The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow David Gonzalez Chavez.

“There’s some good crack there” is what I heard from my coworker Finn describing a party he went to, which caught my attention—why is he bringing up heavy drug use in a tame conversation? After some brief thought as to how ridiculous that’d be, I asked what he meant by crack (or rather, the proper spelling “craic”) and he explained that it essentially means a good time or fun.  This is one of many moments I’ve had where different words or meanings have left me utterly confused while in Belfast.

I’m currently based in an English-speaking country—in theory, that should’ve meant that I’d be able to communicate just as well there as I would at home, but I quickly learned that the English spoken in Belfast is a wee bit different than I was used to hearing.

Take the word “craic” (pronounced crack) I told you about earlier: with Finn’s explanation of it, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of it. As far as I was aware, these were the main uses of it:

  • What’s the craic: What’s up.
  • Where’s the craic: Where’s the party at.
  • It was good craic: It was good fun.

Then just a week ago, I met one of Finn’s friends and was confronted with “what’s your craic.” My craic? I just assumed he meant “what’s the craic,” so I responded with “not much, how about yourself.” Wrong answer. He looked at me sideways as if we were speaking an entirely different language. I realized that it must mean something along the lines of “who are you and what are you doing here,” so I explained all of that. After almost 5 months in Belfast, I haven’t even fully learned the intricacies of the craic, let alone most other unique words.

Aside from new words, I’ve been confronted with different meanings of words from their usage in the United States. The obvious examples would be fries being “chips” and chips being “crisps,” but those only cause minor embarrassment when used improperly. Here are a few other minor differences I’ve picked up, thus far:

  • Hoover: Vacuum
  • Caravan: Trailer
  • Brush: Sweep
  • Bun: Muffin? This one is still confusing.
  • Biscuit: Who knows honestly, I’ve heard everything under the sun called a biscuit.

Making “Christmas buns” with an afterschool group

Misunderstanding any of these is pretty minor, but some words can be a bit more awkward if misunderstood. For instance, one day one of the babies in our playroom was extremely upset, so a coworker picked him up and said she was going to nurse him. That was confusing to me for a few reasons, and that confusion was probably evident by my expression as my coworker realized my misunderstanding and explained that nursing means to comfort.

While it’s certainly fairly easy for me to communicate in Belfast because of the shared language, differences like these make communicating here some good craic!