It’s the first day of my orientation at Arcadia University in the heart of Dublin, Ireland. My five classmates and I walk into the room that will be our classroom for the next four weeks: a tiny room, maybe 12-by-12 ft, with no AC, and only a few small desks. Before the faculty proceeds to introduce themselves and the course, the assistant director, Grianna, a soft-spoken, petite Irish-woman, asks “What’s the craic?” Uncomfortable laughter and unknowing side glances fill the room as each of us ask ourselves mentally the same question: she cannot be talking about crack, right? Sure enough, Grianna attempts to explain the Irish jargon, but essentially, after that, I assumed that “what’s the craic?” was quite similar to when Southerners — including myself — walk into the grocery store and ask the lady handing out coupon “How are you?” or “How’s your day?” You don’t really care whether or not the lady is having the best or worst day of her life, but you ask anyway because it’s more or less a greeting than an inquiry.
However, unlike most things that one is presented with at an orientation, my first interaction with “the craic” stayed with me through my first few days in Ireland. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Like all millennials, as soon as I sat down at my laptop, I google it. Sure enough, Wikipedia had an answer for me: “craic” (kraek / KRAK) is a term for news, gossip, fun entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland. Though a broad, yet simple definition, this answer still felt wrong.
Then, in my quest for the craic, I had a revelation: I had been looking for an explanation in all the wrong places. I wanted a technical, physical definition to fulfill my OCD, American ways. I was thinking like an American would, but I needed to be in the mindset of the Irish. At this point, I just began making observations about the kaleidoscope-like nature of Dublin. I quickly noticed how unique and quirky the Irish and their culture here in Dublin is, such as how they call arugula, rocket or a zucchini, a courgette. Meanwhile, my shower is electric with a switch outside of the door of the bathroom, and my washing machine is in the kitchen next to the dishwasher. All the while, on the streets of Dublin, you’re more likely to see a cop (or a garda as the Irish say) washing down a cold pint of Guinness instead of making an arrest.
I think its safe to admit that my initial assumption that craic was simply a greeting was incorrect. Rather, from what I have gathered in my first few days here in Ireland is that craic is more-or-less a motto for the Irish people, a way of life even. It reminds me a lot of New Orleans’ laissez bon temps rouler, let the good times roll. It is a quirky conversation starter that is inexplicably Irish in every way.