know that I travel with my yoga mat with ankle weights and also with hand weights, and that is like 12 to 15 pounds <laugh> worth of stuff. But it helps my mental and physical health so much to be able to exercise wherever I am in a hotel, in a Airbnb, hop on a bike, walk around places. And so also, uh, remember to get your steps in, get your exercise in, do some yoga, meditation, stretching, because our mental and physical health are so intertwined. Of course I'm not a medical professional, but that's, um, what I felt in my personal experience that even skipping a week or so of exercise, I really start to feel it mentally. I'll also link to my podcast episode on burnout in case, uh, that would be helpful for you to listen to as well.  


Kristin:    00:29:08    One comment that went down, and I, and I don't know the answer to this, I should probably Google it, is that, uh, a lady who loves cake commented that she learned when she visited Ireland that if a pub has flowers hanging outside, it means they serve food and drinks, but if there's no hanging flowers, the pub only serves drinks. And I was like, what? I had no idea. And then a bunch of other people commented like, that's not true <laugh>. So is it, is it true? Is it not true? Uh, yeah, I can't find anything about that online, so it's probably not true. Nariva says the quality of the food is definitely one of her favorite things too. Perhaps easier to appreciate on a budget somewhere cheaper like Cork. And she says that she lives over the water in Liverpool but has family and friends in Ireland and thinks that the mental health stuff might be related to a mixture of cost of living and needing to leave the country for opportunities and work.  


Kristin:    00:30:09    Uh, she says it sort of breaks families apart, which is a tough thing to deal with. And also it's the same over in the UK for buses. They only stop if you flag them down. Good to know. It must have been when I was in the UK that there were multiple people at the bus stop and so somebody flagged them down and I just didn't notice. KSC commented that Dublin has become the European Silicon Valley and that major banks and investment companies are relocating to Dublin after Brexit. Employees of these companies needing accommodation has pushed up the rental and housing prices. Yep, very true. I just did a video on the cost of living in Dublin as well that I can link in the show notes. And I found that in my research that there was a very distinct change when legislation opened up to begin attracting international companies.  


Kristin:    00:31:07    And this has brought in a lot of people looking for housing. This second half adventure agrees that they found the prices in Dublin to be on par with those in a major city in the US They say we live near Chicago and the prices in Dublin didn't surprise us. That being said, yes, the prices outside of Dublin in Athlone, Galloway, Letterkenny in the smaller towns were lower. And Maurice, who grew up in Enniskerry where the Powerscourt House & Gardens are, uh, says he was quite used to the names of towns like Scalp and Stepaside in Goats Town. He says Glenamuck is between Stepaside and The Scalp, it means the Valley of the Pigs like Glenageary, the valley of the sheep, what could be more ordinary. He says, well done on a very presented and informative video. Thank you, Maurice, for the comment.  


Kristin:    00:32:03    And if you need to send money in a different currency or to a different country, then check out Wise, which is one app for 50 currencies in 175 countries, the fastest and most affordable way that I have found to send money around the world. I just sent money to my gardener in Nicaragua to clean my lot there and put up a fence. I sent money over to the UK through Wise to pay for my rent and I've been using it for like 11 years now, 10 or 11 years. So if you don't have an account there yet, then I will link to it at the top of the show notes and you can save up to nine times the normal amount when sending money abroad. They also have good foreign exchange rates as well and low ATM fees. You can open both a personal or a business account and you can find out more at or by using our link in the show notes.  


Kristin:    00:33:07    And remember, you have until Friday to leave a review and enter to win the $100 gift card from Unbound Merino Wool. But even if you've already left a review before, you can also leave another one. I was actually listening to a sleep podcast the other night because I was jet-lagged and I couldn't sleep. And the host was mentioning that she had a listener who left her four reviews in one year. I think it was a kid about all different things that he liked about the podcast and so I thought that was really sweet and I didn't even think about it. But I guess you can, uh, leave more than one review for a podcast. I think I've actually reviewed some twice as well. So we definitely welcome new and repeat reviewers alike. So thank you so much and see you again next week. 


Kristin WilsonProfile Photo

Kristin Wilson

Host of Badass Digital Nomads & YouTube's Traveling with Kristin / Author of Digital Nomads for Dummies

Kristin Wilson is a long-term digital nomad and location-independent entrepreneur who has lived and worked across 60 countries in 20 years. Since founding a fully-remote, international relocation company in 2011, she has helped more than 1,000 people retire or live abroad in 35 countries. Today, she helps aspiring remote workers, digital nomads, and expats achieve their lifestyle goals through her YouTube channel (Traveling with Kristin) and podcast, Badass Digital Nomads.
Kristin is the author of Digital Nomads for Dummies. She's also a Top Writer on Medium and Quora in the topics of business, travel, technology, life, productivity, digital nomads, and location independence. She has been featured on The Today Show, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, ESPN, The New York Times, WSJ, Huffpost, HGTV’s House Hunters International, and more.