PeopleNew to the Parish

An American on the Irish sense of humour: ‘I’m very literal ... I thought everybody hated me’

Actor Tierra Porter came to Ireland in 2019 from Georgia, in the US. Her expectations were wildly different from the reality of living in Dublin

Tierra Porter says she had to get used to Irish humour. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tierra Porter from Cordele, Georgia, in the United States, moved to Ireland in August 2019 and studied music, film and drama in UCD for a year, but felt it was not for her.

After that year, Porter was accepted into the Lir Academy’s acting course at Trinity College Dublin, and studied for three years, graduating in 2023, and going on to play Starkey in Roddy Doyle’s adaptation of Peter Pan at the Gate Theatre.

Porter’s most recent role as Sarah Worth in the Abbey Theatre’s adaptation of The Sugar Wife, however, enables her to speak in her original Georgia accent. “I get to double down on my southern-ness,” she says.

Porter is full of praise for the Abbey Theatre, saying the company has been mindful of the heavy material around slavery and the Irish famine in the play and how that may impact her.


She worked with a touring children’s theatre company for about three years, and travelled around most of the US and did an international tour including stops at Cuba, Italy, England and Bahrain, before moving to Ireland.

“I was like, I’ll be okay, let’s go see what the rest of the world is like,” she says.

However, her expectations were wildly different from the reality of living in Dublin, and she had to get used to Irish humour. “I’m very much literal and blank, so I thought everybody hated me for a second, and they were like ‘Nah Tierra, you’re just American, calm down.’ Now it’s great, it was this really cool adjustment.”

She observes that Irish people can go out of their way to help others.

“The amount of Irish mammies who have just walked me to the right bus station or the right train, stuff that people don’t have to do but they go out of their way just because they’re nice, it’s opened me up so much.

“Back home, you very much stay in your lane, you go to your usual places, but here, I’ve gone to so many different things and learned so many new connections,” she says.

Tierra Porter struggles with the distance from her family. Photograph: Alan Betson

Porter says she cooks a lot more in Ireland than she did in the US, and she enjoys how fresh food is so much more accessible in Ireland than in the US.

“I love being able to buy my food and cook it for myself. The satisfaction of it, even psychologically. I’ve noticed if I have a McDonald’s, I’m hungry in an hour. But if I cook a nice meal for myself halfway through it, I’m full and I don’t get hungry for hours.

“I think I have more time, and quality of life, it’s different here. I wouldn’t even say things are slower, it’s just the culture around things, people just have a bit more time just to help, and even I feel more compelled to help people,” she says.

When she first arrived in Dublin, Porter says it was not what she had expected.

But: “I was so pleased that a lot of TV and things like that translate, mostly everybody has seen the same shows, so I could still connect and reference pop culture with people. But now I’ve got more of a vernacular.

“I’m obsessed with Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, but that man was dead and gone long before I was here. It’s totally new to me, but it’s like rooted in Irishness and it’s something I wouldn’t have had access to before.”

I got my eyes set on some youth programmes that I’m trying to start, that’s the next plan of action

Porter has also got her “Irish family” in Ireland, who she lived with in digs in Ballyfermot throughout Covid, and still visits them.

“I love that family... I feel like I’m just that much closer to them, even now, they root for me, they’re sending me stuff they’ve seen from the Abbey and they’re like ‘Tierra, look at this – this is you!’”

Since moving out though, she has lived in a few other places, and now has a place of her own near Merrion Square.

She enjoys going to Phoenix Park and Merrion Square and hugging trees – literally.

“I love just getting lost in the park, I have my favourite trees to hug, I’m your stereotypical actor. I have a wonderful relationship with this really cool brown tree in Merrion Square and I think I found its cousin in Stephen’s Green,” she laughs.

Tierra Porter believes that young people in Ireland need more attention. Photograph: Alan Betson

For the first four years she lived in Ireland, while studying, Porter worked in healthcare administration at a home care company in Crumlin. At the beginning, when she would make phone calls to let people know their carer was outside, because of her American accent, she would often get hung up on. She would then text them to inform them she was not a scam caller, nor a seller, and that their carer was at the door, and soon began making the calls in a Dublin accent, saying that is where she perfected it.

“Then in pure Irishness they ring me back, and be like ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I thought you were trying to sell me something,’” Porter laughs.

Speaking in a Dublin accent, she says: “Me Dublin accent’s quite class, yeah, it just depends who I’m talking to, but if I wanted to, I go straight into Mary, that’s me auntie, me fake Irish auntie, just in case I need to pull her out.”

The lower level of crime is also completely different in Ireland from what Porter was expecting, saying she has got “the ick” for guns.

“I moved in with a single woman, and so I was like, ‘Where’s your gun safe?’ and she’s like, ‘Gun safe? You mad thing, we’re in Ireland. There’s a hatchet under the sofa.’”

One thing Porter struggles with, however, is the distance from her family.

“I’m finding success here, but they’re not able to share it with me. It’s that thing where I want my biological family to be able to share and celebrate the things with me,” she says.

Porter also believes that young people in Ireland need more attention.

“I got my eyes set on some youth programmes that I’m trying to start, that’s the next plan of action, a youth programme where I partner young people with elderly people who need companionship rather than medical support, and give the kids a sense of pride and self value, and give the elderly people better companionship.

“Then, you watch, they’ll live so much longer, they’ll be so much healthier because all they need is somebody to listen and chat with them, listen to their stories,” she says.

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email or tweet @newtotheparish