A Yank in Dublin: Lost in Translation
To an American, Ireland might not seem as foreign as, say, Italy or France, but if you find yourself in the Emerald Isle, I guarantee you’ll find yourself in some funny situations where things get lost in translation during your time abroad.
As a recent graduate, I came to Ireland on a Working Holiday visa (which let’s US students/recent graduates live and work in Ireland for up to 12 months). After a few months, I’d accumulated more than a handful of facepalm moments. Here are a few stories from my time in Ireland before joining the Stint team…
DUDE, GREAT TEA…
Most of what I know about the art of American BBQ, I learned in Dublin — not, as you would expect, from my four years of college in Atlanta, Georgia, where I had devoured mountains of BBQ.
It was at my first job in Ireland, working front-of-house at Pitt Bros BBQ, an American BBQ joint started by two Irish lads who were inspired on one of their trips to South Carolina, where I learned about dry rubs, cookin’ low n’ slow, the different types of sauces and styles, and all that good stuff.
One afternoon, while I was working a shift, a couple of the kitchen staff asked me if I wanted some tea. Barry, another waiter, and I had just finished a two-hour marathon of hustling back and forth between the kitchen and the floor, serving food and drink, left and right. I have a pulled pork bun meal with no bun, no slaw, no sauce — sorry, we don’t have ketchup — with a side of mash…
Cup of tea? Yes, that sounded rather pleasant.
A few minutes later, I was presented with a steaming cuppa.
“What kind of tea is this?” I asked, while taking a sip.
“Oh, eh, It’s Barry’s tea.”
“Really? No way! That’s crazy!” I exclaimed. Amazed, I threw open the kitchen doors with my shoulder, bounding onto the floor, steaming mug of tea in hand.
“Barry! Duuuude.” I waved my arms to get his attention, gesturing at the mug when he looked over. “This is some good tea, man.”
Barry, who was in the middle of sweeping some rogue BBQ meat off the floor, did not seem particularly overjoyed in reaction to my praise, his face absent the beaming smile I expected.
I fumbled for a response. “So, uh, yeah… did you grow this in your backyard or something?”
I was met with a quizzical, single-raised eyebrow.
Awkward. I felt like rewinding myself, having my words slip back from where they came, backtracking into the kitchen, Ace Ventura-style.
Now, the guys in the kitchen must’ve overheard my outburst because they started to crack up. Out of nowhere, they produced a box and placed it on the kitchen counter.
I glanced at the box.
Barry’s Tea, it said.
THE GIBBERISH KITCHEN OBJECT
Pitt Bros had opened to much fanfare and we were dealing with throngs of customers at all hours of the day with nary a break in between. On my first night shift, which also happened to be my first full-day shift, I was scheduled to close up with my supervisor. By the time we ushered the last customer out the door, both my supervisor and I were exhausted. We probably would’ve collapsed if we had to carry one more plate of brisket so we agreed to tackle the closing checklist with speed so we could get out of there.
Things were going smoothly until my supervisor asked me to do some task I didn’t understand. Whatever I heard him say involved lemons, I think, and some other thing that sounded like gibberish.
“Jeffrey, get the [gibberish],” he said again, this time his voice quivering with impatience.
A bit dazed, I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there, trying to clean up that sound clip, mentally. Must’ve been a bad recording. Let’s try again.
“Sorry, man, I have no idea what you’re saying.”
“Get the clingfilm!”
My tired brain woke up for a second, long enough for me to process the word, and I realized he wanted me to get the…
“Oh, you mean the saran wrap! Duh…” I’m not sure if I really smacked myself on the forehead or if that memory was altered in hindsight but it would’ve fit the moment. “That’s makes so much sense now. You want me to wrap the lemons!”
WHAT’S OAR GOT TO DO WITH IT?
“I think that’s an actor from Love/Hate,” my colleague said to me. We’re working the lunch shift and she’d just casually inched over to where I was standing, by the ice cream machine, to give me this news.
I peaked over at the table and spotted this normal looking dude sitting with his friend, both inhaling their pulled pork sandwiches and sides of mac n’ cheese.
“Oh, that’s cool,” I said. “Are you a big fan of the show?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty good. You should check it out. It’s on oar tea,” she said.
“Uh, sorry, what was that again?”
“Oh, ok. That’s a bizarre name for a television channel. Is it because Irish people like tea?” I said, scratching my head. “Don’t really get the oar part though.”
She gave me one of those looks featuring those quizzical, single-raised eyebrows people seemed to have reserved for me at the restaurant.
The moment passed. She smiled, started to laugh. “Oh, sorry. I forgot you’re American. R-T-E. RTE, it’s Ireland national television and radio broadcaster.”
I exhaled. I wasn’t crazy. Irish people just pronounce Rs a bit funny (only joking!), that’s all.
“Don’t worry, I worked at a restaurant for a summer in NYC and had to get used to the weird things Americans say like garbage and saran wrap,” she said, patting my shoulder.
“Oh, don’t get me started on the whole saran wrap/cling film business!”
Finally, someone that gets where I’m coming from. Ah, the joys of living abroad!