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When it’s Time to Isolate on a Mountain Top

Corona Restriction Madness

When we walk past the packed playground in our town where hundreds of kids are mingling, but the 5km travel radius doesn’t allow us to go to an empty forest park. When our son is asking why he can‘t meet with a single friend to play in our garden in the afternoon, although he has played with 20 of them in preschool all morning. Then I don’t want to try and come up with reasonable answers, because there are none. That is when I just want to escape to a secluded mountain top and  isolate from all the people making up nonsensical rules. What would be the difference to Lockdown Level 5 anyway?

What is more essential – Socks or a Kids Jacket?

When I stroll through our town, looking at all the closed shutters of the local stores. I read their posters in front stating “Buy local – Support local businesses“. With that line still ringing in my mind I go home and order all the things that are essential to me online. When I peek over to the shut-off clothes section in the supermarket to work out if knickers and socks are behind the barrier or accessible after all. I realise that I could buy socks indeed, but kids jackets – which I am actually looking for  – have been classified ‘non-essential’ by the Irish government. Hence I can only see them hanging off a clothes rail in the distance, whilst still pondering if I should just buy socks instead.

Freedom of Movement? Not without a Passport!

When my parents in Germany tell me that people are allowed to go to Mallorca on vacation, but can‘t visit their family in the next town over due to the current Corona restrictions. When I find out that the passport office in Dublin doesn’t issue any new passports during Lockdown Level 5 and that includes children’s passports. When I realise that we couldn’t even leave our one and half year old with my husband’s family in Ireland in case we had to travel for essential reasons, as they are not within our 5km travel radius and therefore haven’t seen our daughter in months. Yet another reason to withdraw to our imaginery mountain top where we won’t need a passport, neither justify our movements.

Greystones – The Home of the Cash Cow

When I drive through Greystones and Delgany and see yet another green field is getting turned into a housing estate. When I see how lovely old buildings are torn down to make space for modern, glass-fronted apartment blocks. When I see how much of its original charm the once sleepy fishing village of Greystones has already lost and that the process is still ongoing. When windy, narrow country roads are extended to cope with the daily increasing amount of traffic.

That is when I want to set off to a mountain top, far away from developers and their already pretty milked cash cow.

When I walk through the gorgeous Glen of the Downs trying to imagine what it must have been like without the constant humming noise of the traffic on the N11 running through it. When I remember our Sundays in Delgany Church with the friendly nuns who had called the attached convent their home for centuries and that is now turned into more apartments and houses. When I see another “Developing Site Sign“ towering over a lush piece of land where currently sheep are grazing, but will be replaced by construction vehicles soon.

That is when I want to escape to a mountain top, to just live there with my family in solitude.

Regression of the Civilized World

When I listen to the news and hear that mothers are not called ‘mothers’ anymore in British hospitals, but have to be referred to as ‘birthing person‘ to be politically correct. Also women are not addressed as such anymore in the Irish HSE information on cancer prevention, but were replaced by the phrase ‘anyone with a cervix’. When I hear that parents in Canada are forced by law to allow their underaged children to take puberty blockers if they wish to change to the opposite sex. Otherwise the state has the right take the children away from them. When I hear that there are people out there who can sue you for hate speech when you don‘t refer to them as “wormkind“ as they like to identify themselves. When I realise that there are now three entrances in public toilets for male, female and diverse, but the ‘diverse‘ sign is showing an alien which is meant to be less offensive than not having a third option at all.

That is when I would like to pack my bags and aim for a remote mountain top because this is not the civilized world that I want to live in anymore.

The Mountain Top is Waiting – Pack our Bags!

Maybe the Corona year has changed me and the social isolation has made me less open-minded or tolerant towards the outside world. Maybe I focussed on my family so much that I don‘t respect other opinions anymore who differ too strongly from mine. Maybe I am just getting old or have always been too conservative to handle modernity and changes. Maybe my social anxiety makes me come up with excuses why I’d prefer to live on a mountain top with only my family. Anyway, the day will come when that mountain top is going to be the only valid option. Until then we are to be found in our little sheltered garden paradise.

P.S. Help to stop the construction madness in the village of Delgany by supporting this initiative:




The Art of Art – Violine Sea Craft

 

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©1-3 Violine Deane, 4: Anke Marquardt

Of course writing is art. At least when you write like Paul Coelho. Would I consider myself an artist writing an Ireland Blog and running a little journalistic project called the “Foreigners of Greystones“? Probably not.

I have always had a passion for playing with words. In primary school when I could barely write, I made up stories and didn‘t feel ashamed to read them out aloud in front of my classmates. I would say that I still had the advantage of childlike imagination at the time. And the bonus of my young age. Whilst other kids were still struggling with spelling, I was already filling pages. Something that I am proud of looking back.

The Writing Challenge

In the adult world I find it rather challenging to be heard or seen with what I write. Be it due to the amount of competition out there (seems everybody wants to be a writer). Or because my stories aren‘t scandalous, shocking or lurid enough. But I enjoy writing them. And this is what matters most to me and why I continue.

Writing about the “Foreigners of Greystones“ brings me a lot of joy. As stated in my interview with the Greystones Guide and previous articles, people with a similar emigration story like mine interest me. Also, what brought them to Ireland and to Greystones in particular.

Greystones’ Real Artists

In my last article I wrote about a real artist. Well, real in my eyes. Someone with a special gift who creates the most amazing paintings and mosaics – Kris. In this article I would like to stick with real artists and introduce Violine who might already be a familiar face to some people in the Greystones community.

Even though Violine is originally from France, her artwork couldn‘t get more local. With Violine Sea Craft she has created something original, beautiful and full of innovative ideas. Every picture is unique and 100% Irish. Besides on her website, she is selling her frames in the Boatyard Gallery Greystones, the Design House in Belmont, Amora Gifts & Jewellery Bray and on the Kilmacanogue Farmer’s Market.

Art in her Blood

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1: Florence Bertin, Taradeau                                                                                                                                                                                               ©1&3 Courtesy of Violine Deane, 2&4: Anke Marquardt

Violine grew up with art. Her mum Florence is an artist herself who makes sculptures out of different materials. Something that has certainly inspired Violine when she started her own business with Violine Sea Craft last year. It also involves different natural materials that Violine collects on the local beaches. “I have fond memories of collecting treasures from nature as a child which I am now doing as a mum together with my three boys“, says Violine.

Violine Sea Craft

There seem to be real treasures hidden in the rough sand of Greystones beach. At least they become real gems once Violine has used them for her Pebble Art at Violine Sea Craft. It features drift wood, shells, glass and obviously pebbles. These ‘raw materials’ then turn into seagulls or lovebirds, looking onto the sea while sitting on a wooden pole. Or couples standing admiringly around the cradle of their newborn little ‘pebble‘. Whole families leaning into each other, watching a flying kite in the sky. The very same seems to be the limit when it comes to Violine‘s creativity. Purely by looking at the different shapes and colours of her materials, Violine gets her ideas of how to use them for Violine Sea Craft.

I have already gifted three of Violine‘s pictures to family and friends myself. Whilst the repertoire of Violine Sea Craft is huge and contains motifs for each and every family relation or occasion, Violine tailor-made them for me. The extra personal touch was very much appreciated by the people who reveived them.

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Violine Sea Craft ©Courtesy of Violine Deane

Greystones vs. Provence

Moving to Greystones when her eldest was 1 year old in order to be closer to her husband‘s family, suited Violine. It was well before she started her Pebble Art and Violine Sea Craft. “I fell in love with the place“, she says, “It was ideal for my connection and love I have for nature. Besides I love sea swimming. Could there be a more perfect place than Greystones?“

It sounds pretty perfect to me when Violine describes the place of her childhood. “I grew up on a goats cheese farm in Taradeau, which is a small village in the south of France, surrounded by vineyards and ‘Herbes de Provence‘. The hills around the farm are covered in wild thyme, rosemary and oregano. There are a lot of food producers and farm markets in the area selling wine, olive oil, honey and so on. St. Tropez and the Verdon region with its Lavender fields and stunning lakes are probably more famous. Taradeau is right in between.“

A Good Reason to Leave

Whilst it is hard to understand why someone leaves a dreamlike surrounding like the Provence, I find it very uplifting, how fondly my “Foreigners of Greystones“ speak of their home countries. It is not that they grew tired of the places where they grew up. For most of them Ireland was only meant to be an adventure with no intention to stay for good. But – as we Foreigners of Greystones know – Ireland has its very own magic. Even when you were raised on a picture-book farm in the Provence.

 ©1: @lucortiz_photoesie: 2&3 Courtesy of Violine Deane

Foreigners of Greystones don‘t quit

Violine came to Ireland in the summer of 2003 to improve her English. “My English was very poor. I worked as a waitress in a café. The pronunciation was so different from the English I had learned in school. I really struggled to communicate and work was very challenging due to my limited English skills“, Violine tells me.

But the “Foreigners of Greystones“ ain‘t quitters as I can now confidently say after having interviewed six fellow Greystones ‘blow-ins‘. Despite the language barrier Violine stayed in Ireland longer than she had planned to, because she loved the country. “A couple of years later I met my now Irish husband and have no plan to go back to France. I lived in Dublin first, then moved to a few places in the south of Dublin before settling in Greystones about 4 years ago.“

It has been nearly 18 years since Violine set foot on the Emerald Isle for the first time. You wouldn‘t believe she struggled with her English at first when you hear her now. She is beyond fluent with a very light, charming accent.

Easy-going and Welcoming

Apart from the language Violine didn‘t have any difficulties settling in or meeting locals. “I have been lucky to meet many lovely people in Greystones, in my neighbourhood, in playgroups and at sea swimming. Everyone here has made me feel integrated into the community. I have always loved that about Ireland, but even more in Greystones“, Violine says.

“The Irish are easy-going and welcoming“, Violine continues. And I think we can‘t deny that there is definitely something about the Irish men too. The same way the Irish weather is the common negative denominator for most of us “Foreigners of Greystones“, the Irish males seem to be tipping the scales in favour of Ireland over our home countries.

©1&3: TheConsciousCamera.com; 2&4 Courtesy of Violine Deane



Greystones on Kris’ “Secret Map”

Hands up who needs Therapy?

My “Foreigners of Greystones“ articles usually start with how I met the person I am writing about. In this case I will have to reveal a lot more about myself than I feel comfortable with. But here we go.

Hands up who has never seen a therapist in his life for one reason or another! Nothing to be ashamed about right? On the contrary. You always hear in the media that people should be more open with topics like anxiety and depression in our society. But when it concerns you personally it is a hell of a lot more difficult to talk about it or even admit you are experiencing it yourself.

That is what I am herewith doing. Well, admitting it, not talking about it. The focus of this article lies on Kris as another “Foreigner of Greystones“ and not on me after all.

Hypnotising Kris

So what does Kris have to do with my mental health? I stumbled across Kris’ website when I was searching for hypnotherapists in the area of Greystones. I had always wanted to try hypnosis in addition to a conventional behavioural therapy. And there she was, showing up in my online search, right at my doorstep. An opportunity that I couldn’t miss.

Our meetings were just on a professional level. But still, I liked Kris very much as a person and her kind and reassuring way of talking. After my final session I felt comfortable enough to ask her about the art work I had spotted all around the therapy room. Amazingly colourful mosaics done to an absolute level of perfection. I almost didn’t believe they were handmade as I couldn’t spot a single irregularity in them.

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Perfect relaxation

I learned from Kris that this is what she does to unwind. Hard for me to imagine. To create her mandalas, contemporary abstracts and animal motives, Kris uses a special technique called dotting or pointillism. To me it seems anything but relaxing because it requires absolute precision. Something that I aim for, but that occasionally drives me to distraction. One possible reason for me needing therapy…

Holistic Approach

When I started my “Foreigners of Greystones“ series I knew straight away that I wanted to include Kris. Besides her fascinating art, Kris’ educational background and career path intrigued me. Kris studied different health science fields such as pharmacy, toxicology, diet & nutrition as well as psychotherapy. All of which I benefitted from whilst being in therapy with Kris. I valued her holistic approach considering dietary and physical components in addition to mental health.

Change is Good

According to her philosophy of life, Kris’ website where she offers her therapeutic services, is a called changeisgood.ie. Similar to Farzanas life motto, who I wrote about in my previous “Foreigners of Greystones“ article, Kris believes that things constantly change and to use that to your advantage.

I personally have problems with change. I don’t think change is bad. But I am very much a creature of habit and have troubles with getting used to new things. However I did take some serious leaps of faith in my life one of them being emigrating to Ireland.

I agree with Kris that the way we see things changes over time as we get older and hopefully wiser. “Our philosophy of life is probably based on our beliefs, moral code, life experience and expectations. I would say – being authentic and accepting everything else as a part of my own development and growth is the most fundamental part of my philosophy. Being the best example of my own beliefs and teachings is important,“ Kris says.

Foreigner Status as Icebreaker

Learning how to be authentic and accepting myself are probably two reasons I started therapy with Kris in the first place. It might sound ridiculous, but with Kris being from a different country and a non-native speaker like myself, I felt more comfortable talking to her.

It also was a great ice breaker talking to Kris about her home country. A country that brings back fond memories of a summer camping holiday many years ago. I got to travel there before it became a trend destination for numerous holidaymakers. It was far from lacking a touristic infrastructure at the time, but I still felt I got to see the real thing. Something you will know is really important to me, when you have read my article “Abandoned in Ireland“ .

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Golden Beaches full of Amber

“Lithuania has unique golden sand beaches full of amber, amazing pine forests with silvery moss carpets, sand dunes surrounded by the sea from two sides. There are charming authentic straw roof villages protected by UNESCO, still not touched by a disturbing commercial invasion. Cities are small but charming with loads of stunning historical and architecturally interesting buildings. Not to forget the old narrow streets and inviting small restaurants and coffee shops.“ This is how Kris summarises the highlights of her home country.

Once-in-a-Lifetime-Experience

Althought I was only in Lithuania once for a short holiday in 2006, it is exactly how I remember it. Especially the ‘golden sand beaches’ and the Curonian Spit in particular are something that I will never forget. My grandmother’s friend had always been talking about the almost 100km long sand dune that separated the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea Coast. She grew up close by in Nidda and was expelled after WWII together with the rest of the German population. That didn‘t stop her from talking of it in glowing terms.

The endangered strip of golden sand is a UNESCO World Heritage site and rightly so. I consider myself lucky having seen it and having been able to walk on this unique natural site that stretches from 400m in width up to almost 4km. (We were told the dunes might be closed off to visitors in future in order to prevent them diminishing.) Whilst it was like a race to get to the only campsite nearby and secure one of the precious spaces for the night, the beach itself was almost empty when we visited it early the next morning. A truly unforgettable experience!

Kaunas – A Place to Study and Live

Besides the unspoilt, beautiful landscape, I was very impressed with the cities in Lithuania too. When Kris told me she was from Kaunas, I roamed through my old photographs which mirror what Kris says: “My native Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania known for its fine architecture (city of design by UNESCO). It is very rich with unique museums, stunning cathedrals and theatres. It’s also an academic city with many great universities including the best medical university in Eastern Europe that I had the privilege to graduate from.“

“94% of its citizens are ethnic Lithuanians which is quite rare for a modern European city“, Kris continues. This indeed is a fact that surprises me. I am sure over the next couple of years and with Covid hopefully out of the way, more young people will discover Kaunas as a place to study and live.

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“I looked at Google and chose Wicklow“

Having said that, I asked Kris why she had left Kaunas to come and live in Ireland and how she chose Greystones.

When Kris decided to take a break from her work in a big Lithuanian medical company, she chose Ireland more or less by chance. The same way I picked it due to the fact that it was a small, English-speaking country in Europe, Kris had chosen it many years before me for these very reasons. In fact 19 years ago. Whilst it took me a while to find my place in Greystones, Kris’ “secret map“ – as she calls it herself – had laid out Greystones for her right from the start. “I looked at Google and chose the ‘County of Gardens’ – Wicklow,“ Kris tells me. With meeting her husband soon after, her final destination had been decided.

The Rootlessness of Immigrants

Being drawn to another country as Kris was to mystic Ireland, is in many ways better than wanting to get away from your country of origin. Nevertheless it doesn‘t prevent you from feeling rootless as Kris describes it: “It was a scary feeling that every (I believe) immigrant experiences – not having any ‘roots’ in this strange new soil. No family to call for a dinner on Sunday, no close friend to chat with over a cup of tea, no sentimental place to go when you feel lonely. Knowing that you’ll never bump into some old school friend on the busy street or walk by a shop window that still reminds you about that special sentimental moment. Your past becomes nearly irrelevant. You’re starting from a blank page.“

Fast Food and No Mixer Taps

My favourite “Foreigners of Greystones”-question or answers respectively are the ones about the biggest cultural shock in Ireland. They are usually quite funny and most of the time I can relate to them. Kris remembers it as follows: “Regarding cultural differences, of course, many things were so strange and most of them made me laugh rather than upset! I had some fun learning how to use a sink with two taps – one with ice cold and the other -with boiling water, two story buses manoeuvring in narrow busy streets seemed unreal, amount of junk food places was overwhelming (we had only one McDonald’s at the time I left the second biggest city in Lithuania).“ The absent mixer tap in our kitchen sink still causes disapproval every time my parents come to visit. Interesting to hear it is not only a German obsession after all.

No Summers, No Winters

The Irish summers – or rather the lack of them – seem to be a challenge for most foreigners coming to live in Ireland. For us “Foreigners of Greystones“ however not a reason to quit. Rather something we get used to – maybe by taking it with the Irish sense of humour: “When I call to my parents“, Kris says, “we always have fun discussing the weather. If I ask about the weather in Lithuania in winter time, they typically say – very mild, no winter this year. That means the temperature is ‘only’ minus 10 degrees. When I say to them in summer that we are having very hot weather in Ireland with 20 degrees, they look at me with sympathy meaning – no summer again this year in Ireland!”

Learn, Learn, Learn

Whilst this is a quite humorous way of dealing with the sometimes dreadful Irish weather – especially compared to continental Europe – it is all about acceptance. Accepting your country of choice for what it is and fully embrace its otherness. Otherwise you will never settle in at all. A very valuable advice from Kris to emigrants-to-be:

“[…]they should know that once they made a decision to make another country their home, everything in that country should concern them. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ anymore. Many immigrants that I know through my work, don’t feel comfortable socialising with locals or actively participating in many areas of life and they use cultural differences as an excuse. My best advice to them – learn learn learn! Language, history, culture and traditions of the country that is your home now! The result is always rewarding as you will find something new and amazing all the time.“




How on Earth could you leave Mauritius?

From Island to Island – Farzana’s Story

I love my project “Foreigners of Greystones”. Whilst I knew the people who were going to participate, I now realise that I didn’t really know them. With each article I learn so much about their home countries and above all their diverse life stories. It is a pleasure to share it on my blog.

Farzana answered my interview questions in such great detail and so eloquently that I wondered if I need to retell her story in my own words. I am going to try anyway. Hearing about Mauritius, where Farzana is from, was super interesting. I hope it will be for you too. Feel free to leave a comment what you liked best about Farzana’s (and my) story.

Our First Encounter

How I met Farzana seems to be a good start. Like Ana from my previous article, I first saw Farzana in one of the Greystones Parent & Toddler Groups. I asked her a question that she had probably heard a million times before. I bit my tongue straight afterwards. Could I not have come up with something a little bit more original, I thought to myself. Anyway, “How on earth could you leave Mauritius for Ireland?“, I asked her. And this was when she started telling me her story.

I couldn’t guess where Farzana was from. In fact, I had never met anyone from Mauritius before. Nor did I know much about the island in the Indian Ocean. Except that it was a popular honeymoon destination with stunning beaches. I held back on saying this out loud though. No need to start on another cliche after my cliched entry question.

Why Ireland?

I am personally very interested in what brought people from all over the globe to Ireland. And in particular how they ended up in Greystones. It is the central question of “Foreigners of Greystones” and what started me on the project in the first place.

Farzana had been living in different European countries before she came to Ireland. During her studies in France she met her Mauritian husband who was studying in Ireland at the time. While she returned to Mauritius to work there for a couple of years, her soon-to-be-husband stayed in Ireland completing his training. After their wedding, Farzana joined him on the Emerald Isle and they lived happily ever after.

From Mauritius to Greystones

It would be a short story if this ‘happily ever after’ was actually the end of it. Instead Farzana, her husband and their meanwhile 2 children lived in Dublin for 8 years, before they decided to go back to Mauritius. Understandably, they wanted to be closer to their families, now that they had one on their own.

After only 9 months back in Mauritius, the young family realised that this was not what they had pictured for their life. They made the decision to move back to Ireland. This time to the family-friendly Greystones. A friend helped them to settle in and their son got to join his best mate in playschool. Two reasons why they had picked Greystones. Another ‘happily ever after’, but still not the end of Farzana’s interesting story.

Outcast or Insider?

Farzana and her family have been living in Greystones for almost 2 years now. When I asked Farzana if she feels integrated into the local community, her answer surprised me: “That’s a tough one. Sometimes I really feel integrated, like I am part of this community. Other times, one look can make me feel out of place. Most of the time, I have felt very welcome here but then there are some hard times when I felt really lonely and not where I should be. It is a choice not to live in my country and therefore something I have to accept and live with.“

“There is a small minority of people who understandably feel people from other countries are taking too much space“, Farzana says. Obviously that makes her “feel out of place or ill at ease sometimes“, she continues. “But having lived in other European countries, I was nicely surprised by the warmth of the Irish! With the name and the skin colour that I have, it has sometimes been challenging to live in other countries but the Irish people were really welcoming in spite of the differences,“ Farzana concludes.

Racism in Greystones?

Mentioning the words ‘Racism’ and ‘Greystones’ in one sentence makes me cringe. Almost like a taboo. Not because I think it doesn’t need to be addressed. But more due to the fact that it makes me realise it even exists in a small community like Greystones.

I guess especially in a small neighbourhood where people know each other, it is an issue rather than in a big city. Not long ago you were considered “foreign” when you moved from the neighbour town Bray to Greystones. Whilst it is nice to be part of a community and to be recognised, it is also harder to blend in when you look different.

All in the same Boat?

The Irish are a nation of emigrants and so are the Mauritians as Farzana explains to me: “It is probably in our genes we move around the world so much because our ancestors actually emigrated to Mauritius. I remember someone saying that for a small island there are quite a number of us all around the world.“

Being an immigrant myself I can personally relate to what Farzana is saying. However when I occasionally feel as an outsider, it is more in my own head assuming people are judging me because of my foreign accent. Basically Farzana and I have the same status as immigrants in Ireland. And still Farzana experiences it differently due to her skin colour. That is what racism is about, isn’t it?

A little History

“Many different countries have colonised Mauritius. Sailors found the island on their way from Europe to Asia. At that time, it only consisted of mountains, forests and animals. Between 1600 and 1800 its discoverers slowly populated Mauritius. Firstly the Dutch, then mainly the French and British. They used the island as a stopping point on their journey to Asia. Mauritians are therefore descendants of all the people who settled in Mauritius a long time ago.“

Sadly, among the settlers working the fields and rearing the animals, were slaves from Africa and at a later stage workers from India (Farzana’s ancestors). “This history, however, was an important aspect of Mauritius because it defines who we are as an island and also where our roots stem from. That leaves us with a rich heritage may it be in terms of architecture, cuisine or language“, Farzana states proudly.

A Matter of Taste

Farzana’s answer to the question what her biggest cultural shock was when she came to Ireland made me laugh: “What I struggle with is probably that they serve cream with every dessert and that food portions here are massive!“ Likewise Irish people can’t seem to understand that not all people live up to their weight standards. I remember Farzana telling me that the health nurse tried to match up her daughter to the standard weight percentile during the developmental checks. We were both laughing – one look at Farzana’s stature reveals that there is no Irish measurement for ‘petit but healthy’.

With regard to food portions and creamy desserts the Germans are probably closer to the Irish than to the Mauritians. But when it comes to dress code Farzana and I are totally on the same page. Wearing pyjamas in public and even to social outings, we both haven’t acquired a taste for yet. Clearly another cultural difference Farzana noticed living in Ireland.

Irish Summers equal Mauritius Winters

When Farzana admitted that it was quite a big deal getting used to the Irish weather too, I don’t feel that bad anymore having asked her why she left Mauritius for Ireland. Considering the tropical climate with temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees during Mauritius winters, it is surprising the cold Irish summers were not a deal breaker for Farzana. Some years temperatures of 18 degrees might be the highest of feelings during the summer months in Ireland.

‘Honeymoon’ Childhood?

Although Farzana grew up less than 10 minutes from the beach, she now spends more time in the cold Irish Sea than she did as a child in Mauritius. “The Mauritian East coast is well known for its beaches. It is on the windy side of the island but has some of the island’s best-known tourist resorts“, Farzana tells me. Whilst I still imagine what it must have been like growing up in one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world, Farzana said that for locals these resorts and luxury hotels were as unreachable as for someone living on the other side of the planet.

“Things have evolved thankfully. Mauritians can nowadays enjoy some of the resorts around the island during low season at more affordable price. Foreigners visiting the island and staying in hotels only get a glimpse of the breathtaking beauty of the island. They don’t see the day-to-day living and reality of people working there“, Farzana adds.

Authentic but Convenient

Having worked for several Irish inbound tour operators, I am amazed about the similarities in the international travel business. Apparently there is a demand for more authentic and sustainable tourism. On the other hand, I feel authenticity has its limits and tourists definitely don’t want to go beyond their boundaries of convenience. They are on vacation after all.

During my work in Irish tourism, I had requests of people wanting to meet up with a real Irish community. They thought they could march into somebody’s living room and see how locals spend their day-to-day life. The bestseller still is the Traditional Irish Night with music and Irish Dancing, claiming that this is what Irish people do. It is in a way, but not night in night out in front of a huge, pre-booked audience. Nothing authentic about that. My husband always comments that with “If they want a traditional Irish night, they should come to our house and watch us fall asleep on the couch at 9 pm.“

The Tourism Façade

In all seriousness, of course I get the concept of showing traditions and folklore to tourists. It gives them an impression of local customs and culture. But that’s about it – an impression. Obviously a travel group of 40 people cannot just pop into a spontaneous trad session in the pub around the corner. And that is exactly the point: Large groups and people on package holidays are very rarely going to experience an authentic Ireland.

Tourism, in whatever way, is an import source of income in most countries. And for a lot of travellers ‘ticking boxes’ by seeing iconic sites is enough to say they have seen a country. Exactly like Farzana states about people vacationing in Mauritius. I personally find it upsetting when a façade created for tourists is taken for the ‘real thing’. In my eyes it is shining a false light on a region or country. The impression given to tourists is hardly ever a mirror of reality. Hence non-authentic by definition.

The Disguise of Doing Good

An even bigger paradox is charity under the name of the most harmful forms of travelling. Massive ocean liners promoting green and sustainable tourism. Hop-on-hop-off busses touring rubbernecks through slums and townships. Agencies who promote “1-day-as-a-farmer-in-a-rice-field” as authentic adventure. It may shine light on a situation that requires attention which is positive. But in my eyes it is far from sustainable or authentic tourism.

I have been thinking for a while now about how international travel could be changed for the better. Revolutionised so to speak. And then Corona hit…Apart from that I have distanced myself a long time ago from mass tourism and package travel. Personally and professionally. I still consider myself as a travel consultant. In what way I will contribute to the tourism sector when it comes to it again, I am just about to work out.

Farzana’s Vocation

What would my articles be without my little digressions off topic as per the above. Nevertheless tourism is the biggest and most important source of income in Mauritius, too. Despite that Farzana found her vocation in a different sector which I personally am very intrigued in. As a trained business psychologist she has worked for various companies in Ireland. Sectors she consulted with include health, aviation, energy development and military forces.

After having had a career break for 3 years for her children, Farzana is currently re-entering the workforce. Her field of expertise covers assessment centres for selection and development, psychometric assessments, competency development, coaching support as well as other human resources related functions. Farzana provides trainings such as change management programmes and performance management training. Their aim is to provide support to organisations or individuals in order to enhance their performance and well-being and reach their goals.

“Shock to the System”

I used to meet Farzana almost every week in our local playgroup that she volunteered to organise by the way. Due to current circumstances I hardly see her anymore. But if, it is mostly on the beach in Greystones where she bravely goes for a swim every day. Rightly so, Farzana considers her daily swim – regardless the weather – one of her biggest achievements over the last year.

“Since September 2019, with a group of mums I have come to know, I got addicted to sea swimming. The cold water wakes me up and forces me to be present and to connect with how my body is feeling. While it is a shock to my system, it is also a breath of fresh air and I have never regretted a swim except when I have tried seas that were too rough for me! The thrill and the feeling after a swim are probably why I always go back. I always feel that I can take and handle everything better after a swim and I am so grateful to be living so close to the sea. Over the last year, I have come to meet so many people who I meet at the beach and with whom I share this passion for the sea swimming.“

To be continued…

There is so much more that I could write about Farzana and her home island Mauritius. And there are also many more questions that I would like to ask her. I’ll leave that for a chat face-to-face over a cup of coffee somewhere in Greystones. Hopefully soon! For now I would like to conclude this article with Farzana’s – very apt for these days – philosophy of life: “There is nothing more constant than change. Life just keeps on changing. I am not living with my parents anymore. My kids are not babies anymore. I am not a young graduate anymore and so on. So make the most of the present because this will change and evolve!“




Foreigners of Greystones – Ana’s Story

Why not Spain?

A strange question to start off with, you would think? You’d be right! What does that even mean? Maybe it helps if you knew that my very first blog article was called “Why Ireland?“ Still unclear? Let me explain!

I moved to Ireland in 2014 after I had fallen in love with the island during a 6-months internship as a student. But before that, I had already lost my heart once (actually twice) – to Spain!

During my apprenticeship as a Tourism Assistant 18 years ago (wow, just realising that’s a long time ago) I started studying Spanish and absolutely loved the language. Hence I spent my course-mandatory internship in Spain. More precisely in Santiago de Compostela, the destination of so many pilgrims from all over the world.

Ireland vs. Spain

I could probably write a book about those 3 months alone. They were my first experience abroad. But that was not the end of my relationship with Spain. Years later I studied Tourism and Leisure Management in University and spent a semester in Spain in 2008. This time 6 months in Salamanca in Castile and León in the West of Spain. Apart from exploring the surroundings of Salamanca extensively, I travelled half the country before I returned home.

To answer the question from above – if Ireland hadn’t completely blown me away afterwards, I might have ended up emigrating to Spain instead of Ireland.

Spanish is not just Spanish

I have to admit that I had my difficulties getting used to the Spanish life style at first. Even though I am a night owl and love my siesta, I am not a night owl in the Spanish sense. According to my experience “going to bed early on a school night” in Spain meant staying up until midnight at least.

However, my love for the language and the Spanish culture stayed strong. And here we are, back with cliches, because there is not just one Spanish culture. Living in the north of Spain compared to the south can be as different as being in two countries.

And there is not just one Spanish language either. Apart from Spain’s official language Castilian, there are Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranese which are not only dialects, but 4 unofficial languages. Whilst I even learned some Galician words from my colleagues in the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela, I am now happy when I am able to form a full sentence in any Spanish. I hide when I hear someone talking in Spanish, afraid I might be tempted to reply in what’s left of my Spanish skills.

A great Example

Seeing Ana talk to people with just the few words she had in English when I first met her, communicating by friendly gestures and being super nice all the time, I knew I had to overcome my fear and talk to her in Spanish. Not that Ana needed help – she was fine.

I just wanted to show her some appreciation for her constant efforts of approaching people, blending in and even making newcomers like herself welcome. But above all, I wanted to hear her story and get to know her better.

Ana’s Story

To me Ana’s story is one of bravery and determination. Ana moved from Elche at the Spanish Costa Blanca to Ireland in November 2017. Her granddaughter Nora was almost 4 months old at the time and Ana’s daughter was preparing to go back to work. Ana had come to Greystones to mind Nora full time.

November is not exactly the best time of the year to come to Ireland. The weather can be quite dull, the days are short and hence people spend most of the day indoors.

It is a wonder how Ana met people in Greystones, which she was going to call her home now for an undetermined time. I remember Ana telling me in one of our first chats in a mix of English and Spanish that the short days during the Irish winter were particularly hard. Whereas in Elche, in the South East of Spain, people would meet up outdoors and enjoy the mild and bright nights, that was not the case in Ireland.

Cultural Shock? Not at all!

“And everything closes so early in Ireland“, says Ana, shrugging her shoulders. “There is no time to meet anybody for a casual coffee after 6 pm.“ Whereas I would consider that as a huge cultural shock, Ana stays positive. “I didn’t notice a big cultural change as most of the Irish I’ve met were very easy going, loved to chat and broke the ice with ease. Irish hospitality is legendary!“, Ana adds.

Needless to say that Ana is a very positive and happy person. Above all, she values moral principals and considers it very important to respect everybody she encounters. This is how she describes herself in just a few words. Characteristics that will definitely help her to settle into her new environment. If only the cafes wouldn’t shut that early…

Granddaughter opens up a New World

“One day I was out walking with my granddaughter Nora and met a mother who invited me to attend the local Parent & Toddler Playgroup. This was where I met other mammies, fathers, grandmothers and au-pairs from different countries. That has been an absolute life changer for me here in Greystones.“

Still with little English, Ana has made an effort from the start to engage with people during the weekly playtime. Rather than sitting in the corner only talking to her fellow countrymen or women, she has been mingling with the crowd. She has such presence, smiles at everybody and helps out wherever she can. I have seen her comforting little ones whose parents were out sight for just a moment. Ana generously shared snacks with the kids (provided parents were ok) and brought goodies for Christmas. When our daughter was born, Ana even gave us a very thoughtful gift. It was not surprising that she soon knew many parents and children by name.

It was almost impossible not to notice Ana in the playgroup. With her friendly and kind manner she integrated herself in no time. I am sure Ana is a familiar face in Greystones too by now.

Ana's StoryAna's AlmojabenasAna's StoryAna's Torrijas

The Lockdown brought us closer

With the start of the Corona lockdown in March I decided to contact Ana. First of all to see how she and Nora were, as we had parted the last playgroup not knowing what was lying ahead. Secondly I wanted to use that time to brush up my Spanish by writing to Ana. I was hoping to improve before I met Ana face-to-face again.

So Ana and I got into a lovely exchange, texting about all sorts of things. We discovered that we both liked cooking and baking, especially during lockdown with limited possibilites to buy groceries and going out for dinners. Ana told me that she took part in numerous cooking classes back home in Spain and when she sent me pictures I was intrigued.

Food without Borders

Spain is renowned for its culinary specialities and you definitely can’t beat the Spanish cuisine when it comes to sweet things. Churros con chocolate are probably the most famous sweet Spanish export, but Ana’s repertoire goes far beyond that. When I told Ana that I had tried to make my own Torrijas as they still reminded me of my Easter trip to León in the North West of Spain in 2008, she revealed her special recipe to me. I can’t wait for Ana to bring the original ingredients over from Spain so we can have a bit of Spain in Ireland together.

Ana fits right in

Besides being passionate about food and cooking, Ana has many other interests as I learned from our online chats and the interview for my article. When I asked her about what she values most about Ireland and its culture, her answer showed me that Ana has a way deeper affection for Ireland than just liking its people and their hospitality.

“Ireland has made a great contribution to literature with brilliant writers and poets. The traditional music, combined with Irish dancing and all the myths and legends reflect the country’s expansive culture. You can find stunning castles or their ruins almost everywhere which is a  proof of Ireland’s rich history. Also its more modern architecture with the coloured doors that you can see all over Dublin, make Ireland an interesting place to travel and explore“, Ana raves.

Torn between two Countries

I sympathise with Ana. I see what she loves about Ireland, but also what she left behind in Spain. Although under completely different circumstances, I made that choice once – in favour of Ireland. I remember that I couldn’t rationally explain to myself why, let alone to other people. When I told family and friends that I was going to emigrate to Ireland, after I had enjoyed the time in Spain so much, nobody really understood. Reading through my interview with Ana, I can see now that they had a point. Apart from the warm weather (except in Galicia where it is more like in Ireland), Spain has a lot to offer that makes you want to live there.

Hence, hearing Ana talk about her hometown Elche and its surroundings makes me a bit sentimental. I get out old photographs from my travels through Spain. I order a book about the Camino de Santiago and flick through an illustrated book about Spain that had gathered dust on the shelf. Reminiscing about old memories gives me great joy and so does the research about the region in the Province of Alicante where Ana is from. Probably one reason why it takes me so long to finish a blog post.

Top of the League

Spain is after Italy the country with the second most UNESCO cultural heritage sites in the world. The Historic Palm Grove of Elche is one of the currently 42 UNESCO attractions in Spain. In addition to that, the Pusol School Museum and the Mystery Play of Elche have both been recognised by the UNESCO as outstanding intangible human heritage.

The Mystery of Elche

A couple of days after Ana had answered the interview questions, she sent me an email with additional information and photographs of the “Misteri d’ Elx“ how it is called in the own language of the autonomous community of Valencia. I reckon that Ana wanted me to put a focus on this particular event. When I looked at the pictures and read up on it I knew why.

Not just a Theatre Play

The Mystery of Elche is a musical drama about the Virgin Mary. It has been taking place in the Basilica of Santa Maria and the streets of the Old Town of Elche for almost 600 years. It is a living testimony of European religious theatre of the Middle Ages and the Mary Cult. Its two acts are entirely sung and are performed annually on 14th and 15th August.

Rather than just actors playing on a stage, hundreds of participants follow the morning and afternoon procession carrying candles. The ‘funeral’ procession of Mary leads through the streets of Elche, finishing with the enactment of the burial. The ‘Assumption’ and Mary’s Coronation follow in the Basilica. Over 300 volunteers feel honoured to take some part in the experience and so are the people of Elche.

You have to be there!

“I have included a video of the performance“, Ana writes in her email to me, “but nothing compares to seeing it live and feeling the music and voices reverberating in the basilica whilst golden glitter is raining down from the ‘sky’.“

Elements of different cultures and epochs feature within this extraordinary event. From Gregorian chants, over songs of the Spanish Renaissance up to Baroque melodies, all performed a capella.

…Dream, Travel, Repeat!

There are all these things in the world that deserve to be explored. Things that you sometimes haven’t even heard of before. But once you know they exist, you can’t wait to see them with your own eyes.

Or to say it in Ana’s words: “Live, enjoy, dream, travel … and if you have time, repeat.“

 

(All photographs are courtesy of Ana. Thanks also to my lovely husband for helping me with the editing of my text.)




Who are the Foreigners of Greystones?

“Foreigners of Greystones” is my first journalistic project. So far my blogging has revolved around myself and my life as a German expat mammy in Ireland. Recently I have experimented with a new post format featuring my tree photography and abandoned places. Besides writing, these are two other interests of mine. I would like to focus now on other people and I am really excited to share their stories.

The Blow-Ins

As the title already suggests, it is going to be about the “Foreigners of Greystones” like myself. Why did they choose Ireland and what brought them to Greystones? A topic that has always interested me. I am delighted that quite a few “Greystonians” from different countries have agreed to take part in my little project.

Whilst we all have a very different cultural background, we met through our kids (well, most of us) which gives us a connection. It is not surprising that we were drawn to the family-friendly community of Greystones, an attractive seaside town in County Wicklow, about half an hour south of Dublin .

A Bit about Greystones

Before we moved to Greystones in 2016, I had been here maybe twice before. To me it was always the destination of the Cliff Walk that you can take from Bray over the summit into the village of Greystones. On the way, with the sea always to your left, you have a great view over the Dublin Bay. Greystones and Bray are both easy to reach on the DART which I have taken advantage of many times before, while staying in Dublin as a tourist. There are gorgeous beaches in and around Dublin just a short train ride away from the buzzing city centre.

Main (Street) Attraction

The only place in Greystones that I remembered before we bought our house was the Gastro Pub Burnaby on the main street. This was where I had enjoyed a cool cider after finishing the Cliff Walk one day. I was one among many weekend visitors at the time who come out from Dublin in hundreds once the weather is nice. Most of them would rather queue at the Happy Pear for food though, which is healthy, innovative and above all (inter)nationally famous.

Besides great little restaurants for almost every taste, Greystones main attraction is the beach. Whereas the wind-shielded bay ‘The Cove’ is often quite packed with swimmers and sunbathers, the beach itself has plenty of space to accommodate locals and day visitors alike. The former little fishing Marina is slowly but surely turning into a swanky hot-spot and residential area with modern top-end properties. Nice for taking a stroll, but a bit too much concrete in my eyes (literally!).

Living where Others go on Vacation

…is what my husband says when we take our weekend walk around Greystones. And there is not much more to add. We have the sea on one side, the mountains and the forest on the other side. With the 501 m high mountain Great Sugar Loaf in walking distance from the town, we have one of Wicklow’s nicest hiking trails right at our doorstep.

The Wicklow Mountain Nationalpark, a pure hiker’s paradise, is what the Germans would classify as typically Irish: Green hills, grazing sheep, remote little cottages here and there, waterfalls and mossy trees. The stunning landscape would be reason enough to move to Greystones. On top of that all the facilities and activities for kids makes it a paradise for families too.

Mini-Melting Pot

Who are these people who make up this family-friendly community? You are going to get to know a few of them throughout my blog series “Foreigners of Greystones”. They are people who are out and about with their children. Usually they stop for a chat or at least shout a friendly “How are ya?” across the road. I have found the”Foreigners of Greystones” to be outgoing and contributing to social life in whatever way possible. I feel Greystones is a small melting pot of different nationalities. But rather than anonymity it comes with a great sense of togetherness. At least this is how I personally experience it.

Home is where my Heart is

Before we get to my fellow “Foreigners of Greystones”, a few words about myself. Most of my story you can find in my blog articles or in About me. I set foot on Irish ground for the first time in 2008, long before I knew I would end up here for good in 2014. A lot happened in between and I can now say with certainty, that I won’t ever leave this island again (except for visits and travelling of course).

God, destiny, luck or whatever it may be called brought me here and paved the way so I could stay. I emigrated to Ireland purely based on a gut feeling and the rest just magically worked out. I am not saying that it was always easy, but I definitely had a “helping hand”. It was just meant to be.

Why Ireland?

This question I have already thoroughly answered in a guest blog post with the same title (in German only). Whilst this was about my motives to emigrate to Ireland in the first place, I have now even more reasons to stay: A loving husband, two half-Irish kids (according to my husband 100% Irish) and a our deam house in one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland.

Profession vs. Vocation

It was handy that I already worked in Irish tourism when I was still living in Germany. So I had an easy enough start when I moved to Ireland 6 1/2 years ago starting a job with a big inbound travel company.

A few months after I got an even better offer and moved on to a smaller agency. When our first child was born I knew instantly that I didn’t want to return to my old job. In fact, that there wasn’t a job that I would rather do than being a stay-at-home mom. For over 3 years now we are a happy Home-Office-Family with me doing occassional writing jobs for my former employer in Germany.

Euphoric Recall

I consciously made the decision to move to Ireland because I had fallen in love with the island during a 6-months internship as a student. Hence I didn’t want to get away from my home country, but just be in Ireland. Also, I didn’t do it for someone or because of a job. I was as free as a bird at the time like never in my life before. I believe that this has a lot to do with me settling in here so well. Because no matter what happens, I wanted to be in Ireland for myself and no other reason.

I can’t deny though that I did struggle at the beginning, escpecially with meeting people and locals in particular. However I knew from experience that this would have happened to me in any other new place and I therefore had to overcome the inner temptation to isolate and get out and actively do something.

Questions answered

People who are thinking about emigrating often have the same questions in mind. Therefore I hope that my little series about the “Foreigners of Greystones” is going to be valuable to expats for considering all aspects of their decision.

On the other hand I am sure that the locals of Greystones are going to enjoy learning more about some familiar faces they have probably met in town before.

Last but not least I think it is nice that my family and friends in Germany get to know the people who I spend my day-to-day life with and who have become dear to me in my time abroad.

With regard to myself I have already interviewed myself a while back and contemplated the question if I would emigrate to Ireland again on my Ireland Blog.

Coming Soon

Hence we can dive straight into the other “Foreigners of Greystones” starting with my fellow German mammy friend Anja. When we met for the first time we discovered a circumstance that made it even easier for us to get to know each other and become close friends. What that was and more about Anja you can read in my coming blog post!

If you are of a foreign nationality, live in Greystones and would like to take part in “Foreigners of Greystones”, just send me a message or leave a comment below. You can also contact me for questions about emigrating or living in Ireland as an expat or (stay-at-home) mom.

I hope you enjoy reading the upcoming articles. Please feel free to share your opinion or add own experiences in the comments!




15 Things People ask me about living in Ireland

An interview with myself

One of the reasons I initiated my Blog was to share my experience as an expatriate in Ireland. And hopefully to assist others with making a decision whether they should take that big step of emigrating or not. Before I left my life in Germany behind and moved to the „Emerald Isle“ I had a lot of questions myself and different thoughts were going through my head. All doubts and fears have vanished and lots of questions have been answered after having lived in Ireland for over five years. Thanks to all the people who helped my on my journey!

Now, people – not only potential emigrants – ask me questions about my new life in Ireland. In my blog post Would I emigrate to Ireland again? I have already answered a few practical matters. Here I would like to give an insight into quite personal things that people have been asking me over the years.

Did you emigrate for love?

No, I did not come to Ireland because of a man. I came to Ireland because of love, though. Love to a country with which I started a relationship many years before I finally moved here. It was a very conscious decision and not because of a job or any other practicality. Pure love and gut feeling.

Did you have an employment contract when you came to Ireland?

Yes I did. My successful application with a company that I really was interested in working with at the time was the security I needed for myself to move forward with my plans and to eventually emigrate.

Do you feel homesick at times?

I never really feel homesick. I do find it hard however that it is much more complicated to plan family get-togethers and that they can’t happen spontaneously. Since we have a child I find it even more stressful to travel and have become super inflexible with boarding a plane. Video calls have become more regular and precious since.

How often to you go to Germany?

I try to go to Germany at least twice a year. Usually I stay for at least a week to make it worthwhile. I tend to make an exception and plan an extra visit for very special occasions.

Where do you spend Christmas?

The first couple of years after I had moved to Ireland we celebrated with my family in Germany. Then it was my husband’s turn and we stayed with his family in Ireland. Since there is three of us we like to keep Christmas simple and establish our little tradition in our own home. Not that we would give the opulent Christmas dinner a miss that my husband’s sister is hosting on the 25th every year!

What do you miss most in Ireland?

There is nothing „German“ that I particularly miss in Ireland. I enjoy being at my parents’ and sometimes I fantasize about sitting in their lovely garden in the sun. Especially on a rainy day or when I know they are having a family BBQ without me.

Is there anything that you still buy in Germany?

That is a question that I usually answer to (female) friends only since it is quite private. There is a certain brand of female sanitary products that I still import from Germany as I cannot get them here. Other than that, Ireland has it all thanks to Lidl, Aldi & Co. Even herbal infusions that I used to „smuggle“ in from Germany are not an issue anymore. Thanks again to everybody who has sent me little care packages over the years!

Do you speak German to your child?

Yes, I exclusively speak German to our son. It used to be a bit difficult at the beginning when our little one didn’t talk yet since my husband doesn’t have any German. So every time I said something in German I translated it for my husband. By now my husband has a good few words in German or gets the context from the little one’s response. With nearly two years our child has far more German than English. However this will change as soon as he starts playschool at the age of three. I am very happy with his bilingual development, especially because I thought we were going to face more problems with that.

Do you speak Irish?

I definitely have an affinity to languages, but I am not a genius! Whoever learns Irish or Gaelic on the side and didn’t grow up with it deserves my adoration. To me – without being insulting – it sounds like random sounds put together that are extremely hard to pronounce. And it doesn’t seem to have any similarities to a language known to me, except the Scottish Gaelic maybe. Besides English, Irish is an official language in Ireland. Hence all official documents, road signs etc. are given in both languages. In the Gaeltacht Areas – the Irish speaking communities – in Gaelic only. I am happy enough with just speaking English and I love the different accents you hear all around the island!

Do you sometimes dream in English?

Someone told me that once you dream in a foreign language you have settled in well into your country of choice. For me that was definitely the case. After living in Ireland for a while I started dreaming a mix of English and German – depending on the language the people in my dream spoke.

What bothers you most in Irish people?

Tricky questions since I will definitely get into trouble for using stereotypes or generalisations. However I do find that Irish people are less reliable than Germans. Especially when it comes to casual agreements. People either don’t show up at all or cancel last minute. I am well aware by now that the statement „We have to meet up sometime“ doesn’t mean anything and you could be waiting forever for the person to get in touch. Most of the time people would even have a good reason for cancelling. Other times they just „overbook“ themselves which is due to a lack of proper planning rather than unreliability. Read my full „tirade“ about that in my blog post Typically Irish.

How do you feel about driving on the left side?

It has become normal to me and really isn’t a problem anymore. On the contrary, I now really have to focus when driving in Germany that I don’t enter a roundabout the wrong way around. I also bump my hand on the door every time I am trying to shift gears or get into the car on the wrong side for a start. But it really is a matter of habit and I can say that I safely drive on either side of the road – once I remember which country I am in…

Is Irish food really that bad?

When people ask me that question I assume that they have the reputation of the English cuisine in mind. Or that they haven’t eaten in Ireland in years and if so, probably in a restaurant of poor quality. I like Irish food. I am not a „food snob“, rather the opposite. I like reasonable sized portions in kind of „home-cooked“ quality. Pub grub is usually great for that.

How do you cope with the Irish weather?

Honestly, when we suffer the third week of rain in a grey and dull February, I ask myself that questions, too. But as soon as the spring sun is breaking through and all those colours start spreading around, the bad, long winters are almost forgotten. People bring their flip flops and shorts for a walk in 17 degrees and everybody is visibly in a good mood. Sometimes I do get a bit frustrated when there is no real summer and temperatures barely rise above 20 degrees in July and August. However when I hear about 40 degrees in Germany and a constant drought, I prefer the moderate Irish climate.

Are you planning to stay in Ireland for good?

There is no going back for me. In Ireland I have found what I had been looking for. I have settled in well and it is the home of my family. In other words, yes I’ll stay!

That means there will be much more different experiences following in the future. And I will gladly share them on my blog with whoever is interested. I have already answered the question Would I emigrate to Ireland again? in a previous blog post which gives information about health insurance, finding a place to stay etc. If you would like some more advice or have individual questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!




Typically Irish

We know most of them. Often we laugh about them. Sometimes we are tired of hearing them. Clichés. But what is behind the clichés and stereotypes which are put on a whole nation and are hard to get rid of? To me it is a delicate and interesting topic and I probably won’t write about it for the last time. So here is Part I – my personal experience with some of the most common Irish clichés.

Using Clichés to fill Knowledge Gaps

Before I came to Ireland for a 6-months internship in 2008, I was planning on gathering some information about the country and its people. Up to then Ireland had pretty much been a blank (or rather a green) spot on the map to me. All I knew was that English was an official language in Ireland which was enough for me to sign up for a semester abroad. And if you know nothing at all about a country, it’s always funny to start with some clichés. Ireland – ah the island that has more sheep than people and where nearly everybody is a redhead.

A Sense of Humour needed

Anyway, I didn’t find the time to collect a deep knowledge about my country of choice before I went on my half-year adventure. All I had was this book by Ralf Sotschek, called “Instruction Manual for Ireland”. I managed to read a few chapters on the 2-hour flight, despite being terribly nervous and excited at the same time. Recently I read the same book again, after having lived in Ireland for 5 years. It is only now that I can smile about certain “Irish traits” that caused me a bit of an uneasy feeling back then.

#1: The Irish Laid-back Attitude

One of these traits described in the book was the so called “Mañana-Mentality”. I had just returned from living in Spain for a while and thought I was well used to this kind of lifestyle. In my first couple of weeks in Ireland, it almost tipped me over the edge though.

Bumpy Start

After over a week in a shared bedroom in a hostel and whilst I was already working full time with a tour operator, I still hadn’t received the keys to my rented apartment. Whenever I was supposed to meet the real estate agent after a long day of work and hours stuck in traffic to get to the place, he never showed up. Several busted appointments later, following a short stay in a dubious replacement apartment and a couple of nights on a stranger’s couch, I finally moved into my own apartment.

Laid-back or unreliable?

It took me a while before I was able to laugh about that story. On the other hand, I never encountered a case of such ignorance ever again as I did with this real estate agent. Therefore I still see the Irish laid-back attitude as a positive thing. Only on the odd occasion, when the plumber shows up 2 hours too late. Or not at all without calling. Only then I get furious and call it “Irish unreliability” instead. For a short moment. Very rarely. And only quietly talking to myself.

#2: Irish Sociability

The Irish are also renowned for their sociability. Endless chats in the pub without a care in the world. Spontaneous music sessions together whenever time allows it. Going for “one” after work with the colleagues. (I am not going to entertain the stereotype of the “drunk Irish” at that stage).

Perfect for travelling alone

When travelling through Ireland, you won’t stay by yourself for long. It is easy to get started on a pleasant conversation with an Irish person. Irish people are interested in who they are talking to – no pretending or false smiles. Ireland is the only country that I travelled alone and never felt lonely at all.

Holiday Acquaintance vs. Long-lasting Friendship

What is it like when you emigrate to Ireland and make it your new home? Is it as easy to find new friendships as it is to feel entertained on a night out in a pub? For me it wasn’t at all.

When I moved to Ireland in 2014, it was mainly foreigners at my workplace that helped me to integrate quickly. Thanks to an international team, I soon had a bunch of people that I regularly spend time with after work. But despite going out and meeting Irish people, it was hard to get in contact with locals apart from a casual chit chat. I didn’t feel deliberately excluded. But I also didn’t feel particularly integrated at the time.

Love as Door Opener

My now-husband and I met when we were both living in the same house in Dublin City. He himself had only come back from America after being away for a long time. We were facing the same problem in a way and slowly (re-)integrated ourselves together. Until today we still only have a few Irish friends. However now it is by choice – quality over quantity as they say.

#3 The Irish Redhead

As widespread as the sheep in Ireland is the stereotype of the Irish redhead. So what’s behind that theory that almost everybody in Ireland has red hair? There are actually not that many people in Ireland with that particular hair colour. In fact about 10% of Irish people are redheads. Considering the percentage of 1-2% worldwide and ca. 4% within Europe, the number is quite high though (Source: irlandnews.com).

Cliché fulfilled

My “Dublin girls” that I met during my internship in Ireland 10 years ago, had always predicted I was going to marry a red-haired Irish man. Obviously they based their assumption on one of the most common clichés – at least in regard to the hair colour of my future husband. However, they weren’t too far off. Even though my Irish husband has dark hair, our son has a lovely shade of red which we like to refer to as “strawberry blonde”. The explanation is simple: About 30% of Irish people carry the “redhead-gene”. So does my husband.