I write this article thinking in all my friends that feel insecure about talking in English.
They think about if they are pronouncing correctly, or if they are building the phrases in the correct grammar order. That’s school’s system fault, I think.
As Catalans we learn new languages easily. We talk Catalan native, and Spanish, and in the school we are taught French and English, and if things have not changed, we can choose between Latin and Greek. (I studied both)
But doing 1 or 2 hours per week of English doesn’t grant you a good level of the language, and in fact, few people in Catalonia and Barcelona speak fluent English with a good accent.
I learnt English by myself, by reading programming manuals when I was 5 years old. I also learnt to play chess by watching others playing and when I won the first time I played, against a guy 5 years older than me, he could not believe it was my first match.
I was 10, I think.
When I started classes in the school I realized that I already knew English.
Commands in Basic, like list, run, print, goto, had the same meaning than in the human spoken language.
I grew and I saw that the translations of technical books to Spanish (no Catalan was available) were horrible. They were actually translating commands, so since 15 y.o. I only read manuals in English.
In several jobs, for multinationals, I had to talk with colleagues from different parts of the world, so I was talking Portuguese, some times Italian or French, I could read a bit of German (Was head of Department in Volkswagen IT, gedas), and obviously English.
Still it is not the same when you talk using a subset of the language, basically referred to Hardware and Software, than fully living abroad.
Starting English is easy, you can use present and will for the future and did for the past, and you can make it work. But when you start with the phrasal verbs, the irregular verbs, different time conjugations… English is a context language and it is not a phonetic language, words that are written exactly the same way, sound different, and words that sound the same are written different. So it has a lot of exceptions.
But in this, in the exceptions, and in the fact that is widely expanded, is where we can find the strength to grow without fear.
Catalan is spoken very differently if we are in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Tarragona or if we are in València, or Menorca, or Alguer or the country of Andorra.
So the same happens with English. It is not only very different from England to the States, to Australia, to Scotland, to Ireland… also is very different from Dublin and Cork, or from different parts in The States, like Texas and California.
Also there are many people that talks it in Europe, in India… and all of them have different accent!.
So in my experience everybody will understand you. Specially because English is fully understood by the context. Maybe they need you to end the phrase to understand, but they will.
There are also annoying differences that can make you think that your are making mistakes.
Data Center (American) vs Data Center (England)
Color (American) vs Colour
Humor (American) vs Humour
Don’t be surprised if many native people find your accent exotic, and they love it.
That’s what happened to me many times.
Also I think the school is terrible teaching. They teach children all those rigid grammar expressions, when the live language is much more fluent and free.
For example, one person from Barcelona, will be nervous asking to a colleague:
Are you going to the cinema tonight?
Have you finally had gone to Disney World?
And he will be nervous thinking in real time if he is building the phrase right.
When, after 2 years will realize that people say:
You go to cinema tonight?
Did you go to Disney World finally?
The latest are very close to the grammar we use with Catalan, and so hence easy to express fluently.
I can share with you the process I follow to improve my English.
Since the 15 y.o. I was reading all the manuals in English.
I was watching some movies in English, at the beginning with subtitles in Spanish (no Catalan was available) and later with the subtitles in English.
Since 2013, when I was invited by Amazon to Dublin and by Facebook to Menlo Park (US), I started to watch all the movies and sit coms in English.
At the beginning with subtitles in English with the idea to correlate pronunciation and writing. To get my ears used to it.
I went to conferences, and I saw some people, with living years in English speaking countries, that had a much more difficult to understand accent than mine. They were people with reputation. And I understood that IT guys, we are very lucky to be valued by what we know. By our brain.
After all my life reading in English and 4 years watching all the movies in English, my accent had improved, but when I arrived to Cork I had difficulties understanding some the Irish. So I had to get used to the music, the cadence, of the way they talk, and to some words and expressions, and to the humor sense.
I asked my Irish colleagues to correct me when I pronounced wrong, and they were so nice to do it. And they did in a very polite way, for example if I would say:
Is a new Engineer coming to the Team?
And I would put the emphasis on the i of Engineer (the accent), Kevin would repeat the word in the right pronunciation. So I had the chance to learn how it rightly sound.
And I would repeat to make sure I got it.
One thing I think is that one has to be thankful for the time and interest that others dedicate to you. We have all a limited time on the planet, so when somebody invests some time in teaching you or helping you to learn, is giving you something that he will not get back. Even if you pay him/her, still that time will not go back to that person.
So I appreciate when people help me, and I don’t appreciate it less because I pay them.
Talking, listening, is the best real way to learn.
With 100% of reading in English, 100% of movies being watch in English, and nearly 100% of talking and listening in English my language skills reached to the next level. So I can talk in conferences, I can write books and technical documentation. And still I learn a lot of English every day. New words, or rich forms to express the things, reading the newspaper, for example. I really enjoy it.
But is like swimming or going in bicycle: learn by doing.
Created in: 2020-02-20 20:20 by Carles Mateo Last Updated: 2020-03-08 19:15 GMT
Note: This document is under construction
Society, Politics and laws
People are very polite. One nice thing is that you say Bye, thanks to the bus driver when you go down.
The Irish society is very welcoming and also participate a lot in charity. You can see how many people are running in races for a charity cause, and how many commerces collect money for charity causes, from pubs, to supermarkets.
I like the Cork Zombie Walk, where people dress as zombies, ghosts, etc… and walk over the city and finally they go to drink beers and have dinner together. You can volunteer to makeup people and is a very funny experience. Money collected goes to guide dogs for blind people.
They are a very polite society and even in the queue of the supermarket will ask you to any single customer: “how are you?”. At the beginning I was explaining all my life.
The weather is one of the most common form of claims people do. We use to say that we have 4 seasons in a day. It can rain for 15 minutes, be sunny, be windy, snow, be sunny again, rain… 10 times per day!. Although is not very usual that it snows, and heavy wind is neither usual. Rain is really a tiny courtain of water, so I don’t even bother. Having a jumper with a hood is enough.
You can get a top-up prepaid simm for 10 €. It is what I recommend to my American friends and colleagues when they visit Ireland.
The power plugs are like in Scotland and England. So you’ll need a transformer. There are universal ones that costs between 4€ and 10€.
I was surprised to discover that the English talked in the streets, and the practical English, is much more fluid and similar to Catalan grammatically than the official English that the schools teach.
For example, instead of asking: Did you go to the cinema? Is perfectly valid to ask: went to cinema?.
The Irish are very polite, and they respect the physical distance. If they are stood in front of you in the supermarket they will say sorry, and everybody says “Bye, thanks” when going down the bus. From Cork to Dublin you have less than 3 hours driving, I use more as I have a lesion in my back and I stop often, and 3 hours by train. There are also buses connecting Cork and Dublin airport every half an hour almost 24×7. Companies are: aircoach.ie and gobus.ie
The Irisih will talk you randomly for no reason at the pub, or at the street. They have good sense of humor, are near, caring, nice and talkative. And they help others.
Once my Visa card failed on the cashier in the supermarket and the man behind me, thinking that I was in trouble, offered to pay my food. That really touched me.
Also another time I entered into the pub with paper bags from the supermarket, and due to the rain, one just crashed and my products when to the floor. One woman in his 65s jump from the chair and came running with a plastic bag “if it’s of any help”, offered it to me. I almost cried. I still keep that small blue bag.
Cork has some of the better universities in Ireland, and in Europe.
So many students from all Ireland come here, and also international students.
The most well known universities for IT are UCC, more focuses on the theory, and CIT, more practical. So seasonally is a stuadent’s city.
Cork has a service of buses that when they work, they work well. Unfortunately often they have to be fixed and you may miss one or two because they did not pass or bass indicating that they’re going for maintenance.
Cork has a train that has good reputation (I’ve not used it), and will bring you to Blackpool, or to Cobh, or to Dublin.
There are long distances buses aircoach.ie and gobus.ie that travel to Dublin almost every half an hour during the day or the night.
If you drive at 9AM traffic is terrible, as parents go to drive the kids to the school.
A very convenient app is Free Now, formerly MyTaxi. It will show you in real time where the taxi is, who is, you’ll be able to pay with Visa… Taxis in Cork or Barcelona are not like in the States. They don’t incorporate a monitor so you can see your route, and many taxis also don’t allow to pay with credit card (that happened to me in London too).
Take in count that from 08:30 to 09:30 you will need three times the time required to travel to a destination, as parents bring children to the school and people go to work and the ways collapse.
Also take in count that if you call a taxi using Free Now at those high intervals, maybe nobody will answer your request, or maybe they do and you’ll have to wait 30 minutes. Be advised.
If you are American you can drive legally with your American license for a year, after you’ll have to pass the exam, insurance will be €3,000/year.
Driving: We drive by the right side (as opposite to the wrong side) :)
Driving in the right is like in Scotland. Myself didn’t find it specially difficult but is much more easier renting an automatic car. I do this, and so I don’t have to think about the Gearbox when I travel by the States, or visit Barcelona or other European countries.
There are few automatic cars available. Absolutely the majority of cars in Ireland use manual gear. Don’t ask me why.
If you want to rent a car in the airport it will be around €40 per day, so ~€1,200 per month. I know that you can do good arrangements with small companies up to 650 € if you rent all the month. If you buy a car, insurance is really expensive. If you come from the United States you can drive a rent car, but if you want to buy one you will have to do the exams to get an Irish driving license. Insurance is particularly expensive, with prices that could be as insane as €4,000 if you don’t have a no claim bonus. If you are American they will not accept your American no claim bonus. Some of the insurances wants you to buy in one go, while others will allow you to split the payments in 30% in advance, and then every month. Knowing the tricks I was able to get my insurance for €1,250.
Cork airport is small, but comfortable. The bad point is that they don’t have many direct flights. Dublin has. We have direct flights to Barcelona, but seasonal, from end of March to end of October, with Aer Lingus.
Normally you’ll go to Dublin airport by aircoach.ie or gobus.ie and fly direct to Barcelona, or you will fly from Cork to London to Barcelona, or from Cork to Amsterdam to Barcelona.
There is one ferry to Santander, Spain, and another to France.
Food in Ireland has very good quality. In Cork there are many farmers, and is not strange to see the photo of the local farmer and the address of the place, when you buy products in the supermarket.
Meat is very good, the milk, and the bread which last only few days.
The most famous is probably the Irish breakfast, very similar to the Scottish breakfast including sausages, red beans, pudding (in Scotland they call it haggish), eggs, rashers (bacon), a potato triangle
I just discovered today that is like a tradition doing on Tuesday pancake (what we call a crep in Barcelona).
Cork is the second biggest city in Ireland, with a population of 280K. However being the 2nd doesn’t make it impressive in terms of number of citizens. Ireland is a small country, with only 4M inhabitants, and that you can cross from the bottom to the top, by car, in around 4 hours (I counted the Northern Ireland here), but this is a reason why people live very well.
Ireland is full of green and nature, and if you are outside the city you can notice how pure the air is in here.
If you compare to the F.C.B. “Camp Nou” stadium in Barcelona, with 99,354 sittings, or to the 2 Million people demonstrations for independence in Barcelona, you see that is no that much.
Official languages in Ireland are English and Irish (Gaelic).
All the official messages and driving signs are bilingual.
Cork citizens have the well deserved fame of having the most difficult English in the world. And it’s true. It was not only me at the beginning, there are Americans that don’t understand the accent too!. Basically it has a characteristic music and they remove all the spaces between the words, modulating also the volume of the sound. If that was not enough, they have their own slang and there are many books with that slang, so don’t make me guess how many words in the slang they have!. I can tell you that they have phrases, that, depending on how they pronunce have antagonist meanings.
Here we say runner, for running shoes, rashers, for bacon strips, we say grant or it’s grant to say that is Ok, and heya, thankya, bye now… not to bad, to express we are fine, it was mank (this food was horrible), this was deadly or class (like terrific), sound (thanks. Can also say he is sound), story or what’s the crack to ask how is going, he has notions (he believes is better than the others because he bought a car, or a big tv) and if you hear tikety boo (all Ok), or oki doky karaoke don’t be surprised. :)
We also use jump the gun (come to a conclusion too quickly), fair enough, and in my work we say informally go bananas or go coocoo although I think I’ve heard this to the Americans too.
I love specially the expression thanks a million, that actually comes from the Irish (Gaelic) language. And if you’re asking yourself, few people talk it fluently. Most of people have notions as it is taught in the schools, but not many families speak Irish at home.
Religion is Catholic, and they practice and only in 2019 was voted in referendum to approve the abortion.
airbnb and hotels price
Airbnb is legal, and people uses it. Myself I was host in my flat for a while and was a great experience.
I had a lot of people from Dublin, that came to Cork for a concert or a wedding, and they just need the room to sleep, one day or two, basically.
Hotels price is like Barcelona between €100 and €150 euros per night. This price can be much higher if there is a congress. There are many seasonal activities where the city is full.
Something very typical to use is the B&B, Bed and Breakfast. B&B is a big house, normally managed by a family living there, that rent rooms, like if it was a hotel. Many Irish use it when going to a wedding or to visit the family and are very popular here. Typical prices are €100 or €50 euros per night. That’s typical in Scotland as well.
Finally the hostels, the cheapest price I have heard is a bed for €17 per night, but in a room shared with 7 more people.
Price of the rent
Price of the rent has been increasing like crazy in the last two years. A 2 bedroom flat, with 2 bathrooms, and furniture will cost at February around €1,500/month.
People live in houses, more than flats. Except for the city center, of course.
If you don’t mind to live in a house, far from the bus and the city center, probably you can get a house with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom per 1,300/month.
The usual is to leave 1 deposit and pay the current month, if the Landlord or Landlady hired an agency, they are the ones that will pay the agency.
English and expats
Some of my colleagues are afraid to go to an English speaking country cause they feel ashamed, they think their accent is not very good.
Well, the English of Cork is difficult, but they know and will speak to you slowly if they see you have difficulties. Don’t be afraid to say “Say it again” “Sorry, can you repeat?” “Did you mean xxxx?”.
In my first job here most of my IT colleagues were expats: from France, from Italy, from India, from Romania, Kurdish, from Nigeria, from Spain… all of them have a different accent and we understand each other. And if you go to meetups (I recommend meetup.com in order to know people) or conferences, you’ll see that many have a terrible accent worst than you. Fortunately English speaking people understand that English is not native language and value your efforts. If you ask them to correct you, you’ll learn and improve very fast. We’re very lucky to be appreciated for our intelligence and not for how we dress, or for our accent.
And many times locals will fins your accent very exotic and interesting. :)
In my second job there is not a single Engineer in Operations Irish. I’m Catalan, there is Italian, Indian, German, Russian, Romanian, English, Danish…
So Ireland is very welcoming, and is hungry for IT experts.
Salaries for IT
90% of IT companies in the world have presence in Ireland. That’s massive.
Here, in Cork, you have nice companies like Blizzard, Ibm, Quest, Dell, Logitech, Qualcomm, Vmware, McAffee, Trend micro, Facebook…
For people not in IT, there are several companies that provide Call Support in different languages, like Apple, VoxPro… so many non IT people work there.
Salary varies a lot depending in which role you work and if is a big company.
For the first multinational I worked here, a grad, which is basically somebody that finished the degree and has two years of experience, or that finished the degree and did one master, the salary was €30,000 gross per year plus 20% optional yearly bonus.
A Senior Software Engineer with 5 years of experience developing Software will get between €60,000 and €75,000 gross per year. Salaries in Dublin are around 15%, or more, higher but the rent it is too.
As Cloud Architect I had offers of 6 figures.
The minimum wage for an adult at Feb 2020, is €10.10 per hour, that’s around €1,656.20 net per month.
Internet is good and many places have fiber.
Myself I live in a quiet area, 15 minutes by car from the center, and I have a 360 Mbit/s fiber connection.
In some places they have 1 Gbit/s connections.
As people tend to live in houses instead of flats (the city center is really small) many places can only use DSL or poorly 4G connections, which is very annoyng during covid-19 lockdown and WFH as we have to disable video in chats with the colleagues.
The paper we use here is Din A4, like in Catalonia.
There are two Hardware stores in the City Center. The rest you will have to order using Amazon.co.uk.
If you look for an UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), you may see that most of them are not shipped to Ireland. This is due to restrictions flying batteries.
There are specialized sites in UK where you can buy and they will ship them to Ireland.
I consider Cork a very safe city. Starting a fight is a crime, and because their polite personality, violence of fights are not the usual. Exception to this can be found in the city center, late at night, with young (and not so young) people drunk.
People, men and women, walk fearless by the street at night.
Must say that the situation has gone a bit worst since the last two years, cause heroine has arrived to the city, and that causes some addicts to act in desperation. There are really few cases. Any tragedy or violent crime appears in the newspapers and is a new for a week, pointing, that fortunately this is not frequent.
People leave their belongings in the coffee and in the pub while they go to the restroom or to smoke. This is something you cannot do in Barcelona.
However I have known of some foreigners stealing jackets in pubs like Craig Lane. It is a shame that they do this in a so nice country like this.
It is super safe specially if we compare to Dublin, where I’ve seen yonkies running and taking the phone from people talking, in the street, or going in bicycle and stealing by pulling the cameras on the neck of Japanese tourist (that I’ve been told, I didn’t see). I don’t like to go to Dublin for that reason.
There is one kind of police only, the Gardai.
They don’t carry guns or batons, as Irish consider that this scales the violence. That if police has guns, bad guys will have machine guns, etc… So basically they try to convince the offenders to stop their attitude and surrender. They have a unit of weaponized gardai for emergencies.
My interactions with Gardai have been very positive. They have been very nice, polite, attentive. Coming from Barcelona where Spanish police hits the voters of a referendum, or hist the Catalans citizens, just cause they are Catalans finding normal policeman at the service of the citizens is something I really value.
An American friend of mine that was police, adds that wearing a knife is illegal.
The pub close around 1:30 AM, some at 00:30. When they do the “last call” means that is the last 5 minutes you can order drinks. After that they will start cleaning and you can stay while they do, normally for half an hour or an hour more, finishing your drinks. So yes, when it’s last call some people order 3 beers.
Almost all the pubs in the city center play live music almost every night. Few specialize in traditional Irish dance, most are modern rock singers or bands.
There is a disco that closes late, is called “Vodoo rooms”, and has 3 different kind of musics / ambiances with a terrace on top where is it possible to smoke. It is very well dimensioned in terms of security, and personnel is all the time attentive to detect liquid on the floor or broken glasses, and the clean everything very quickly and effectively.
Security guards in the pub have a band with their photo, name, and license number. Only people that passed the certification can be security guard. Many of them are people in their 55, so it’s less likely that they’re going to cause trouble to customers. In fact I found them very attentive, telling me hello and bye every time.
Dangers/Terror histories/Bad experiences
As said I don’t have the perception of danger in Cork, however, there is a warning signal that things can be wrong with youngsters.
This is something than an American expolice and I discussed, and he had the same impression. I have discussed with other adults and see the point like me.
The young guys, between 15 and 17 y.o. go in gangs, in groups 10, 15 or 20, and at that point they can be rude, disrespectful, have fun at the expense of others or damage a property for fun. This is the biggest danger we see.
Coming from Barcelona I laugh at the attempts of some young guys in group to pretend to be though and intimidating, so no big deal, but I had a bad experience twice, when I was walking in the street and a group throw me an egg, from behind from a running car.
I was walking using my headphones when suddenly I saw the egg passing by my side and exploding on the floor, half meter in front of my feet, and the car running away. They missed it. But as I continued walking I saw more eggshells and egg contents on the floor, so they were targeting random people for fun. That was when I had been for a year in Cork, and I decided that this will not ruin my positive experience.
I talked to my boss and he told me that this is something relative popular that some youngsters do, and that he used to find it funny when he was a young boy (he never did) until he knew about the case of a woman, that just turn back at the same time that the egg was coming from behind, at high speed as coming from a car, and impacted in her eye, making her loss her cornea, so the eyesight of one eye.
The second time I was walking on the same street, 2 Km distance from the when the first time, I was in front of the hospital, walking to the gym. I was walking 3 hours every day, and spending 45 minutes more on the bicycle in the gym, every day. As I walked my way to the gym, passing in front of the hospital, with my headphones and my hood, as it was cold or slightly raining, I noticed a heavy impact in my right arm and I got scared and my reaction was to get defensive to fight back. In slow motion I saw the egg bouncing from my arm to the floor. It didn’t explode on contact with my jacked and arm, bounced, and exploded in the floor without getting to me. As my reaction was to get scared by the impact in my arm, and my primary reaction was to fight back, they were lucky that I was talking by phone with a relative, and I explained what happened, which prevent me from my impulse to run after the car. They were lucky, cause 200 meters ahead they had to stop cause there was a semaphore and cars stopped by. They could not have escaped if I chased them and hit the windows. Fortunately nothing of this happened.
There is a community of poor people that live in tents. That’s very sad. Here is really cold, under 0 centigrade degrees some times (today 29th Feb we are at 2 cent. degrees. There are young people also in there, I read about one case in the newspapers. They could have died out there. Social services are insufficient according to the locals and they organize charity to help them live in a better place, provide better clothes, etc… Those people living in tents are exposed to drug addicts that rob the place trying to find money or something to sell.
This is the dark side and many of my expat colleagues do not know this. I live in Cork since 3 years ago, I’m well integrated, I read the newspapers, have local friends, ask the taxi drivers… so I know.
I would say that Cork, even being Catholic, is open to LGTB+. For St. Patricks cellebration some drag queen are in the carousel.
There is at least one bar/disco declared LGTB+ Friendly. Is The Chambers.
They do very nice concerts on Saturdays, and on Fridays they do Karaoke.
You must be advised, that unless specified different, restaurant will close the kitchen at 9:00PM (21:00).
Cofe places close around 6PM, at 8PM in the city center with few exceptions. (In Barcelona I used to go to a coffee that closes at midnight or later)
Most of the pubs serve food until 21:00 too.
Iconic places in Cork city
The English Market
Iconic nearby places
There are many precious walking paths and parks, full of green. The weather may surprise you, so it’s important to wear good clothes with a hood.