Thinking of completing a J1 this year?
Every summer our nation’s educated make the pilgrimage across the pond to the land of dreams, and all the Mammies breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of a clean house for a few weeks. The run up to the departure from this green isle is filled with running around like a blue arsed fly; you have DS-160’s and Visa application forms coming out of your ears. When you finally make it past customs and on to the plane for the long arduous flight you feel smug, satisfied at having got yourself this far. As you drift off into a Xanax-induced slumber, you picture scenes of raucous nights spent in bars with your friends and new American chums. You don’t anticipate whether there will be any culture shocks or misunderstandings between you and your new Yank neighbours. I mean, they speak English, they’re basically the same as us, right? WRONG.
1. They expect tips. I’m guessing that unless you live under a rock, you probably already knew that. But you don’t realise how compulsory this is when you’re on the wrong end of a scorned waitress. You have two options; you can either download a Tip calculator on your phone (or mentally divide, subtract, multiply, I don’t even know) or you can limit yourself to one visit per establishment throughout your whole 60 days there. Beware though, news of your stinginess will spread throughout the city like wild fire and you will be rejected from every club, bar, and restaurant within state lines. ‘Stingy Irish person alert! Barricade the doors!’ is what they will say. True story.
2. They are quite attuned to the aul “fake ID”. Seriously lads, this is the land that’s home to the CIA and Area 51, they can spot a dingy ID a mile off. If you want to be guaranteed entry to bars and clubs 90% of the time, my advice is to part with a moderate sum of money lest you prefer to stay at home and watch The Real Housewives in misery. Don’t give anyone your passport (what are you, a fool?) to do a ‘home job’. And if you do, expect it to be an undercover operation involving white vans, knives and dodgy neighbourhoods.
3. They love cheese. No, they really LOVE cheese and not in the same way we love potatoes. They eat it on everything and insist you do too, even on things that don’t call for it. “I’d like a T-bone steak please,” says you. “Would you like cheese on that ma’am? We have Jack, Monterey, Provolone, American, Cheddar, cheese made from sacred goats high up in the Himalayas…” “Wh..What? On a steak?,” you ask. You swear the last time you asked for a black coffee the waiter mumbled something about parmesan but you couldn’t hear over all the CHEESE.
4. They abuse words and phrases in a despicable manner and it will make you want to stick pins in your eyes. Nonsensical things like “I can’t hardly wait” (you can wait or you can’t?) “would you like to wait on a table?” (eh, no I’d rather not sit on a table, bit unhygienic no? Thank you though) and “I’m good for a drink” (when are you ever bad for a drink?) are offered in abundance. The only option is to wear ear muffs. Seriously, that’s all.
5. Taxi drivers have no idea where they’re going, not even a little bit. To be fair, taxi drivers in Ireland aren’t that well versed in directions either, but at least they’ll distract you with conversational banter while they go round in circles, sweating profusely. In the States, if you don’t know the junction or name of the street, you ain’t going nowhere. You can’t just say “take me to McDonalds!” because they won’t know where it is. But if you say “take me to Forty Second Street and Fifty Sixth”, they will know exactly where it is you want to go. Basically, if you’re not a Garmin you may as well get out of the car because they won’t even drive.
6. They are big fans of impromptu photo shoots. As Irish people, we are notoriously self- conscious. When someone who is taking a photo shouts ‘SAY CHEESE!!’ it is a universality that we want to throttle them. Just get it done for God’s sake, and don’t even think of putting that up on Facebook. Well, Americans are different. If they’re walking down the street and the mood for a photo shoot overcomes them, they won’t wait until they’re out of public view. Instead, they’ll whip out their tripod and commence snap-snapping their photographic object -in plain view of everyone. And I’m not talking discreet, sultry photos – I’m talking about wrapping your leg around a tree and giving ‘sex faces’. They have no shame, and why should they? They are the land of cheese in a tin.
If you’re American and reading this, tell us what you know to be true about Irish people in the comments below. Go on, set us straight! Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on….
Disclaimer: I love Americans, really. You have Beyoncé AND Thanksgiving.
If you still want to take the plunge and go Stateside, you can get more information on J1’s here:
This post first appeared here)