Posted by: mdmusingsie | October 22, 2011

Quelle est la différence or Plus ça change, plus c’est la memes chose

I guess I should have said that in Irish, though I only know the first part (Cad é an difríocht). I thought it was time for another installment of some of the similarities and differences between Ireland and the United States (US).

Let’s start with the political scene. In the US, they are gearing up for the next presidential election which will be held in November 2013. Although it’s over a year away, the candidates are lining up and the rhetoric and attacks have already begun.

In Ireland, they are also in the process of electing a new president. However, the election is near the end of October, 2012, and candidates didn’t have to declare their intention until a month before the vote. There are signs and placards going up on almost every telephone pole, street light, and innocent tree in the area, but I have yet to see one negative TV ad (though, admittedly, I primarily only watch sports and the occasional newscast) and my mailbox has not been flooded with sound bite covered post cards. Not that they are immune to dirt digging and mudslinging; one of the candidates called this the nastiest campaign in history. Some trends should not cross the pond.

Several televised debates have been held recently, though I didn’t watch any; not just because I can’t vote but because politics and politicians have turned me off in recent years. I believe debates should be the only form of comparing candidates – attack ads should be banned.

A few weeks ago a woman I met was complaining about having to deal with the political talk in the media for the next month. I could only laugh as I explained how lucky she was that she didn’t have to put up with it for over a year as we do in the US. If we only had to deal with elections for a month instead of a year, how much more could our congressional leaders accomplish? But that’s enough of politics.

Halloween is another area where things appear to differ substantially. I only started seeing the occasional costume and decoration early in the month and trick-or-treat candy really only appeared on store shelves within the last two weeks. In the US, the candy is out as soon as the last of the school supplies cleared the space in stores, and there is aisle upon aisle of it instead of the few shelves I’ve seen in Ireland. In fact, decorations and costume related paraphernalia take up more shelf space than candy.

Christmas is another story, though, as I have seen bits and pieces cropping up in stores including candy, some even before the Halloween variety, as well as Christmas cards and a few sections of decorations. So far, like most things, it still dwarfs the magnitude of offerings available in the US. There’s something to be said for this simpler way of life.

Daylight savings ends a week earlier (and starts two weeks later). Since it has been proven that extending the change does not save energy, I prefer the European model.

What I miss most – I’ve probably said this before but it bears repeating – a tumble dryer. As the weather is no longer conducive to hanging clothes outside, it takes forever for them to dry inside. I’m also not fond of the space heaters and the storage heater. The storage heater may be less expensive to operate, but you can’t defy the laws of physics and I’d rather have my apartment heated in the late afternoon and evening rather than overnight while I’m asleep. While heating an entire house when only a few rooms are in use may not be efficient, either, I’m not conditioned to “plan” when I’m going to be in another room far enough in advance to turn on the heater. (In case you don’t know what a storage heater is, I didn’t, Wikipedia has a great article. Despite these inconveniences, the pros still outweigh the cons.


  1. Charles just left today for the UK and he’s excited about getting back for some colder weather. I’m quite happy with the milder weather. I remember how chilly it gets overnight in his house in Reading. I’m with you on the heat issue as well as the tumble dryer! I love hearing about your life – pursuing the dream! It’s quite inspirational

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