The Irish take a casual approach to living, to working, and to socializing. They tend not to sweat the details; rather, they accept that life is short and needlessly worrying about every little thing eats away at the minutes we have on this Earth. I love and admire that about the Irish.
But it’s that attitude that “almost enough is good enough” which also drove me a bit mad when living among the Irish last year. Blame it on my American upbringing or on my German heritage that I expect exact data, detailed descriptions, iron-clad directions, and absolute certitude in the information I receive from others – especially those whose role it is to organize and guide. My month in Ireland in 2012 was a lesson in learning to adapt to the pace and the perspective of my hosts.
One thing I learned last year was about getting directions from the Irish. Don’t expect too much. They’ll give almost enough information to get you there, often leaving out the very piece of guidance necessary to arrive on time and calm. My friend, Mary, warned me. Have a map or a GPS. Don’t rely on oral directions from your Irish minders. And she was right. Even the friendly bus drivers who gladly directed me about Limerick tended to omit one essential bit. And so I got tearfully lost a few times.
This year, I expect that I’ll get almost enough information for our excursions. When to be collected but perhaps not specifically where the busses will be waiting. So ask. Or what our vouchers will and will not buy, but only some of the locations where they’re accepted. So be prepared to pay if the guidance was slightly off. You see, I am adapted.
My Maryville students and the other American students have already experienced the casual nature in which information has been imparted and I hear their expressions of frustration. “She said we could have dinner there but she didn’t tell us they close early on the weekends.” “They told us their office hours but not that they’re closed for an hour and a half for lunch.” “Class was supposed to start at 9:30 but my lecturer didn’t come until closer to 10.” “I can’t stand being told the wrong thing.”
Here’s the advice I’d like to give them: Exhale. Enjoy the vagaries of Ireland. Recognize that this is not a country that runs on high-octane caffeine, enslaved to the clock, or driven to perfection. Be prepared to solve a few problems on your own, with only partial information.
But I won’t do that. I say, let them find out just as I did. By taking the time and coming to their own conclusions about how a casual approach can be almost enough to make life a brilliant experience.