The first thing most Americans seem to notice and enjoy discussing when traveling abroad are language differences. I have often found myself in conversation with people not from the United States and usually remark about differences in slang, pronunciation, or important daily vocabulary words. In Northern Ireland, however, language takes on very important meaning that Americans would never know without talking to people here. The difference between calling this country Northern Ireland versus the North of Ireland can indicate not only political affiliation, but also religion. The history of sectarian violence in this country divides people across religion, national identity, class, and so much more and simply the way one says the name of the country of even a city (Derry versus Londonderry) indicates which side of the divide one comes from.
Being an foreigner here means I must not only be considerate of customs and slang, but also of the names I use of places I visit. Knowing this, it’s difficult not to be curious about the background of the people I meet so I can be careful about the language I use. But this curiousity likely contributes to my perception of a divided country and for people here may also maintain such a divide. It certainly reminds me of the importance of knowing the history of a place before traveling to it, and of being considerate about the language I use.