Sunday, June 19, 2011

Penny and Courtney Present: The Novelties of Athlone

  • The free phone number here is 08000, said Oh-Eight-Thousand. At home we call 0800, said Oh-Eight-Hundred. So it’s similar enough to home, but that’s what makes it stand out.
  • At home we have boxes of miniature chocolate bars called Cadbury Favourites. Here, the same box is called Cadbury Heroes. That’s not the best bit – one of the choices inside is a tiny bar-shaped Cadbury Crème Egg. It’s so obviously the best idea Cadbury has ever had. Come on New Zealand, catch up!
  • Streets Ice cream is called HB. It’s really weird to see the Streets logo, which is really recognizable and the second biggest Ice Cream brand at home, but with HB under it. HB stands for Hazelbrook Farms, which is cute, but wrong. It’s Streets, people!
  • In the pub, they have glasses and a jug of water free for anyone to help themselves. This is normal. What’s not normal is the bottles of flavor next to them. It’s cordial, like Thrifty or Ribena at home, but it’s in Olive Oil bottles, you know with the thin spout? I should have figured it out for myself but I didn’t get what the flavours were and if you were supposed to add a splash or full flavour or what. I’ve just never seen it done before.
  • Every call is a toll call. Same as when I lived in Australia, but I never thought about it here. At home, all local calls are included in your monthly fee for having a phone line. If you call out of your wider region, it costs extra. Here, all calls cost money no matter what. It seems backwards.
  • Irish people call winter ‘summer’ – OK so that’s my attempt at a joke but seriously, this is not summer. At home we have fairly mild summers; it’s not as crazy as Australia or the US. A warm summer’s day might hit 27 degrees Celsius if you’re lucky. In Ireland, we were sitting around 11 max. All the rain makes for a beautiful countryside, but the cold was well outside my expectations.
  • The tour guides mention hay making as if it’s a novelty. I don’t know who it’s aimed at, which country doesn’t make hay, but us Kiwis see hay bales and think ‘Oh look a hay bale’. Apparently not everyone does.
  • Speaking of Tour Guides, they think Alpacas are some crazy exciting animal worthy of a zoo. Our Tour Guide in Galway stopped the bus to explain that we were about to come up to a field of an animal you would only see in Dublin Zoo, something bizarre looking, that you would never expect to see in a field. I’m thinking what the hell is it, are there Lions just sat there behind a fence? Nope, Alpacas. Very cute Alpacas, but just Alpacas.
  • They have Wi-Fi on buses. Is this a worldwide thing? I know NZ is well behind the times in terms of technology, but for us, Wi-Fi on buses is exciting. Who would have thought, Wi-Fi on a bus?!
  • Being told to “Mind yourself” is a good thing. If I told someone at home to mind themselves, they’d turn around and ask me what the hell for. It’s like our Mum’s telling us to mind our manners when we were young – if an adult told us that now we’d think they were out of line. We’re fully grown adults, we can figure these things out for ourselves thank you very much. Here, everyone says it. When you leave a shop, the friendly shopkeeper tells you to mind yourself. When you leave a taxi, you tell the driver to mind himself. It’s more like wishing someone safe journeys.
  • Castles are as common as houses. I tripped out on all the old stuff in Ireland when we first arrived. After our tours throughout the week, I’m all castled out. Every few minutes there’s a ruin or a castle. I thought they were for Kings and Queens but no. Think you’re important? Build a castle.
  • Irish people say ‘like’ in the wrong place in a sentence. The word ‘like’ is ridiculed as a sign of low intelligence sometimes. Reality TV stars use it every second word. I use it all the time myself, as do lots of people I know. It’s a buffer word, a nothing word that fills a gap in a sentence where an ‘um’ might usually go – “They were, like, getting ready to go out”. Here, it’s at the end – “They were getting ready to go out, like”.
  • Chips (Fries) are a vehicle for flavour. In New Zealand, we have chips with tomato sauce. Maybe with salt and vinegar if we’re daring. Here, chips are like crackers or bread – something to put other, more exciting things on. Cheese, curry sauce, mince, garlic sauce, bacon, chilli – you name it, it can go on chips. Best idea ever.
  • No one drinks at home. Irish people think house parties – where you invite your friends over to chat and drink and play music and drink and dance – are weird. At home, most drinking is done at home. If you’re going out, you have ‘pre-drinks’ where you get ready and chill out and get a few drinks in you because everyone knows once they’re out on the town the drinks will be that much more expensive. When you run out of money or time, you might even go back to a friend’s house for ‘after-drinks’. Often, there’s no need to go out at all, because the party’s at your place. Here, you meet at the pub, drink at the pub, and go home when you’re done. Apparently it’s a novelty that because of the recession, people are starting to buy wine at the supermarket and drink at home.
  • There are hair straighteners in the toilets at pubs. Why you would need to straighten your hair when you’re already out I don’t know, but that’s just me, because I know a lot of girls who would love this idea.
  • Laundries are in the kitchen. I don’t know if it’s just older houses, I think it is, but apparently it’s not as weird as I think it is to have the clothes Washing Machine next to the sink, under the bench. Right by the oven and the fridge. Laundry rooms are a new fandangled thing put in new fandangled houses.
  • At home, Irish pubs use a particular font, an Irish looking font. Don’t ask me why it’s Irish looking; I think it’s supposed to look Celtic or something. But in Ireland, they use it too. For pubs, shops, whatever. When I pointed it out to Joanie, she had never noticed before.

So obviously this list is 100% tongue in cheek. It’s funny the things we find weird in a new country, things that are completely normal to its residents. What have you found novel or bizarre on your travels?

Penelope_nz's Athlone photoset Penelope_nz's Athlone photoset