Fresh Off the Plane

I arrived in Ireland last year for the full time MBA program at UCD Smurfit. I chose Ireland because I wanted an international life, I wanted to see Europe but most importantly, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. 

I figured: Hey, they speak English. I have a red beard. It’ll be a nice way to break into the European lifestyle. What could possibly go wrong?

A young man in a blue button-down shirt sips a full pint of Guinness
Nathan Jones

If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, these are some of the things I wish I knew: 

  1. The Irish are self-deprecating in the best way possible. In the US, if you drive a nice car, have a nice house, or live in a nice area it’s lauded– you’ve worked hard, go-ahead and talk about it. In Ireland, self-glorification is almost always viewed negatively. It’s okay to talk about yourself and your background just don’t go overboard, it may make the Irish uncomfortable.

    This has been the biggest culture shock for me. An entire country of people that don’t solely care about their self-interests? What is this?
  1. What’s the craic? Small talk is an artform in Ireland. Be prepared to talk about the weather, what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today, what you’re doing tomorrow, etc… Deep conversations are typically reserved for people you’re close to and only after multiple pints. Don’t expect any heart-to-hearts out of the gate.

  2. Nobody here really cares that your great-grandfather is from Ireland. I recall one of my first nights out with the lads:

    Me: “Did you guys do
    Them: Crickets… 
    Me: “Oh, yeah, I guess you all know you’re Irish… ha.” 
    Them: Crickets… 
    Me: “Well, I’ve got Irish blood in me!”
    Them: Crickets… 

    Just avoid the conversation, you aren’t Irish… save it for the heraldry shop. 
  1. Southern hospitality on craic. You need to be aggressive and preemptive if you’re going to pay for your own drinks anywhere. I’ve stayed at people’s houses after meeting them twice. The Irish have driven me hours out of their way out of pure generosity and hospitality. There’s a sense of trust and community in Ireland that just doesn’t translate to anyplace else I’ve been.

  2. I’m staying in Ireland. In spite of COVID, this has been the most transformative year of my life. I came here to get out of my comfort zone, that has happened in more ways than one. This has been a year of self-reflection and self-refinement. I’m grateful to have had this experience and would highly recommend the UCD Smurfit MBA to any American looking to explore the European lifestyle.
Beer taps and a Guinness Harp next to two pints
Photo by Ana Ribeiro on Unsplash

Bonus: It’s not a joke, the Guinness actually tastes better in Ireland. Some say “it’s a different formula in the States”, it’s not. All Guinness distributed throughout North America, The UK and Ireland is sourced from St. James’ Gate Brewery. The difference is… The Irish pubs regularly clean the tubes that connect the keg to the tap. Also, the freshness is unparalleled. At most you’re drinking Guinness produced three miles (4.8 kilometers) away.

Nathan Jones, FTMBA Class of 2021