Same Difference… or Not!

Sometimes people from the United States ask what the biggest differences are for us here in Ireland. In many ways, our lives look much the same as they did before we moved here. But there are certainly a few differences…

Where we live:


Our house is a 4-bedroom, 2-bath home. It’s on the larger side in comparison to some Irish homes, but certainly nothing that would be considered extravagant. We’re in an estate (subdivision) that is about 40 years old, and there are plenty of houses that look very similar to ours. No thatch-roof (bummer).

What’s different for us coming from Texas is that the house has a boiler and we have to fill an oil tank a few times a year in order to have heat. We have “central heating” which means the boiler heats water for all of the radiators (one in each room).

What and how we drive:

Our car is a 2004 Citroën Picasso Xsara. Again, not fancy, but roomy enough that it can seat five adults comfortably.

right-hand carWhat’s different for us is that the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car. The gear shift is in the middle so you shift with your left hand. That took some getting used to for this right-handed chick. As my friend Carrie put it, my left hand basically exists for the sake of symmetry.

We drive on the left side of the road… something else that was an adjustment. Our friends Peter and Esther gave us the best advice when we first moved here:  Remember that the driver is always closest to the middle of road. That handy rule works in the States, too.

Another difference: Signs here are posted in kilometers instead of miles. The higher numbers trick you into thinking you’re going faster than you really are. 

Where we shop:

american cornbreadThere are no Walmarts, Targets or 24-hour stores in our town. The lack of 24-hour stores, particularly the pharmacy, was a surprise for me. If the grocery store doesn’t have the medicine you need and it’s after 8 p.m. you have to wait until the pharmacy opens then next day. The grocery store we tend to shop at, Tesco, looks like a modern but not-too-huge grocery store in the States… like a Kroger’s or HEB before the advent of HEB-Plus. It has pretty much everything we need (fresh produce, frozen foods, canned goods, bakery, butcher, dry goods, etc.) I did visit the local Asian/African grocery store to buy cornmeal to make cornbread at Thanksgiving because our regular store didn’t carry it. And as you can see from this picture, what the Irish consider cornbread… isn’t. 

The biggest difference at the grocery store is that there are way fewer options on many things. If you want to buy kernel popcorn, they have one kind. There are exceptions,  of course, one of them being tea. Which brings me to the next difference…

What we eat and drink:

Brian and I have become tea converts. We still have coffee every morning, but throughout the day we drink hot tea with a drop of milk. I actually missed my tea when I was visiting Texas earlier this month. It’s surprisingly comforting.

Yes, potatoes are a staple. Pretty much any meal you order out will come with mash (mash potatoes) or chips (French fries), or sometimes roasted potatoes. And would you believe that Jacob doesn’t like potatoes?

The Irish don’t typically like spicy foods, so Mexican and Italian food aren’t the norm. I brought back some spices to make those foods at home. To Jacob’s dismay, Kraft Mac-n-Cheese (or any brand for that matter) isn’t available. I’ve learned to make a lot of foods from scratch because the mixes are either not available or cost more than I’m willing to spend. For example, I found a fantastic brownie recipe that costs less than half than the mix. On the downside, it takes longer to cook from scratch than to open a can or box, but on the upside, I know exactly what we’re eating and the food is healthier.

We eat at home much more frequently than we did in the States, primarily because eating out (like most things) is more expensive here. Cooking at home is an easy way to save money.

BlackpuddingChubbBrian has also acquired a taste for the black and white puddings. Yes, this s blood pudding or blood sausage. It actually tastes better than it sounds and isn’t a pudding consistency at all. I cook it in a pan the same way you’d cook Jimmy Dean sausage and I try to pretend that’s what it is.

Oh, and the butter here is lovely. They say it’s because all the rain keeps the cows in supply of green grass.

There are loads of other differences, but I’ll close for now with this list of common vocabulary words we had to learn.

Irish American
Biscuit Cookie (generally store-bought)
Scone Biscuit (sometimes with raisins or other fruit in it)
Bacon Ham (sliced, like Canadian bacon)
Rashers Bacon
Clotted Cream Very thick cream (closer to the consistency of sweetened condensed milk but only barely sweetened)
Chips French Fries
Crisps Chips (potato, usually salt and vinegar or cheese and onion)
Cream Crackers Unsalted Saltines
Lift Ride (“ride” here carries an inappropriate innuendo)
Rubbers Erasers
Torch Flashlight
Jumper Sweater
Garden Yard
Footpath Sidewalk
Cot Crib
Camp bed Cot (e.g., camping)
Nappy Diaper
Biro Pen
Nought Zero
Boots Cleats (as in soccer shoes)
Boot Trunk of a car
Bonnet Hood of a car
Wind Screen Windshield
Head Lamps Headlights
Town Centre Downtown

2 thoughts on “Same Difference… or Not!

  1. Emily

    Great explanation of what life is like! I enjoy reading about the similarities and differences you encounter… I would never be able to drive a lefty stick shift, but mostly because I can’t drive it right-handed, either!

    1. Shelley Smith

      Sounds like alot of adjustments but, what an experience! Sounds as if Hacob is quite the trooper…no Kraft Mac N Cheese!!! That would break any young mans heart!
      Thank you both so much for your blogs. .its wonderful to hear from you!
      Brian, dont think I could ever accept “blood pudding” lol
      Happy to hear your still enjoying a good cup cup of coffee in the am 😉
      Always in my prayers friends,
      Shelley 🙂


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