During my first few days in Northern Ireland, the kindness I encountered daily impressed me. Addressing cab drivers by name and chatting with clerks in shops became commonplace. As the weeks drift on, I feel myself slipping into a comfort I’ve never known in the States.
A week into my time abroad, I depleted my first bottle of ketchup. I cannot be without this holiest of condiments. I left my flat and wandered downtown, directionless and mapless. I picked up groceries and walked back to school, covering three or four miles.
I would never attempt such a venture in Pittsburgh, my hometown; yet, thousands of miles from home, it seemed normal.
Several days ago, I went to a cafe for lunch. I paid a 12 pound tab entirely in coins. I watched as the clerk dropped the coins into the till without counting them. She smiled and wished me a nice day. From working as a cashier, I know the importance of counting customers’ change- particularly if it totals $19.
During another incident, I caught myself breaking down the buddy system to someone I’d met in class. To see a lone person traveling at night without company appears very commonplace here.
I could not peg the difference between this attitude and the one I find in the States for a long time. In retrospect, I’d have to say a great deal of these situations boil down to one key element: trust. I trust the friendliness of strangers here to get me home if I’m lost. The woman in the cafe trusted me to give her correct change. People walking home trust in their environment’s safety.
The effect of such a trustworthy attitude is rubbing off on me. I catch myself starting conversations with people at taxi stops simply because I can. I ask for help more than I do at home. I can feel myself opening up to people, tossing any awkwardness or hesitation in my path out of the way.
I think I’ve discovered the second key to unlocking the door behind which happiness awaits, and that key is trust.