Anne: Nearly Irish
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Ireland, etc.
My name is Anne, I am 34 years old , I’m originally from Brittany, France and I moved to Ireland 12 years ago. After I finished my studies in International Trade, I came across an ad for a job near Dublin. I applied and was hired! The process went very fast and I had to organise my expatriation in 10 days. Thankfully my new boss helped my find an accommodation in an Irish family, so I had a job and a room sorted before I moved over. As it happened, the job didn’t work out at all, and I resigned after a week. I didn’t go back to France however (I had my pride!) and found a new job. I met a Mauritian guy a few days after I arrived and we are now married with 2 kids.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I only started to blog about my experience in Ireland last December. It can seem a bit strange not to have started before, but as much as I wanted to share my stories about the country, I couldn’t figure out how to start and what to talk about after so many years. Blogs really started to take off in the mid 2000’s and I was already in Ireland for 5 or 6 years, so I couldn’t really talk about typical expat subjects such as how to find a job, an accommodation, where to go out and so on. Plus, I wanted to write in English, even if I’m French. For 6 years I maintained a blog in French, about Mauritius (my husband’s country), but the inspiration dried out, so I decided it was really time to write about something I experienced everyday. I started to write a book, but once again, couldn’t figure out the right structure. So I decided to write a blog to see if people would actually be interested about reading what I write, and I am pleasantly surprised with the feedback. In my blog, I talk about cultural differences between France and Ireland, expat life, parenting and anything that crosses my mind really...
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favourite post is one I wrote about keeping the friends you have back home.
A young girl I know recently moved to the USA and she was afraid to be forgotten by her friends. She wrote something on Facebook that caught my attention: “It’s when you leave that you see who cares about you”. It really reminded me of my own fears when I left. I wrote that post to give her a piece of advice. Friendship is not a one-way street, and when you leave, you also have to work hard at keeping your friends and let them know you also care about them.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Ireland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I had to get used to the Irish accent and the way Irish people talk in general. That was quite hard at the beginning. But the biggest cultural difference is about food and drink and the way people socialise. In France we can spend two hours around the table, drinking and eating, whereas here, people don’t take as much time. They also eat very light for lunch and a lot more in the evening, and really early. In France it’s the complete opposite. We eat a good meal for lunch and a light dinner, and usually later. I have kept my French ways when it comes to food. But I do like going to the pub and the social aspect of it.
I don’t think I experienced a big culture shock as it wasn’t the first time I was abroad. I spent 2 months in Glasgow and 3 months in Cornwall previously. I had an idealised view of Ireland before I moved and it was completely different when I arrived, but it didn’t matter too much in the end. I was very happy to discover a new country and a new culture. The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was the fact that Dublin and the surroundings were not as “Celtic” as I thought. In Britanny, our culture, language and traditions are very much alive and very important. I didn’t find that in Dublin. I guess I should have moved to the West!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Ireland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’m not going to lie. I was completely unprepared before I moved. Apart from the fact that I had a job and an accommodation, I knew nothing about the country. Well, I had Irish stereotypes in mind: Guinness, lakes, sheep, The Commitments, U2, Riverdance, Irish music, red-haired people…
I didn’t know the economy was booming and I thought I would be the only foreigner there (why?!).
I don’t think I would do anything differently though. I know myself, when I look into something too much I just cannot make my mind up. I’m sure I would have found an excuse not to leave if I did that.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
On my first day at work, my boss asked me to go to the post office to send a letter. He told me it was near the supermarket and I really thought it would be easy enough to find as I was working in a village, not a big city. I was expecting a big building with a “Post Office” sign on it but there was nothing like that in sight and certainly not near the supermarket. The only place that could have fit the bill happened to be the library. I decided to ask for directions.
I saw an old man on the street, he looked like he was from the area, so I took a chance:
“Excuse me sir, I am looking for the Post Office, do you know where it is?”
He looked at me with a big smile
“Yes of course, love! just go in there, down the stairs, on your left”
I looked puzzled because I did not know exactly where he was sending me. He understood I was lost and I did not know where to go, so he did something that would have never happened in France.
“Just come with me, I’ll show you”
And he took my hand, bringing me all the way to the post office.
We went into a little arcade towards the supermarket, took the stairs down, arrived in an underground car park and outside there were another few shops and parking spaces.
“There you are, love, it’s just there”
OK, “there”... I felt so stupid because I still could not figure out where that post office was...
“Look, it’s there, just at the back of that shop”
“Thank you, I see it now. Thanks very much for your help”
The old man left and I could not believe that the post office was at the back of a key-cutting shop. Talk about hidden treasure !
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Ireland?
- Save enough money before you come – I’m talking from experience here, sometimes you have a job lined up and it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it takes longer than expected to find a job… And then when you find a place to live, you have to be sure you have enough money for a deposit and a month rent. All that has to be taken in consideration.
- Try to mix with the locals – It can be daunting and hard sometimes, especially if you work with people from your own country. Try to join a local club, take up sports or a hobby that will allow you to meet Irish people. In my case I joined a musical and drama society.
- Be ready for the weather – No, it’s not raining all the time! The weather is just changeable, that’s why there are so many rainbows in Ireland. There can be rain, wind and sun all at once. It’s not unusual to wear sunglasses and a rain jacket at the same time. Also, be ready for the endless moaning about the weather. It’s a national sport in Ireland. Just play along, you’ll be grand (as they say!).
How is the expat community in Ireland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I used to work with a lot of French people, but I rarely socialised with them as I was living quite far away from my job. I did have a lot of expat friends at the beginning, but one after the other, they left and went back home. At some point I realised I was better off trying to make more Irish friends because at least they wouldn’t leave. After 12 years, we have a good mix of expats and Irish friends. The expats friends are long-term, like us. I don’t really see myself starting a friendship with someone who is going to leave after a year or two. Saying goodbye has become too painful.
How would you summarize your expat life in Ireland in a single, catchy sentence?
I’ve lived here for so long that I’m nearly Irish at this stage!