After living in Dublin for just a month, I don’t claim to have the full measure of either the city or country. But I am starting to form some solid opinions about things. Here’s a list of the top five things that grate on me after a month of expatriate living in The Republic of Ireland.
Number Five: The Cat Litter
As with last week’s post, those of you without cats won’t get this. But for anyone who scoops a cat box with even semi-regularity, the choice of litter in Ireland is maddening. They have plenty of the stuff. They even have litter that purports to be scoopable. But, run your scoop under it with anything approaching actual movement, and said ball breaks apart and scatters to the wind. What to do?
Upon questioning numerous shopkeepers about this, I was met with noncommittal shrugs, and a general vibe of “Well that’s just how it is here” attitude (said attitude contributing nicely to disgruntlement #1 below).
I even had one shopkeeper tell me that the stuff I’d purchased clumps well when the cat has “gone#2”, but not for “#1”.
Number Four: Separate Hot & Cold Water Taps
Over the years I have occasionally run across some old farmhouse, or other venerable institution, with plumbing that dates back to Moses and invariably includes separate hot & cold taps. And, quaint as this may be, every single time I’ve encountered this my reaction has been the same.
WTF were they thinking? We’ve put men on the moon. We’ve got a polio vaccine. We’ve found a way for Taco Bell and Pizza Hut to exist in the same building. Surely the radical luddite building owner responsible for this monument to inefficiency realizes that we can run hot and cold together and get warm water without resorting to some Ebola-coated rubber stopper.
But you find these dual tap faucets in apartments, homes, and businesses all across Ireland. You may even find dual taps in homes that have the normal (intermixed water) taps. This can only mean that someone made the decision to use the merged waterline taps for one application, and then consciously made the decision to install dual taps in another place to lie in wait for some poor unobservant soul to come along, blithely turn on one of the taps, and alternately freeze or scald themselves. But that’s not the worst of it.
The worst part of this is that you’ll also find some modern houses with high style, top of the line dual taps. This means that not only are they still in use here, but some sick bastard is hard at work designing new ones to meet the latest design fads.
When you ask the Irish about it, they agree it’s backwards assed, and not very good. But it’s what we’ve got. (Again, see #1 below)
Number Three: Bad Sausage
I may live in Dublin, but at heart I’m from the American South. I like my sausage. So when it became clear to me that we were moving to Dublin, I thought, “They have Irish Breakfast there, don’t they? And that has lots of sausage in it. Me thinks, I’ll like this move, or least be able to cope.”
Then, in May, when we came to find a place to live, I had some Irish sausage. Actually, I had quite a bit of it. And it was (and remains to this day) relentlessly bland and unseasoned.
Is it too much to ask for a little cumin, or even some garlic? Nope. Nada. Nothin’.
I spoke with a sausage vendor at one of the local farmer’s markets and he told me proudly that they make their sausage with only the finest pork, and oats.
“Really”, I inquired. “You mean, pork, oats, and spices, right?” The response was “Yeah, sometimes we use a little spice, but mainly it’s just pork and oats.”
It might be a bit bland, but it’s our way.
Argh. (See #1 below)
Number Two: Atrocious Bus Service
Another thing I looked forward to when moving to Dublin was access to good public transportation. It’s Europe. It must be good, right? Not so. Don’t get me wrong, Dublin mass transit is better than most of the United States, but it falls well short of the rest of Europe.
Some parts of the Dublin mass transit system are very good. The LUAS (light rail) ROCKS. The Dart, while old and rickety seems fairly well organized, except that their station maps are a nightmare of incomprehensibility (in the Mercator versus Peters Projection sense). Yet map issues are just the tip of the iceberg for the bus system.
Dublin buses are terrific when they come. While smart card readers on busses are nice, is it too much to ask that the route schedules and maps posted at bus stops actually correspond to the bus lines that stop at that shelter? And once you’ve tackled that problem, perhaps you could attempt to hang the maps right side up.
Again, this is just accepted, tolerated, and assumed by the locals.
Number One: Institutionalized Disorganization & Shameless Lack of Accountability –The Irish Goat Rodeo
The thing that grates most about living in The Republic of Ireland (particularly in Dublin because it has so many more ways to express itself in the city) is the laid back Irish way of just accepting poorly designed, executed, and delivered goods and services at all levels of life.
On one hand, there is a nice easygoing way about the Irish. They are all very nice and extremely relaxed. But they’ve got such a casual outlook on life that they seem to have stopped expecting things to be done well, or, in some cases, at all.
You kind of expect this attitude from governments the world over. But in Ireland everyone expects to have to ask landlords/banks/public offices two or even three times to get anything done. Even if someone tells you to your face that they’ll take care of something, you MUST follow up because it’s likely they will “forget” to do it. This is accepted practice here. The attitude seems to be, “It’s okay. They’ll get to it eventually.”
Yes, the Irish are all very relaxed. But they also don’t seem to excel at anything, or care about doing so. It’s a relaxed attitude that’s not exactly laziness, but a kind of contentment born of sucking economic and social hind tit for decades. They don’t expect better of themselves, and as a consequence aren’t surprised when that’s what the world hands them. And then that’s how they themselves treat the next person.
There’s no reward for excellence, so why bother going the extra mile?
One apologist I spoke with explained it like this:
“It’s all very well to have a plan (and goals). But plans often go awry. So the Irish would rather be flexible than focused and driven. It’s better to have nothing planned and be adaptable than disappointed when your plan doesn’t work out.”
For a moment I was caught up in the bald-faced hippy dippy live and let live laid back way of this. And then I realized, that’s how NOTHING gets done.
And that’s why the delivery of most services in Ireland function in a manner kindly referred to by military personnel the world over as a complete “goat rodeo”.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
- 5 Things I Love About Dublin/Ireland
- The Logistics of International Moving
- USDA Insanity