Photo by Ella Orchard-Blowen

Galway Girl’s top culture shock moments in Ireland

Ella Orchard-Blowen




When traveling to a foreign country on a completely different continent, there are going to be moments of culture shock where it hits you all at once that you’re not at home anymore. It’s a real phenomenon that many travelers experience when staying in a brand-new place, especially for an extended amount of time. Despite only being here for a little while I’ve had my fair share of culture shock moments here in Ireland. There were things I was expecting to be shocked by, the accent, and food, but there were still plenty of things that have truly shocked me. 

Things being completely backward

I knew that when I got to Ireland the traffic would be on the opposite side of the road, but I was still shocked when I saw cars on the left side for the first time. The traffic here also shocked me, as the roads in Galway are constantly packed with cars. I am used to seeing traffic in busy cities, but the traffic here is on a completely different level. 

Speed limit signs on the roads are all in kilometers, instead of miles. My weather app still tells me the temperature in Fahrenheit but when discussing the temperature with the locals, they use Celsius.  It’s funny how the rest of the world seems to do things the same way, but the United States likes to be all “different” and “special.” 

Pub Culture

The pub scene in Ireland is very different from the party/bar scene in America. Most pubs have tables where you can sit down and have a full meal—however, most kitchens in pubs close by 9 pm, which is relatively early on a night out. 

In general, there is a lot of sitting and chatting in pubs. Some people dance, but most people are content sipping their beer and talking to their friends. Most pubs have live music on the weekends, as opposed to a DJ setup blasting Rihanna. 

Style of classes

During my time at Plymouth, all of my classes have been small, personal, and very discussion-based. My biggest class probably had 20-something students and I got to know my professors extremely well. However in Ireland, at the University of Galway, most of my classes are lecture style. 

It’s jarring to be sitting in a huge room, listening to your professor lecture on, as you frantically attempt to write down everything they say. I do not prefer lecture-style classes, but luckily I do enjoy my classes and the things I’m learning in them. 


There are so many shops and malls in Galway with plenty of places to go to get groceries, linens, clothes, and everything else. However, one shocking thing about these shops is that they all seem to close at 6 pm every day, with a few exceptions, and open much later on the weekends, around 8-9 am. I was used to shops being open until around 9-10 back home, so it was quite shocking to find that most shops close during dinner time. Also, most of the grocery stores here don’t have the same huge selection of foods as the stores back home. There is a very limited amount of cereal, candy, and chips (they call them crisps) here. The food also has less sugar, however it still tastes just as good. 

No iced coffee

I will admit that I’m a basic white girl, a New Englander, and I love my daily iced coffee. I had gotten so used to being able to have some every morning, made from my Keurig. When I arrived in Ireland, I desperately searched the grocery stores for any form of iced coffee there possibly could be. There were barely any options, with my only find being a container of cold brew which I reluctantly bought. I found a shop around my university that sells iced coffee, but I also knew it wasn’t realistic for me to buy iced coffee every single day. I made the executive decision to buy a reusable cup along with an ice cube tray. My apartment had a water kettle in it already, and I bought some instant coffee packets. So now I can make my own iced coffee once again. 

Culture shock is a very normal, typical part of studying abroad, or just being in a completely foreign country. It’s also a fun way to bond with the people around you, to talk about your favorite culture shock moments.