In case you haven’t noticed, J1’s have become commonplace among Irish students. Every summer our nations educated make the pilgrimage across the pond to the land of dreams, and all the Mammies breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of a clean house for a few weeks. The run up to the departure from this green isle is filled with running around like a blue arsed fly; you have DS-160’s and Visa application forms coming out of your ears. When you finally make it past customs and on to the plane for the long arduous flight you feel smug, satisfied at having got yourself this far. As you drift off into a Xanax-induced slumber, you picture scenes of raucous nights spent in bars with your friends and new American chums. You don’t anticipate whether there will be any culture shocks or misunderstandings between you and your new Yank neighbours. I mean, they speak English, they’re basically the same as us, right? WRONG.
They expect tips. I’m guessing that unless you live under a rock, you probably already knew that. But you don’t realise how compulsory this is when you’re on the wrong end of a scorned waitress. Likewise for when you’re at a bar trying to get the bar persons attention. ‘Didn’t leave a tip before? Sorry, you’re invisible to me’ Meanwhile you’re parched for a drink, and the surrounding crowds are quickly closing in on you until you’re ejected back out in to the bar. You have two options; you can either download a Tip calculator on your phone (or mentally divide, subtract, multiply, I don’t even know) or you can limit yourself to one visit per establishment throughout your whole 60 days there. Beware though, news of your stinginess will spread throughout the city like wild fire and you will be rejected from every club, bar, and restaurant within state lines. ‘Stingy Irish person alert! Barricade the doors!’ is what they will say. True story.
They are quite attuned to the aul ‘fake ID’. Seriously lads, this is the land that’s home to the CIA and Area 51, they can spot a dingy ID a mile off. If you want to be guaranteed entry to bars and clubs 90% of the time, my advice is to part with a moderate sum of money lest you prefer to sit in and watch Piers Morgan Tonight (he is everywhere!) in misery. Don’t give anyone you’re passport (what are you, a fool?) to do a ‘home job’. And if you do, expect it to be an undercover operation involving white vans, knives and dodgy neighbourhoods.*
They love cheese. No, they really LOVE cheese and not in the same way we love potatoes. They eat it on everything and insist you do too, even on things that don’t call for it. ‘I’d like a T-bone steak please.’ ‘Would you like cheese on that ma’am? We have Jack, Monterey, Provolone, American, Cheddar, cheese made from sacred goats high up in the Himalayas… ‘Wh..What? On a steak?’ you ask. You swear the last time you asked for a black coffee the waiter mumbled something about parmesan but you couldn’t hear over all the CHEESE.
They abuse words and phrases in a despicable manner and it will make you want to stick pins in your eyes. Nonsensical things like ‘I can’t hardly wait’ (you can wait or you can’t, make up your BLOODY mind) ‘would you like to wait on a table?’ (eh, no I’d rather not sit on a table, bit unhygienic no? Thank you though) and ‘I’m good for a drink’ (when are you ever bad for a drink?) are offered in abundance. The only option is to wear ear muffs. Seriously, that’s all.
Taxi men have no idea where they’re going, not even a little bit. To be fair, taxi men in Ireland aren’t that well versed with the roads either, but at least they’ll distract you with conversational banter while they go round in circles, sweating profusely. In the States, if you don’t know the junction or names of the streets of your desired destination you ain’t going nowhere. You can’t just say ‘take me to McDonalds!’ because they won’t know where it is. But if you say ‘Take me to Forty Second Street and Fifty Sixth’, they will know exactly where it is you want to go. Basically, if you’re not a fucking Garmin you may as well get out of the car because they won’t even drive. They don’t like banter either. That’s one thing you should do actually – memorize all the streets in your designated state. That’ll keep you busy.
They are big fans of impromptu photo shoots. As Irish people, we are notoriously self- conscious. When someone who is taking a photo shouts ‘SAY CHEESE!!’ it is a universality that we want to throttle them. Just get it done for God’s sake, and don’t even think of putting that up on Facebook. Well, American’s are different. If they’re walking down the street and the mood for a photo shoot comes over them they won’t wait until they’re out of public view. Instead, they’ll whip out their tripod and commence snap snapping their photographic object. In plain view. Of everyone. And I’m not talking discreet, sultry photos, I’m talking about wrapping your leg around a tree and giving ‘sex faces’. They have no shame, and why should they? They are the land of cheese in a tin.
*This really happened to me and it was terrifying. If you don’t want to be banned from across the pond don’t be an idiot.