Grad school in Ireland - Need to know?
August 28, 2007 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Ireland for a year+, what are your tips?

I'm starting a MA at Dublin City University next month, and will be living in Ireland for at least a year. What are your best tips, Mefites? I've read some move-to-ireland websites, and some related askme threads, but I'd love to hear advice on anything you didn't know before you got there (and wished you had), great pubs, wonderful hikes, things to do/NOT to do as an American, items not to forget, cheap living, etc... Unusual/fantastic/confusing/obnoxious anecdotes and wisdom welcome!

(Disclosure, I've been to Dub twice briefly, like traveling, and your typical blend of outdoorsy/ artsy/ nerdy/ mefitely things).
posted by conch soup to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, Conch, welcome! I'm an American living in Dublin for 6 years now. Email me at Rubykthursday AT gmail dot com if you'd like.
posted by Rubythursday at 6:06 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Read Arthur Matthew's book Well Remembered Days. It gives a great introduction to Dublin and could quite possibly be the funniest book I have ever read.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2007

I spent a summer in Dublin several years ago. I spent a week in Galway, but wish I would have gotten out of the city more. The museums in Dublin are pretty good, so definitely explore them. The writer's museum is kind of lame. There were some decent thrift stores when I was there. I loved going to the Irish Film Centre. Get a membership. It is the perfect thing to do on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. I worked in a restaurant and hung out with mostly Irish locals.

As a youngish woman, I noticed that there were some weird social things to get used to. In some ways, Ireland seemed to be a bit old-fashioned. I asked an Irish guy out on a date once and it was considered to be quite the bold, outrageous thing to do by my Irish friends. Some of the Irish guys were really aggressive and assume that American girls are promiscuous. I did have a handful (yes, a handful) of experiences out at clubs and pubs where men I'd be talking to would suddenly try to touch, kiss or grope me in some inappropriate way. I learned quickly that I got treated much better in public situations if I dressed up a bit. When I went out in horn-rimmed glasses, stompy shoes, jeans and a t-shirt, I would generally get treated generally rudely. I even was accused of shoplifting at one point. When I put on a skirt, heels, make-up and did my hair; I was treated much more courteously. I wasn't used to that at home!

There were a couple of conversational topics that I learned not to bring up in big, mixed groups. One was abortion and the other was the "Troubles" in North Ireland. I had a really hard time getting any of the locals I knew to talk to me about the politics in Northern Ireland and it seemed like it was a social faux pas to ask questions about it. I learned fast too, that people didn't want to hear about my nice, big apartment back in the US. All of the local 20-somethings I hung out with in Dublin lived in pretty crappy housing situations, with some people living with their parents.

I also went to Ireland with the idea in my head that Irish people were going to be pleasant, warm and hospitable. While this was true with some people, most of the folks I met were just like other people in urban cities, sarcastic, street-smart and intolerant of fools. The people of Dublin deal with plane loads of dipshit tourists every day and have developed a bit of an attitude about it. Once people realized that I wasn't there to buy shamrock keychains or research my geneology; they warmed up to me. Be prepared for a bit of abrasiveness at first though until people figure out you aren't a regular tourist.

I spent my summer learning as much as I could about Yeats, Joyce, Irish mythology and history. It was amazing being able to actually visit some of the places mentioned in literature and history.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2007

I lived there for four years as I did an MA at UCD (as opposed to DCU).

1) The housing crunch for students is heinous in Dublin, so you would do well to budget for hostel accomodations or somesuch, while you look for somewhere to stay. I gave myself two days, which wasn't nearly enough.

2) Default to quiet and polite, and the Dubs will treat you fairly well. Don't expect american-style service there, though; the Irish are much more hands-off in a service setting.

3) Laugh off the inevitable language differences; and there will be quite a few. I would strongly recommend against going into an off-license (shop selling alcohol) and asking for a "mickey" of whiskey. It's called a hip-flask there.

4) There are loads of sessions in Dublin that cater wholly to tourists. Although the pub crawl starting at Oliver St. John Gogarty's is a fairly good crawl, it's really a touristy thing. If you want the real deal, those sessions happen off the beaten tracks. I know a really good traditional singing session North of the Liffey, if you're interested.

5) Seconding pluckysparrow, don't mention geneology, or Irish ancestry, or any such thing. It's the fastest way to be branded a tourist.

6) Dress in dark colours. Bright or light colours almost always denote a tourist. This is also a great way to protect yourself from pickpockets.

Neat things to do in and around Dublin (IMHO):

Check out the GPO on O'Connell Street. The pockmarked facade? Yeah, those are bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Uprising.

Nip down Henry street on a weekend to hear the street vendors shouting out their wares.

There's fantastic outdoor market on a Sunday just behind the Irish Film Centre in Temple Bar. Definitely worth a look!

Check out the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Merrion Square. They have an awesome collection of recordings, both professional and field recordings. Tell Nicholas Carolan I sent you!

Check out the headquarters of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in Blackrock (a dart ride from centretown). It's a huge converted mansion that's been turned into an archive, offices and a massive bar in the basement. Awesome music there in the nights. Inquire with the centre for times.

Ride the DART all the way to Dun Laoighre, and walk along the beach/quay. There's hiking trails further along if the weather's good or you're prepared for the weather.

If you're a U2 fan, Bono's house is in Blackrock, right across from the Canadian ambassador's residence. It's just a short hike from the dart station, too!

Enjoy, and let us know how you get on!
posted by LN at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2007

The Halloween parade in Dublin is truly great. Just beware that it gets pretty scary out on the streets afterward, especially a little ways out from downtown-- the kids completely take over, and they do build bonfires without adult supervision. And throw bricks. And drink. Never saw a drunk 9 year old until I spent Halloween on the Dublin city outskirts. Never saw a street bonfire so big the flames were licking the telephone wires overhead, for that matter.

Still my favorite time to visit Ireland is in October. It's a wild time.

I don't know if it's still in existence or not, but Cornucopia (near Grafton street) is a great vegetarian place. Queen of Tarts is a lovely little cafe right by the Dublin courts/castle.

It's easy to meet people because there is a very friendly pub culture.
posted by np312 at 10:02 AM on August 28, 2007

Some more things as they occurr to me...

Get thee out of the city and tour around a little, it's the biggest favour you will do yourself. There is bus service to virtually everywhere in the country, if you don't mind the milk run occasionally.

Particularly to check out:

Drogheda town, very historic, and quite close to Dublin. Home to Newgrange, and to a fantastic little pub near the river. The entire interior of the pub is wallpapered in flyers for all the traditional music acts that have played there. I seem to recall the name is Nolan's, but don't quote me on that.

The Cork Folk Festival, starting August 28th this year. Acts for this year's festival include Lunasa, Matt Cranitch, Seamus Tansey, and Iarla Ó Lionáird of Afro Celt Sound System, among many, many others. An Spailpin Fanach is a great pub for music in Cork. Cork is also home to Ossian Music Store, which houses their popular Publishing division. Cork is a great artsy, walking city, and well worth getting to know better.

County Sligo is Yeats' home county, and a great destination for tourists interested in Irish literary history.

Donegal is a wild and barren place, and home to some of the most fantastic scenery, and the nicest locals. You'd need to rent a car to really get the most out of a trip to Donegal, but believe me, it's worth it.

Galway city is always a favourite attraction, but press a little further west into Connemara for some really cool scenery. Learn a few words of Irish Gaelic and use them on the locals for instant brownie points.

Dia dhuit (dee-a hwitch) - Hi there
Pionta beoir le do thoil (pinta byor leh doh hol) - I'll have a pint of beer, please.
Go raibh maith agat (go rev mah agat) - Thanks!

And the most important when drinking in a pub:
Ca bhuil an leithras? (Kah will un leh-ras) - Where's the bathroom?

If someone comes up to you and starts nattering on in Gaelic at you, gently let them down with:
Ta began Gaelige agam, gabh mo leisceal (tah bay-gan gayl-gya ah-gum, gah mo lesh-cal) - I only know a little Irish, sorry.

Try to climb up a round tower, if you get the chance.

Check out the ruins of Cashel Castle, on the way to Cork.

And of course, Wille Week in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare is *the* place to go for fantastic Irish traditional music. It's a week-long course in the Irish traditional instrument of your choice, but even if you don't play, the sessions in the evenings are to die for.
posted by LN at 12:39 PM on August 28, 2007

Seconding LN - Get to Donegal, and rent a car to do so. I grew up in Belfast and holidayed in Donegal. I now live in Canada and this thread has made me pine for the West coast of Ireland again. Peace, tranquility, scenery, history, entertainment. It simply can't be beaten. Sigh.
posted by sonicgeeza at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2007

If I had more time I'd write more, but take the time to visit the GAA museum at Croke Park and do a stadium tour. Gaelic games are a huge part of Irish sporting life and Croker is the Mecca of Gaelic games.

And for added fun, Dublin just got knocked out of the Gaelic Football championships by their arch-rivals, Kerry. Haha.

Good brewpubs for something other than Guinness:

either, Messrs Maguires on Burgh Quay or one of the Porterhouse pubs. They're well worth a trip.
posted by knapah at 1:51 PM on August 28, 2007

Hi, I live in Dublin (native) and work in DCU (part-time).

Since you are going to be in DCU, think about trying to find accomodation in Drumcondra or Glasnevin, or maybe Phibsborough. They're all grand areas, there should be a fair bit of rental accomodation going, and they are all located between DCU and town (which is what we call the city centre). Ballymun will probably be cheaper but is not quite gentrified yet (or maybe ever).

This website is where everyone finds their flat (which is what you'll be calling an apartment from now on), and the rents are on there so you can figure out what you're letting yourself in for. The bad news? Everyone is saying rents are at their highest level in years. The good news? Don't worry, you'll still get something. If anyone in your class is interested in having roomates, give it some serious consideration, as single occupancy units work out a lot more expensive.

Cheap Living: Cool free things include:

Pretty much all the museums - IMMA in Kilmainham, National Gallery at end of Nassau St, the Hugh Lane in Parnell Square
Swimming at the Forty Foot, Dun Laoighaire (bliss!)
The Phoenix Park.
The Botanic Gardens.
The Four Courts (wander in, watch bewiggd barristers and judges doing their thing. It's also a lovely building)
Outdoor films (in the Summer, at Meetinghouse Square, Temple Bar. Pick up the Event Guide (freesheet listings) for other events - quite a lot of cultural stuff is free).

Things which are cheap:

The chinese and korean places on Parnell St (I recommend The Hop House).
Fruit and Veg from the stalls in Moore St.
Lidl Supermarket (lots of them about - there's one on Moore St as well)
Lunch on the ground floor of Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St. Very tasty, in a tony part of town, but very good value.
The "Italian Quarter" (official name: Millenium Way) - The Enoteca Della Langhe and the Taverna Di Bacco do good value lunches during the day and really good wine and cheese at reasonable prices in the evening. Then, rock on down to Sin E on the quays nearby if you want a late pint with loud music and relatively nice and attractive people. These things can also be found at Ri Ra just south of the river.

Things which may be a little expensive but worth it:

Le Gueleton on Fade St. Fantastic authentic french food, at non-crazy prices. No reservations - pop in early, put your name down, and grab a drink at the Long Hall or the Library Bar at the Central Hotel while you wait.
An evening at the Gate Theatre - great shows, lovely building, loads of history (Orson Welles made his professional stage debut there).

Things which should be avoided:

Buying your groceries in a Spar or Centra (ubiquitous convenience stores). They'll be about 20% more expensive than a regular supermarket, and waay more expensive than Lidl or Aldi.
Drinking in pubs! Okay, not avoided, but if you do your whole night's drinking (proper drinking, now) at pub prices, you'll be making a serious dent in your wallet. Try and start or end the night at someone's gaff (which is more fun anway).

What else... hmmm... Road Records on Fade St is a good record store with very friendly and hip staff.

I listed some good pubs n stuff in this thread. Feel free to drop a line if you fancy - email's in the profile.
posted by tiny crocodile at 5:24 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

These are all 'best' answers! Thanks so much everybody. I'll probably be emailing a few of you.
posted by conch soup at 6:30 PM on August 28, 2007

Dublin born and bred here, lots of good stuff so far so I'll just add a few bits and pieces I can think of off-hand.

For hiking you'll be wanting to go to Wicklow. Plenty of buses down that way from the city centre so easy to get to and from in a day. For shorter walks there's Howth which is at the end of the dart line. Some great cliff paths there with the added bonus of being able to see the whole bay. Another great way to see the bay is with Sea Safari. (Disclaimer: I know all the drivers)

If you're into water-sports there's plenty to do around dublin such as Kite-surfing on dollymount, scuba-diving, kayaking, sailing. For surfing, head anywhere on the westcoast. Bundoran, Achill, Strandhill, Enniscrone and Lahinch are the big surfing towns. (Well they're small towns but big into surfing!). I'd Join the snowboarding society in DCU if you're at all into it (I went to Trinity but I still ended up with the DCU snowsports crowd!) There's boardjams down in Kilternan (a nasty dry slope but it's the best we've got) throughout the year which are great craic and the trips are legendary!

For pubs, if you get sick of town then Howth is a pretty good bet, The Bloody Stream, Findlaters and Ba Mizu are good craic at the weekend and open late. Drumcondra has plenty of great pubs. A little down the road from DCU is one of my own locals The Beachcomber, great for a quiet pint. Favourite pubs in town are 4 Dame Lane, Stagshead, Pravda, The Village and Whelan's (those two are also great for gigs)

Can't think of much else offhand, again feel free to e-mail, address is in the profile!
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:38 AM on August 30, 2007

Oh yeah, if you get into GAA at all then Parnell Park (Dublin's home ground) is round the corner just down the road from DCU aswell. League games are always cheap, championship matches in Croker are slightly more expensive and always harder to get a hold of but well worth it for the experience! Football will always be Dublin's first love but our Hurling teams are getting better all the time (under-21's are in the final next week!)

The GAA clubs are usually good for cheaper pints too and are good craic on match days.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:44 AM on August 30, 2007

FYI- These answers have all been so great-- I've proposed a Dublin Meetup over in MetaTalk
posted by conch soup at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2007

Actually, seeing as you'll be here in the next couple of weeks you'll be arriving just in time for the Dublin Fringe Festival later this month so there'll be plenty of stuff going on there. Next month you've got the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival. There's always some great stuff on there to check out!
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:57 AM on September 4, 2007

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