It was the day before St. Patrick’s day and I was at London Heathrow trying to find a last-minute couch to stay on because even a month before the date, the cheapest hostel I found cost 50€ a night. I was just starting to panic when I remembered a girl I met while in Munich who invited me to stay with her anytime while she was studying abroad in Dublin.
So I contacted her, feeling a little guilty at the same time. How do you phrase “Hey, can I stay with you?” in an indirect way? I don’t know why I was so hesitant to call on this favor, but it took me 5 separate conversations with her before time ran out and I HAD to ask directly. But to my surprise, she told me to come on over when I arrived—but that she had two friends from the States that were also over for St. Paddy’s.
In my experience, English and Irish humor are a bit more harsh and sarcastic than American humor. Some people don’t understand it. In addition to being people that shouldn’t travel, these girls were part of the first category. They weren’t bad at first; they were actually pretty easy to get along with. The problem started once we started encountering other people… and didn’t stop until both of them got punched in the face later that night. Haha, fooled you, didn’t I? You thought I got punched in the face.
“Those old assholes by the bar totally insulted us for being American!” the shorter girl stomped over, huffing. “What the hell! What did we ever do to them?”
I looked over at what seemed to be a friendly-enough conversation between the girl wearing the Irish flag and an older man sitting at the bar. This should’ve been a sign of what was to come, but I wasn’t there for the interaction to judge.
It escalated a bit that night when, seeing an older man handle a teenager, they stormed up to him and pushed him around. “You don’t hit children! You don’t do that!” When the returned to the group, they sheepishly told us that he actually had his wallet stolen by the teen and was trying to get it back. “Oh, guys, I feel bad now. Oh no…” Two minutes later, she was distracted by music that erupted from a nearby bar and promptly forgot all about what happened.
But that isn’t even the worst part.
Around 10PM that night, we were walking around Temple Bar area when shit actually went down. There we were, standing outside one of the bars. I was talking to my hostel friend while the two other girls were talking to some smokers loitering around the entrance.
“Where are you guys from?” one of the smokers asked casually.
“Oh, sorry, we don’t let Americans into the bar,” he says, in what clearly was a joke. He wasn’t even the bouncer.
Before I knew it, the girls started shouting at random people passing by; the smokers were gone.
“Did you hear that?!” they shouted to a large group, “They won’t let us in because we’re AMERICAN!”
Horrified, I stood off to one side, close enough for them to think that I was with them, but far enough that strangers would not. After causing more of a ruckus in front of that bar, we all decide to go buy beers from the convenience store down the street instead. In here, I met some lovely Irish guys and had a good albeit confused conversation with them. A few people ahead stood the two girls.
In the middle of my conversation, I hear one of them say, “These goddamn Irish people just won’t leave us alone!” A few of the locals in line behind her chuckled a bit and shook their heads. And suddenly, the shorter one was standing in between me and the guys.
“THAT GUY JUST TOLD US TO GO BACK TO AMERICA! THAT ASSHOLE. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS??”
“Oh no, people CANNOT just come up to you, insult you, and leave. I’m going to go talk to him,” said her friend, storming out of the store to chase him down in the street. She caught him a few feet from the store and grabbed his shoulder, turning him around.
“Hey! You do NOT talk to my friend like that, you hear me??” she yelled, pointing her finger dangerously close to his face. He yelled back at her—something I didn’t hear—, tried shrugging her off, and leaving but she wasn’t having any of that. Out of nowhere, she wound her arm back and moved to slap him across the face. He saw what was coming, blocked her blow, and came back with a punch across hers. I groaned. Shit was REALLY going to hit the fan now.
Immediately, she starts crying loudly, searching for sympathy in the crowd. “Did you see what he did?? He just PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE! I’m from a shady part of Philadelphia but you just don’t do that! You just don’t hit girls. That’s not acceptable. You just don’t do that!”
After seeing what had happened, the smaller girl ran out to try to tackle him and got punched in the face too. But she didn’t cry until asking for help from the crowd and receiving a “You deserve what you got!” in return—from the customer that stood behind her as she loudly insulted the Irish in the convenience store.
Standing there, in the most popular bar area in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, surrounded by people of all nationalities, she starts yelling, “Ever since we got here to Ireland, we have been SHIT ON by the Irish! No one has shown us any kindness. Everyone we’ve met has been ridiculously rude to us and I’m tired of it! These motherfucking Irish people… I’m trying to reconnect with my heritage and this is what happens. I don’t think I’ll ever want to come back to this fucking country ever again!”
If I hadn’t already dropped all my belongings at my hostel friend’s house, I would’ve left and found friends elsewhere. Being part of this group was drawing negative attention to us and giving me less than a good memory in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day.
But the night was far from over.
I found them after a few minutes by the police, reiterating what just happened to them. After being told that it was a night of heightened tempers and behaviors, they were told to go home and cool down. And how did they get home? Strut up to the nearest taxi and demanded, “Hi. Can you get us home for 15€? My friend just got punched in the face and needs to get home immediately.”
We all left hostel friend’s house at the same day.
“You know what?” said one of the girls. “I’m so excited to finally go back home. I don’t know how you do it, traveling for so long and by yourself. I’m already homesick from traveling 10 days and Skyping my family every day didn’t help. And I’m tired of being in a foreign country, tired of being shit on all the time just for being American. I just want to be back in America.”
They had only been abroad for 10 days.
I hmmed my way through that conversation and bid them farewell as soon as we hit the first intersection.
While horrific at the time, this actually turned out to be one of my best stories. More than anything, however, it taught me how differently two people can experience the same city; it all depends on your mindset and how you approach other cultures. If you bring excitement, curiosity, and joy to the table while visiting other cultures, I truly believe what you’ll receive in return will be filled with kindness and wonderful experiences. On the other hand, if you bring preconceived notions and an inability to be flexible, you’ll see exactly what you thought you would see: negativity. It’s travel karma.
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