We are enjoying our new surroundings in Ireland....well for the most part. One thing that travel teaches you is how different things can be in other countries and cultures and how some of those things are wonderful, some are strange, some are difficult to understand and some are just difficult. So what we are going to do this week is list some of the things that we have noticed are different over here in Ireland. These are in no particular order and are not meant to be positive or negative, just some observations.
Licence plates - weird one to start off with but I think it is kind of cool. You buy licence plates for a vehicle if you buy it new and that plate stays with the vehicle until it is in the boneyard. The cool thing for me is that the first two digits of the licence plate is the year the vehicle was new, the model year. So when you are driving around you can tell the model year of the cars. So you can see from our plate that our car is a 2014 model and the 2 after the 14 means it was registered from July to December of that year. The little words at the top are the county/city in which the vehicle was registered, in gaelic, and the letter in the middle is the county/city of registration, for our car Dublin. The last five letters is your licence number.
Gas Pumps - the local station where I fill up our car looks like any other gas station I suppose with lots of pumps, a car wash and a convenience store. You can't pay at the pump however. When you pick up the nozzle to fill up, it automatically starts and resets and you fill up. Then you go inside and pay and at every pump there is regular petrol and also diesel. I would guess 60 to 70% of the cars here are diesel. Ours is too.
Food package sizes - we often joke that everything in Ireland is small and when it comes to buying food that is certainly true for most things. There are no Costco sizes over here! It has been difficult for Maurene with her baking as she is not used to buying ingredients in such small sizes but we have made adjustments. It is not just the food. Our washer and dryer are small, we have a tiny fridge and stove and after much searching we did find a corn popper but it too was, you guessed it, small. They like things small here but the people have big hearts!
Cashiers - This makes perfect sense to me but it is something you just don't see at home but is the norm here. The cashiers at the stores or the grocery check out all sit while they are doing their job. There is no problem with that. They are very efficient, just different. I am sure their feet thank them at the end of the day. Oh, and don't go to the grocery store without bringing your own bags or you will be out of luck.
Dairy Products - this isn't anything really different but just great. The dairy products here are just outstanding. Anything made with milk is so good and also inexpensive. This includes milk, cheese, sour cream, yoghurt, milk chocolate, mmmmmmm! Just the best!
House Names - Most of the older homes here in Limerick have names. There is usually a small plaque by the front door or the front gate that has the name of the house on it. Some of them have some pretty cool names and many of the older ones have names that refer to the countryside where they were located before they were swallowed up by the city.
Traffic Circles - We have traffic circles in Canada but nothing like over here. There are traffic circles everywhere, from small ones in residential areas to huge ones on the highways and motorways. It took a while to get the hang of them, especially since you drive in a clockwise rotation, but once we did I appreciate them for a very efficient way of getting a lot of traffic going in different directions sorted out. You just have to learn the rules and follow them and you are okay, because Irish drivers in general are very polite and accommodating, but don't mess with them in a traffic circle.
Restaurant Payment Machines - When you go out to a restaurant here and are planning on paying with your debit or credit card, make sure you have some cash for a tip. We are accustomed to adding the tip when we pay with the machine, but here the machine gives you no option for adding a tip. We went out for lunch with John Travolta on Saturday. He paid the bill but I had to come up with the tip as he had no cash with him. Actually it was Elder and Sister Winget, a senior missionary couple serving in Tralee. They are such nice people and we went out to eat after a district wide priesthood meeting and fireside with President Donaldson. It was great to have some time with another senior couple and just talk about our callings and share how things are going. It was the best part of the day and the fireside was excellent.
Heating - It isn't terribly cold here in Ireland but some heating is required in the winter as it gets very wet and cool. Central heating is a fairly new concept here and although a lot of homes have it now they still don't leave the heating on for very long and use lots of small space heaters to heat the room that they are in. So it is not unusual to go to someone's house and for it to be very cool inside. I think a lot of it probably has to do with the high cost of any type of fuel here. Also, even newer houses all have fireplaces that they use to help heat their homes in which they burn peat or coal.
Speed Bumps - I always thought home that speed bumps were a pain but only had to put up with them in parking lots. Over here, there are huge speed bumps everywhere, most side streets have them all over the place. They are great believers in speed bumps, even the main roads in the city are not immune to them.
Weeds and Trees on Houses - It rains a lot here so things grow like crazy. On older homes it is not unusual to see weeds or tree like plants growing out of eavestroughs or chimneys. It kind of took us by surprise at first but now doesn't seem all that unusual.
Parking and Narrow Roads - This is an old country so the roads were made well before the advent of the automobile and as a result are very narrow. It is quite the adventure going down some of these narrow streets and trying to get by someone coming the other way without sideswiping them or a parked car. In some of the country roads there isn't enough room for two cars to pass so you have to find somewhere to pull off the road so the other car can get by. And people park everywhere. It is not unusual to park on the sidewalk as there isn't enough room on the road to park. It is much easier to take public transportation downtown than to find a spot to park.
Living in a new place is an adventure and one we are enjoying. The Irish people are very warm and caring and we love their country and like any other country, there are differences. It would be a boring place if we were all the same! Below are some random photos the we have taken around town during this week. I hope you are enjoying our little blog!
This is the blog of Elder Tom and Sister Maurene Wilson of our mission to the Scotland/Ireland Mission.