As a white male born in the United States, I have plenty of stereotypes associated with me (both deserving and somewhat less so). However, the one that I have always disliked is the "American Idiot" tag that Green Day popularized and I always find myself over-compensating to avoid when I travel abroad. We have all seen the survey results and humorous on-the-street surveys about geography knowledge. Hell, there was an arguably amazing game show focused on nothing more than testing your skill at judging the ignorance of Americans on the street. Well, I was one of the few that enjoyed Geography class and even have my own copy of "Geografacts" at my parents' house in the woods.
Rapid7's decision to ship me off to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to integrate our new development office into the unique culture that is Rapid7 gives me the rare opportunity to live in another country for a long period of time and truly test my American Idiot-ness without the luxury of falling back on my impending return flight. I have already found myself among a very small minority of Americans that knew Belfast is a part of the United Kingdom, not the Republic of Ireland, but now I am just showing off my Geografacts skills that you already envied in the paragraph above.
Our paperwork is finally complete, so I am making the move (accompanied by my wife, two toddlers and a soon-to-be-shocked dog) on May 12th. Er... 12 May, for those of you non-Americans reading this. That means we are deep in the "What do we ship?", "What do we store?", "What do we throw away?" stage of planning where each day filled with confidence that we are on track is immediately followed by one in which I open a door to find a full set of china (the dishes, not a miniature version of the Communist nation) that I have not started wrapping.
What have I learned so far? Here are a few highlights:
- We (Rapid7 employees) are still searching for the first Belfast restaurant that falls into the 90% of United Kingdom businesses at which American Express boasts acceptance.
- When the US government says that a passport application takes 6-8 weeks to process, you generally receive a passport in 2 weeks.
- When the UK government tells you that a sponsorship application takes 8-12 weeks to process, you get notification of approval in 11 days.
- Moving a dog weighing 3 stone to Europe costs more than double that of a person weighing 14 stone, and there are a lot more shots and pills involved. Has anyone thought about this? A human needs $100 and a slight interest in bringing disease to another country, but house pets need to get run through astronaut-level testing.
- It is much more difficult to tell the genuinely nice residents of the city of Belfast that you are not going to use their services than the typical incompetent-and-angry-about-it service industry staff that is so common in the Northeast US.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, or more specifically, the Emerald Isle, plan a short visit to Belfast. I will make sure that someone from Rapid7 buys you a pint.