Northern Ireland Through the Eyes of a Newcomer

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It has been a blessing to have Heather Trojahn with us for the past few weeks.  She has already been a real blessing.  Below is a post that she wrote about some of her cultural insights from living in Northern Ireland.  As you can tell, she is learning fast and doing a great job.

Quite often I tell my mom all the things that I’ve found to be different about living in Northern Ireland. She said that I should write a post about some of those things. So if you enjoy this, thank her. I love you mom!

There is no way I could write about ALL of the little things I’ve noticed since moving here. It is a completely different culture, so it would take books to write about everything. I must admit, that out of all the countries I’ve been to, Northern Ireland would be the most like the States. However, because a lot of things are similar, I feel like I have to work a little harder at noticing the differences. Most of the things that I’m writing about today, are just little things that make me smile.

Stroke City

Derry has a long history of being divided. There are many political and even paramilitary groups. The two main groups would be- 1) those that want to be united with Ireland and don’t want to have anything to do with the UK (the catholic side, or cityside) and 2) those that want to be part of the UK or at least don’t care any more (mostly protestants, or waterside and a lot of catholics now too). The fighting and violence reached it height in the 60′s and 70′s, however there are still harsh sentiments shared between the two sides even though little action is ever taken.

To make thing a bit more divided, the city is divided by a river. On one side live mostly Catholics (cityside) and on the other side live mostly Protestants (waterside). Many of the road signs for the city have been vandalized and the “London” part of Londonderry has been marked out. One side wants to have nothing to do with London, so they just call it Derry. The other side wants to be associated with England so they call it Londonderry. So, just as any good government does these days, the government decided to be politically correct and separated both names by a stroke (/), and wrote all the signs as “Derry/Londonderry.”  I’m not sure if that really made anyone happy, but people here joke around and say that they live in Stroke City.

Tea!!! and other yummy things…

They LOVE tea here. I feel like when they’re not drinking it, they’re talking about when or how they will get their next cup. It is served with every meal and then quite often in between. It is actually a catching habit.

Tons of tea!

I’m enjoying the tea here too. It does rain a lot and there’s nothing like a cup of tea to warm you up! Tea is also a great way to witness to people. If you offer someone tea, they are unlikely to refuse. They also like to sit down and chat about everything while drinking it. People strongly believe in taking time to enjoy tea. Even at the Starbucks here, the hot drinks come in real mugs. That’s just how they like it!

Biscuits (cookies) and margarine are huge here. I have never seen more cookies in my life! They are generally eaten with tea. Since there is always tea, there are biscuits EVERYWHERE! Margarine is used for scones (like american biscuits), toast, pancakes, and any sandwich (instead of mayo). I walked into the shop and noticed that there was a small section of real butter and a whole aisle of margarine!

Chips. Not potato chips, but more like steak fries. They are probably one of the top three most consumed product here (along with biscuits and tea). Chips are eaten with everything. Pizza, chicken curry, spaghetti, fish (duh!), or just alone. Yeah, I think Northern Ireland must be a picky eaters paradise!

English. It’s not all the same…

They use different words here. Some stuck right away, and others I still struggle to remember. Here’s just a few: Say trousers, not pants. Pants are underwear. Say shop, not store. A store is where you store things (yeah, we’re confused in the States). Say bin, not trash can. Say rubbish, not trash. Say creche, not nursery. Nursery is preschool. It’s red sauce, not ketchup, and brown bread, not wheat bread. Chips, not french fries, and crisps, not chips. I could go on for a lot longer, but I’ll spare you. Words like gorgeous and beautiful are used to describe food. The word “craic” (sounds like crack) is used in a great many ways. Such as “It was good craic” meaning “I had a great time” or “What’s the craic?” meaning “What’s going on?”.  The word “wee” is used VERY often. I went to the doctor today and I was asked to fill out a “wee form” and then take a “wee seat”. I don’t think I’ve heard the word “little” since I’ve been here. “Aye” is also constantly used instead of “yes”. I need to work on saying “aye” and “wee” more.

What culture doesn’t give

So much of the culture here is friendly and unique. Harmless. However, people here (just like people in the States) think that they are good. They’re friendly, involved in the community, most even go to church on a regular basis. None of those very good things can get them to heaven though. Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us”. Please continue to pray for Northern Ireland!

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