Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.

25/03/2021

Esther Eat the CakeEsther Life is ShortEsther Eat the CakeEsther Life is Short

Usually I conclude my “Foreigners of Greystones“ articles with the philosophy of life of the person I am writing about. They round up the interviewee‘s story nicely and so far we had great advice and uplifting mottos in my previous articles. Today however I would like to start off with what, Esther told me, was her attitude to life: “Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.“ I think it is the perfect introduction for Esther and how I got to know her during our interview and beyond.

Leap of Faith

Esther took a huge leap of faith when herself and her at the time 2-year old daughter followed her husband David from Germany to Ireland at the beginning of last year. David had already been in Ireland for a couple of months after seizing a career opportunity his company offered in October 2019.

When Esther arrived in Ireland at the end of January 2020 it was very hard for her to settle in. Whilst her husband had already established a social network for himself through work, Esther basically started from scratch after leaving friends and family behind in North Rhine-Westphalia (Viersen) where she is from. Little did she know that it was going to become even harder with the beginning of lockdown shortly afterwards.

Planning, Planning, Planning – German Virtues at their Best

Esther had been well aware that moving abroad was going to be a big challenge. There was a lot to consider even if you were only planning to stay for 2-3 years like in Esther‘s family‘s case – depending on her husband‘s job situation.

Esther had contacted me through my blog in December 2019. She asked me a lot of questions. Something, Esther and I both agree, people should do before embarking on the big adventure of emigrating. But no matter how many questions I answered, I knew I wouldn‘t be able to take away her feeling of uneasiness that comes with moving countries. I remember it well from when I made the same decision almost 8 years ago.

It doesn‘t matter how much you plan or prepare in advance, a level of uncertainty always remains when leaving the familiar for the unknown. Learning to embrace a foreign culture. Overcoming the language barrier. Putting yourself out there and integrating yourself into a new community. These are all things easier said than done. However Esther was not oblivious to the fact that this was all ahead of her and their young daughter.

The Basics are not Enough

It was definitely an upside that Esther‘s husband David gave their family a head start by finding a suitable family home before his wife and daughter followed him to Ireland. Their choice had fallen on Greystones due to its family-friendly environment and location by the sea. Something they had always wanted over a life in a big city like Dublin where David‘s office is based.

So far so good. But the basics aren‘t enough. To settle into a new home takes so much more than just finding a nice place to live. Esther didn‘t leave anything to chance and had already made a few contacts with local mammies on social media prior to their arrival. Now it was time to follow up with the ‘field work‘. Esther had it all covered.

Thwarted Plans

I had been delighted to finally meet Esther in person in one of the playgroups. She was that nice, friendly, open-minded woman that I had got to know through our chats prior. But I also saw that she was upset about what she had left behind, namely their newly-built house in Brüggen (Germany), her family and friends in the region she grew up in.

Unlike me, Esther hadn‘t chosen to come to Ireland because she had fallen in love with the island. It was a family decision to support David‘s career move which was a great opportunity for him. However living in a foreign country for a couple of years could have been a life-enhancing experience for Esther and her daughter too – under the right circumstances.

Take the TripTake the TripTake the TripTake the Trip

From Hundred to Zero

“Shortly after we arrived in Greystones, we introduced ourselves to the neighbours with homemade cookies“, Esther tells me. “My daughter and I went to local activities such as gymnastics for kids, musical classes and playgroups. And I met up with the German mammies I had contacted through social media before. These indoor activities were a great opportunity to meet people as the weather in February and March was cold, wet and stormy.“

Esther was well on her way to establish a social network for herself featuring some German mammies and other people she met through them. With spring on the doorstep and more sunny days ahead, this could have been a fantastic and above all sociable time for Esther and her family to explore their new surroundings.

The socialising came to a sudden halt when the pandemic hit full force pretty much straight away after Esther and her daughter had gained foothold. The beginning of what Esther describes “one of the toughest times in her life“.

Isolated, Lonely and Scared

Despite Esther‘s thorough preparations and planning for every eventuality, she found herself in a situation which left her isolated, lonely and scared.  “We had found a preschool place for our daughter from the beginning of March 2020“, Esther tells me. “And we had just finished our 3 days of easing-in period when the big shock came – Ireland goes into full lockdown. We had no idea how long this was going to last and decided to not travel to Germany for now. We didn‘t want to take the risk of catching the virus on our journey and bringing it home to our families. For 12 weeks we pretty much isolated ourselves“, Esther says.

“My husband was working a lot and my daughter and I were basically on our own in a foreign country. We weren‘t allowed any visitors and couldn‘t go back to Germany either. It was particularly hard when my uncle died and my dad suffered a stroke”, Esther remembers, “and we were stuck in Ireland. I tried to keep our daughter entertained and to distract her with going to the beach and doing different things. But it was very challenging. The feeling of not being able to get away, the loneliness, the responsibility for our daughter and not knowing how things are going to pan out in the future. That pushed me to my limits.“

No Reason To Crumble

I guess it takes a good bit for a person like Esther to feel that desperate. Just a quick reminder of her philosophy of life at that stage. “Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.“ Despite only knowing Esther for a short while, I thought this reflected her personality very well. In fact she took that trip (to Ireland) and she certainly eats the cake.

Well, don‘t get me wrong. Esther doesn‘t look like as if she was eating a huge amount of cake, but she definitely bakes the most amazing ones. Besides her occupation as an online editor in Germany‘s leading women’s online magazine GoFeminin, Esther runs her own food blog E.A.T.

“I love baking, cooking and trying out new recipes as well as writing and food photography. My job and blogging is ideal to combine what I am passionate about“, Esther tells me. It also gives her the much needed flexibility and some sort of stability when they moved to Ireland. Even more now during the Corona Crisis when almost everybody is working from home – including her husband David.

A German ‘Frohnatur‘ (= cheerful person)

Another thing Esther is passionate about is carnival which her home region in Germany is famous for. One can almost say that Germany is divided when it comes to carnival. You either love it or you hate it. Both with a passion. The region in East Germany where I come from does have carnival too, but you can escape the jolly season if you prefer. There are places here and there where you can join the party or just ignore it.

When you come from Viersen like Esther, about half an hour West of Düsseldorf, you hardly have a chance to not partake in carnival or Fasching as it is called in German. It‘s everywhere. “It‘s a big celebration that kicks off on 11th November and ends on Ash Wednesday“, Esther tells me. “People party, laugh a lot and just enjoy life. In the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) region people are very outgoing, chatty and like to celebrate.“

Esther Life is ShortEsther Eat the CakeEsther Life is ShortEsther Eat the Cake

Esther fits right in

Hence getting accustomed to the Irish mentality wouldn‘t have been too difficult for Esther and her family under normal conditions. “Our start in Ireland was actually quite easy. Our neighbours were very welcoming, friendly and helpful. Often people started talking to us on the beach and we really like the openness of the Irish. Everybody we have met so far has been chatty and interested in our story“, Esther says.

Nevertheless, Esther admits that she didn‘t feel integrated for a long time due to the Corona crisis.

“You have to actively do something to meet people in a new place,“ Esther knows. “It doesn‘t just happen like that without showing initiative. Not being able to meet people, doesn‘t help with feeling isolated and lonely.“

Never give up

Looks like Esther did everything right. And still, emigrating to Ireland couldn‘t have been more difficult for her and her family. However, like Violine and Kris already stated in my previous “Foreigners of Greystones“ articles, never give up!

When I spoke to Esther again a couple of months after our first interview, times don‘t seem as dark anymore despite the still ongoing lockdown. “There was a turning point when our daughter eventually started in a lovely, recently opened kindergarten in September 2020“ Esther says. “The teachers really helped easing her into the new environment. They even learned a few words in German and made lanterns to celebrate the German St. Martin‘s Day in November which we really appreciated.“

Positive Outlook

With spring around the corner just like last year when Esther was about to embrace her Ireland adventure, she can now pick up where she left off. “Through kindergarten I made more contacts who I can at least meet outdoors“, Esther says. “Our neighbours are still looking out for us and the German mammies support me when I have questions. We also met parents from other countries like Sweden, Texas and Thailand who were very welcoming and invited us to their weekly gatherings. I took up a Yoga Class with Minaste Yoga which started out on the beach and is now online every Thursday. I can say that I have established what I would call a positive routine and a good social network for myself.“

Let‘s hope the Corona restrictions will ease soon so that Esther and her family can enjoy their Ireland adventure to the full, how ever long it may last.

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4 Comments

  1. Rebecca Paynemurphy

    A lovely honest read. Highlighting the challenges of moving to a new country made more difficult by covid 19. Well written Sylvia

    • Sylvia

      Thank you Rebecca! Yes, I thought it was particularly interesting to hear an emigration story that didn’t go so smoothly and shows people yet another challenge of Covid19.

  2. Kris

    Very well written, Sylvia. I do understand what that lovely lady had to go through emotionally, but challenges make us stronger! And she is here now – in this exceptionally beautiful place on Earth. ❤️

    • Sylvia

      Thanks so much for your feedback Kris! It was hard for Esther indeed, but she came out the other end, you are right :-)!

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