Ats us nai! American TikToker Jackie Gendron talks life in Belfast, local slang, favourite restaurants, the Belfast Giants, and lots more in an exclusive interview with Ireland Before You Die.
We sat down with Jackie Gendron, who recently moved to Belfast with her husband, professional ice hockey player Miles Gendron, who currently plays for the Belfast Giants, and their dog, Puck.
Jackie has become a popular figure on Irish TikTok, sharing all of her adventures on the platform since moving to Belfast.
Her content includes a series on dining out in Northern Ireland’s most recommended restaurants, walks around Belfast and the beautiful NI countryside, cooking videos, and so much more.
She shared with us why they made the move to Belfast, how they have been welcomed since getting here, their favourite places to eat and explore, navigating the Belfast accent, and much more.
Jackie Gendron on life in Belfast – “we have found that people are extremely welcoming to us here”
We asked Jackie why she and her family moved to Belfast. She told us, “We chose Belfast because we had been here once before years ago and loved the city, and also saw what an amazing organisation it is for hockey.
“Players and families are both treated so well, and the fans are extremely devoted!
We asked her to compare the sense of community in Belfast compared to back in the US, where she and Miles spent most of their time in Massachusetts near Boston.
“We have found that people are extremely welcoming to us here. I am not sure if it’s because my husband plays for the Giants, or if it’s because people think we’re Canadian, but everyone has been so kind.
“We have had experiences in the past, especially on social media, where we are not as welcomed due to the fact that we are American.
“People have many negative connotations about Americans, especially American tourists, which results in apprehension in welcoming us, but we haven’t had that here at all!”
“The people of Belfast have been so extremely friendly. We find that the culture is very open and welcoming, and people don’t take things too seriously.
“We’ve noticed that even work culture is more relaxed than what we’re used to, and it seems like workplaces really value giving their employees time to live their life.
“We also noticed that people are very dog-friendly. They always seem to have dog treats in their pockets to give to our dog on walks!”
When asked if she had to choose between Belfast or Boston, she told us, “Oh this is a hard question. I find Belfast and Boston to be sooo similar.
“I think if it were somewhere we were living long-term, we would pick Boston. We have spent a lot of our lives there. We’d have family so close by, and it would also remind us of our time in Belfast!”
The Belfast accent – “we had a really hard time with the accent”
Being American and living in Belfast, there have got to be some accent barriers to overcome.
When we asked Jackie about this, she told us, “At first, we had a really hard time with the accent. I think we had a hard time because there are so many different accents, and people speak quickly with slang.
“There have been a few instances where I have asked someone to repeat, and I still can’t get what they’re saying, so I will just nod back…hopefully they didn’t say anything too crazy that I was nodding back to.
“Now we are much more used to it and know what type of slang to expect when talking to people.
“Something that always caught me off guard was “Is that you?” or “That’s you”, which I am now used to! Some people have also mentioned that I might be picking up a little accent myself!
“My favourite (slang words) are “class”, “keep er lit”, and “ats us nai”. I don’t really use them in regular conversation, but I end all my vlogs with “ats us nai!”
The Belfast Giants –“the crowd at the games are insane”
With Jackie’s husband Miles being a player for the Belfast Giants, we asked Jackie what the fans in Belfast were like compared to other teams he has played on before, and she told us they are probably the best crowd of any team he’s played on before.
“The crowd at the games are insane. The arena is sold out almost every game, which is close to 8,000 people, I think? This is probably the best crowd of any team he’s played on before.
“I find that in the US, there are so many teams between NHL, AHL, ECHL, College, Juniors, etc., that fans are kind of dispersed around with so many different options of teams to watch.
“Here, since it’s the only pro team at this level in the whole island of Ireland, it makes sense to have such a huge and devoted fan base!”
With Jackie’s husband Miles being a professional ice hockey player, the pair have had the opportunity to live and work in many places around the world.
When we asked her what her favourite place to live has been, she told us, “We have had the opportunity to live in and travel to some very cool places!
“We honestly love living in Belfast, it is the first time we are living in a bigger city and get to experience all that Belfast has to offer. We loved Norway, but it was rather cold and dark in winter – we did love the scenery, though!”
Northern Irish favourites – destinations, restaurants, snacks, and more
Since moving to Belfast, Jackie has visited so many of Northern Ireland’s tourist hotspots, but also lots of hidden gems.
She shared with us about her favourite spots to visit in Northern Ireland, as well as her favourite dog-walking spots, restaurants, Irish snacks, and more.
“My favourite spot in Northern Ireland is Kinbane Castle. It has the ocean, it has cliffs, it has ruins. When we’ve been there, we are usually surprised with a rainbow.
“My second favourite spot is Whiterocks Beach on the North Coast. We love being by the water and the arched rocks are so cool to look at.
“Our third favourite spot would probably be downtown Belfast, by the city centre. There is always so much going on, and it’s fun to walk around the shops!
“There are also so many cool places to take Puck. We love taking him to Stormont, Glenariff Forest Park, Tollymore Forest Park, Cave Hill…there are so many amazing options!”
When it comes to favourite restaurants, Jackie said, “I loved a Peculiar Tea, especially the current Harry Potter theme.
“For “fast” food, I think Wing It has some of the best wings I’ve ever tried. Miles’ favourite is either Edo or Yugo! There are so many amazing food spots, it’s hard to go wrong”.
When we asked Jackie about her favourite Belfast snack or food, she simply said, “Fifteens!”. We can’t argue with that!
Would you recommend moving to Belfast? – “DO IT!”
We asked Jackie what advice she would have for other Americans considering a move to Belfast. She said, “DO IT! We love being here. The most important lesson I learned early on is that you need to be respectful of any place you’re visiting or moving.
“You need to make an effort to learn about the culture, be respectful and gracious about moving into someone else’s country, and do everything you can to assimilate and learn from the people who live here”.
Finally, we asked Jackie if there was anything else our readers should know. She took this time to thank everyone who has been welcoming and patient with them since arriving in Belfast.
“I want to thank everyone who has been so welcoming to us and patient with us as we are learning how to live in a new place. It’s not easy to pick up and move to a new country, but everyone has made it easier for us! Thank you!”
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