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My love-hate relationship with Ireland

Last update - Friday, March 29, 2013, 13:16 By Tara Fannon

Ireland was not fun for me when I first arrived from the United States.


It was cold, dark and wet. I hadn’t any friends or family to speak of, and it was Christmas time. My flat smelled of mould and my flatmates were unfriendly. I got on with things, obviously, because I stayed in Ireland a lot longer than I had planned. I actually grew to really like it. It took a while to make Irish friends, nearly five years actually. They’re tough nuts to crack and a little sceptical of new faces, even though they would have you believe otherwise. My social life turned out to be full and vibrant. That said, I did get more comfortable with my own company out of necessity. Coming from a person who has always surrounded herself with people, this turned out to be strangely freeing.

I was pining for the US pretty much until we left Ireland. The distance between my family and friends and myself made me miss them all even more. I longed for abundant summer sunshine and reliable weather. I missed the food: the variety, the choice, the great big go-on-for-miles grocery stores. I missed the superior restaurant service (yes, I know servers often couldn’t care about me, but they do care about their tips, so it’s a win-win situation). I missed American convenience, the ease with which things can be done here (at least that’s how I remembered it). I missed American efficiency.

It’s funny how you don’t see the wood for the trees when you’re so focused on something. As cliched as that is, it’s true. My long-lost love affair with the US was always eating away at me and only grew to consume me the closer I got to the point when we would be back together. I had one foot entirely out of Ireland for over a year. It was awful. I’m pretty sure I insulted a lot of people because of it. I was fixated on the idea of escaping a country that had been so good to me, and which I would later realise I had more in common with than I’d thought. I knew that there would be things about Ireland that I missed. You can’t live somewhere for nearly a decade and have it not make a positive impact on you.

Nonetheless, some things about the US and Americans in general haven’t changed. For instance, we’re resourceful. We do tend to make lemonade out of lemons, and particularly at a grassroots level. Hard work is, in many cases, still valued and rewarded. Not in the ‘American Dream’ sense, that’s pretty much a joke; what I mean is that my desire to collaborate with others or be a part of something is more often met with positive enthusiasm. Similarly, if I want to start my own gig, I can. No one is going to stop me. We are a gregarious bunch. It’s easy to make connections here. That’s something to be proud of, not something to downplay. Also, Americans are generally receptive and open-minded. Some might call us gullible or sheepish. Some might even disagree entirely and suggest that we’re impervious to new ways of thinking and being.

I’ve changed a lot, though. That has as much to do with getting older as it does living abroad. Nowadays I appreciate quiet easiness. I value down time and good health more than having great wealth and accumulating things. I appreciate reality but not the farcical nature with which we treat it. I like a bit of competition but I don’t appreciate exploiting people for the benefit of it. I value smart people who have smart things to say even if I disagree or don’t understand, but I don’t see how so many of them can be ‘experts’ about the same thing.


As for Ireland? I miss how small everything is: the streets, the buildings, the cars, the shops, the selection of goods and services. No person needs 50 breakfast cereals to choose from. I miss how I never felt like a powerless small fish in a big bureaucratic pond. If I needed to speak with someone at Revenue, the bank, a utility company, I did – and without having to navigate an unnecessarily long rat maze of automated phone options. I miss Rathmines, perfectly formed and well-equipped with everything one needs: a handful of nice restaurants, a couple of good coffee shops, a health food store, a few small grocery stores, a gym, post office, yoga studio, cinema, chemist and off-license. I miss how easy it is to fly to other parts of Europe. I miss nearly 30 days’ holiday. I miss the cheeky Irish sense of humour. I miss my in-laws and my friends.

Yes, Ireland is pretty Americanised. The Irish are mad for their shopping and their celebrities too. You might even read this and remember a time when you spent ages waiting to speak to someone at the ESB. All romance aside, the reality is that every place can do things better politically, socially, culturally and so on. Ireland has its fair share of problems. It’s broker than broke and the Irish are fleeing in droves to only slightly greener pastures. But economies repair themselves. The only real deal breaker for me was the weather. Still, if builders could manage to put a roof over Ireland, I would move back in a heartbeat. Who knows where the road will take me? Only time will tell, I suppose.


Tara Fannon was previously a student in Sociology at UCD and a columnist for Metro Éireann.


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