Yolène: Crème De Citron
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Dublin, etc.
I am a freelance photographer based in Dublin, Ireland. I specialise in food and lifestyle photography, with the occasional portraits.
I come from the Vendée region in France. I moved to Dublin during the Summer of 2004 (9 years ago already!). I thought at first I was only moving here for a couple of years but ended up staying in Ireland and making it my new home. I also spent three of those nine years in Melbourne, Australia with my Irish partner. It was great seeing this fantastic country and experiencing the lifestyle there but after a while, we knew it was time to come back to beautiful Ireland.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
A few months before we left Australia, I had decided to start working on a food blog that would reflect my love for food and especially my love for food photography itself.
A lot of my Australian friends wanted me to share my personal recipes with them and I have so many I thought a food blog might be a good idea. I registered the blog and started building the website for it but with the move back to Ireland and settling in Dublin once again, I had to leave the idea of writing a blog aside. A year later, Crème de Citron finally appeared online.
I also have a photo blog which relates more to my photography work and my professional experiences.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I really liked creating a recipe coming from one of my French favourites and making it more Irish using only ingredients that I find here. That is how I came up with the Irish Croque-Monsieur.
What I really wanted to show is that even if you are an expat and miss familiar dishes from your home country, you can always play around with the ingredients you find wherever you are and make a new version of it.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Dublin differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life here is very different from back home in an important way: I am much happier here than I ever was in France. And I believe it is quite important to find your place somewhere, to find where you are happy and comfortable, even if you have to travel to many far away places before you find out what is the best for you. You might even end up coming back to your home country if you realise that all that time, this is where you felt good.
I did spend a few weeks getting used to the fact I had moved abroad. At first, I thought that maybe it was a crazy move, maybe I should have stayed at home to finish my Law studies before moving anywhere. But I quickly realised that sometimes, you need to scare yourself a little in order to see what suits you and discover new things.
The main culture shock I got was getting used to the Irish accents. I came to Ireland with an English degree, I thought I could understand the language quite well but I had to work a bit harder to get used to the accents and the slang as well. My first Irish flatmate had a very strong accent from the North-West of Ireland and that is what probably scared me a bit as I had to make him repeat things about three times every time he was speaking to me.
Nowadays, maybe something that I find a little bit harder to live with is to be only considered an expat. I have lived here for so many years that sometimes I wish people understood that this too is now my home and a big part of my culture.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Dublin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was not fully prepared at all, I took a leap of faith. I truly believed that something good would come out of packing everything I had and moving abroad. There were some tough times, some moments where I was on the verge of packing everything again and going back to France (mostly because of bad work experiences or when I had to deal with racism).
But now, I would not want to change that decision to stay and persevere. If I had decided to leave and go back to France, I do not think I would be who I am now.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One of my funniest experiences (it might only be funny for me...) was with wildlife back in Australia. And in particular with one animal: our neighbours’ cockatoo (a bird species over there). Our first encounter with him was our very first night spent in Melbourne. We woke up in the middle of the night because of what sounded like someone killing a goose in our garden. We were then told this was what the bird liked to ‘sing’ in the middle of the night. We also quickly found out that this particular cockatoo could talk (if domesticated, these birds learn to talk, a bit like a parrot). I ended up jumping with fear every time I would come back from the movies or a play late at night and that suddenly, a croaking deep voice calling out ‘hello darling’ would come out from behind the bushes. I would laugh it out immediately afterwards but at first, it was very creepy!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Dublin?
- Be curious. If you stay in your corner and do not try to understand the Irish history and culture, you might find yourself a bit lost and not integrated. Ireland may be a small country but there are countless things to learn, do and visit. I have lived here many years and I still discover new things week after week.
- Try not to only stay with your country’s community. And this, especially if your first language is not English. When I arrived in Ireland, I really immersed myself in the language by choosing to live and work with Irish people. I ended up having mostly Irish friends and even to this day, I only have a handful of French friends in Dublin. I guess that if you decided to move all the way to Ireland, one of the reasons is probably that you wanted to part of this culture, and if you stay away from Irish people, this is not going to work so well.
- Do not be too afraid about what you hear concerning the weather but be prepared. I honestly thought that there would be much more rain than that before I left France for Ireland. But having lived in Australia and seen electrical storms and the most enormous downpour of tropical rain there, I feel like a little drizzle here and there is really not that bad! There will be the occasional pouring rain but I guess that is why umbrellas, boots and waterproof jackets were invented. And it makes you really appreciate the sunshine and beautiful blue skies when they are here (and it is not that rare!).
How is the expat community in Dublin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
As I said in an earlier answer, when I came here I chose to only live and work around Irish people as I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture.
After being back from Australia, and especially through the blog, I met a few more expats. And because of the way we met, I feel like we have more things in common. It is really nice being around people who have lived the same experiences of moving abroad and who also share the same passions such as photography, food, lifestyle or even the three altogether.
How would you summarize your expat life in Dublin in a single, catchy sentence?
My life in Dublin has been and is still a great experience and it has contributed a lot in making who I am now.