Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Things you need to know about Ireland

"Now of all the places I have seen from China to the Caribbean,
Are all across the goat compared to Ireland,
From Bally Castle to Tralee the Corup to the Liffey
There's no where else on earth but like this island.

ram tam bi du bi dou dabla da bi di dum di dam ram da di du di didle di bu
ram tam bi du bi dou dabla da bi di dum di dam ram da di du di didle di bu

The Chieftains, "Changing Your Demeanour" (lyrics here)

Since in the last few months I've suffered many people coming to me asking for advice about living in Ireland, I've decided to put some thoughts (?) together on the subject. Some tips (?) apply only for spanish people going to Ireland (my case), while the rest have a broader appeal.
This is the first time I write here about something I know, but don't worry, it will not set a precedent.

* Time & weather

- Official time in Ireland is GMT (that is, always one hour less than in Spain, like in the Canary Islands). They use daylight saving time in "summer".

- Everything you've heard is true: it rains a lot. If your average skimo can tell between different shades of white (much like women), Irish people can tell between 17 different types of rain, while others go further and state that there are 40 types of rain. You will suffer them all. Most of the time. In the same day. And they all are wet.

* Driving / Crossing the street

- Irish people drive on the left, so remember to check the RIGHT side (the hand where you don't wear your watch) when you cross a street. Or die.

* Money

- You can buy things with your credit card since they don't normally apply any extra fees for using it in a foreign country - but check with your bank. In that way, you have to bring cash with you only for things that you can not pay with your credit card (beer mostly). If you plan to stay longer open a bank account there and get transfers from your spanish bank account into the irish one.

* Students

- If you have an international student card (ISIC card), bring it - you might find some discounts (I didn't find it that useful, so if you don't have it I recommend you not to get it).

* E.T. Phone home

- In order to phone to a spanish phone number, you'll have to add 0034 to the number, that is, if you want to phone 961898148 you'll have to dial 0034961898148.

- To phone a spanish land line, you can use telefonica's ESPAÑA DIRECTO phone number: 1 800 55 00 34. The cost of the phone call will be paid by the person receiving the call, once accepted. It's just a convenient way for making a collect call to Spain. I used it all the time to speak with my parents.

- Prepaid cards for public phone boxes are readily available in any newsagent's and post offices.

* Language

- Ireland has its own language, irish. It is not widely spoken, although it is normal in some places;

  • 2 sentences you need to know: "Pog mo thoín" (kiss my arse) and "Ní thuigim" (I don't undestand).

  • 2 words you need to know: "FIR" (men) and "MNA" (women) - these are the only indications you'll find in the toilets in many pubs.

- "Battered" means "rebozado" in spanish. I learned it the hard way when ordering a battered burguer.

* Medical insurance

- If you are spanish and want to be covered in case you need medical assistance, you need to do some paperwork. You can find info here.
The medical system is different in Ireland. For example, in some places, one person will be both the doctor AND the vet.

* Do I need a passport?

- Ireland is part of the EU, so all you need is your ID card (D.N.I), but mind you: your ID card has to be valid for as long as you are in Ireland. If it expires when you are abroad, you might have problems to come back to Spain. I always carry my passport, just in case.

* Plugs

- Mains supply is 220V, 50Hz, the same as in Spain, but plugs are like the one in the picture: you'll need an adaptor if you want to plug any spanish electrical appliance. You can find them in electrical stores.

* Embassies

- The spanish embassy is located in Dublin:

17 A, Merlyn Park,
Dublín 4. Irlanda
Phone numbers (from Spain): 00 353 1 269 1640/2597 OR 00 353 1 283 8827/9900
(from Ireland): 01 269 1640/2597 OR 01 283 8827/9900
Fax: (353-1) 269 1854/2705

I know for a fact there is a spanish consulate in Limerick but I've been unable to find its address on the web (?).

* Travelling in the island:

- Trains:

- Buses:

- Hitch hiking is relatively usual and safe. You can hitch hike with a fridge in Ireland!

* The cheapest webs for flights

(no, I've no relations with any of the companies).

* If you work there

- You can claim some tax back in Spain. There is a web that helps you:

* Recommended reading

- "Angela's ashes" Frank McCourt

- "Lonely planet Ireland"

- "Ulysses" James Joyce

- "How the Irish Saved Civilization" Thomas Cahill

- "The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats" W.B. Yeats

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