10 Things that I wish I had been told before I moved back to Ireland
When you live abroad, you always see ‘home’ through rose tinted glasses - FACT.
You will arrive back to living in Ireland and feel instantly that it was the correct decision to make - FICTION.
I dreamed of buying our own home and pottering in the garden during the long summer evenings. I dreamed of the children feeling grounded and knowing where they are from. I dreamed of visiting cousins and grandparents.
The reality is, after almost two years back ‘home’, that the children would rather live somewhere else. We haven’t bought our own home. But, we do visit grandparents and cousins - this is great. Also, I do feel grounded. Furthermore, in some esoteric way, I feel that I am ‘somewhere’ that I can stay.
Turns out that it is hard to stop a rolling stone!
Abroad, I felt so Irish. So proud. Emotion would well up in me when I heard an Irish jig or saw a video ‘Things Only Irish People Will Get’ or thought of the soft mossy grass. Now that I am back living in Ireland, those things are a little twee. I don’t pine to be back in my homeland. Instead, I listen to people complain about living in the homeland!
Here are 10 pointers that I wish I had known when I moved back to Ireland.
1. You need a good jacket
Ideally you need 4 - one for each season. And yes, it is colder than you think, for a larger percentage of the year than you think. Get yourself a really sexy coat. Invest in a really good quality coat for the winter, that is rain and wind proof so that you are not so influenced by the elements. Think of the saying , there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Everyone in the family will be happier if they are warm and dry. For example, if you have moved home because you have children and would like them to be closer to their grandparents, you will likely join the local football team too. This means that you will spend a disproportionate amount of time on the side of blustery sports grounds, freezing cold but supportive. Get a good jacket so that you can still meet the other parents without your teeth chattering.
2. Don’t compare with other countries that you have lived in.
Phase 1 - Ireland is the best country on the planet. Phase 2 - Everywhere will be better than Ireland. Trust me, I am a broken record. The weather is better in the Caribbean. The health care is better in Switzerland. The food is better in Europe. The lifestyle is better in Australia. The international schools are better. Remember why you left the place that you lived in and why you moved back to Ireland. There are good solid reasons there. Every country has an equal measure of annoyances. Ireland is definitely not perfect - throw away your rose tinted glasses and you will quickly see all the flaws. Somehow, coming home, we expect more of the country. We expect perfection. We expect to be supported. But you know, it is what you make it. Keep hold of your values and why you have moved to Ireland, these are the important points now.
3. Get used to being ordinary
This took at least a year to get over. When you live abroad, you always have something that is quintessentially unique about yourself - you are not from that place. It gives you an identity superpower. It defines you. When you come back to Ireland and discover that everybody else is Irish, and plenty of them have lived or know someone that has lived abroad for a long time, it makes you blend in with the crowd. Somebody told me, while we were preparing to move back, that the “hardest thing about being back in Ireland was being surrounded by Irish people again”. I didn’t fully understand at the time, but slowly the appreciation of this knowledge dawned on me.
4. You are no longer a front runner
I always felt like I was doing well in life until I moved back to Ireland. I felt successful and proud of my achievements. I always followed my heart and my dreams. Indeed, I followed my heart back to Ireland for different reasons than why I had set off to other countries - which was always in pursuit of personal goals. In Ireland, my peers, who have stayed at home, have built successful careers and lives. They live in the nice house and have accumulated belongings and planted a nice garden. They can afford a holiday or two each year, hell some even have holiday homes! Fitting back in with peers when you are still climbing that ladder can sometimes feel a bit lonely. Sometimes I question whether I should have gone abroad at all. “What would my life be like had I gone to Trinity College and looked for a job in Ireland?”. However, I still think that I would have traveled. I remember the desperation to get away and explore - it was core to my being at that time. It was so much fun! It’s not that I am ‘paying the price’ now, it’s just a mental adjustment and a self confidence.
5. There will be a culture shock
Although you are coming ‘home’, remember that you have changed according to the countries that you have lived in. Small things about your behaviour and those that now surround you, will have big impact. We lived in France and Switzerland for a long time. The food culture is entirely different there. We eat at different times - I still want to eat at midday not 1pm. I don’t want a sandwich with butter or mayonnaise - I want olive oil, salt and pepper. The wine glass sizes are different! There are 6 glasses of wine to a bottle in Switzerland. I was ‘reliably’ informed by the server in a restaurant in Ireland that there are 4 glasses to a bottle here. Clearly that must have a large impact on health and the drink driving laws, “Sorry officer, I thought that one glass was ok” (not quarter of a bottle!). And it’s not just the food. But just try to remember, it’s not Ireland that has changed, it’s you!
6. Adapting to the seasons is hard
This won’t be true for everyone, especially if you have moved back to Ireland from Sweden or Russia. However, the shock of the first winter for me was less about the cold, and more about the short days. Those days when it is getting dark at 4pm require fortitude. Then in the Summer it is impossible to get the kids into bed as ‘It’s still bright outside Mummy’. However, the seasons are so wonderful to have. Spring is amazing after the Winter. The Winter with frosty mornings and being wrapped up warm has it’s own magic. Christmas in the cold is quite authentic and a vital celebration. I have learned that building traditions around the seasons is of high value to our family. We are only starting, as the first year was a steep learning curve, but there is so much fun in really celebrating all the holidays and special days.
7. The cold actually does get into your bones.
I hear this saying so much but I didn’t grasp the full meaning. However, when it happens, you know it. The only cure is a soak in a hot bath. I learnt the hard way. My son was playing football in the lashing rain one evening. I felt torn between wanting the kids to be outside getting fresh air and ending up getting sick, or just being stuck inside in front of the TV for months. A fellow soccer Mum told me that she phoned ahead to have the bath filled for the moment they got home from cold matches and then the boy would get straight into it “or he’d catch the death” she said. I quickly phoned to get the immersion turned on so that we would have hot water (it is common not to have hot water at all times of the day , especially if you live in an old house like we do) and my son went in the bath when we got home. “Just leave me here” he said. I’m sure he could feel the warmth flooding back into his bones. And, I may, or may not, be used to carrying a hot water bottle around all day in the winter, even to the office!
8. Religion is still a ‘thing’
Being a Catholic or Protestant, or other, is still a ‘thing’ in Ireland. I can’t get used to it. I don’t remember it growing up. But as an adult I find it very apparent. “Do you know so-and-so?” I asked Mr P. His wife nudged him and said, “Oh you do, they’re the Protestants”. I choked on my biscuit. I’ll say no more ……
9. Tea will become the life-force that flows through your veins
Tea is the means to keeping your body warm, and your soul too. Your teeth will become slightly stained, like the inside of the teapot. As soon as we walk in the back door to our neighbour’s house, the kettle is turned on. “Sure you’ll have a quick cuppa?”. I surprised myself by missing my morning cup of tea on one Saturday outing and quickly ended up with a splitting headache - cured only by a cup of tea.
10. Don’t overthink it!
Arguably the mot important point of all (aside from getting a really good jacket, obviously). After all, you made the decision. You packed the suitcases. You wanted this for years. You’ve actually done it! You’re knee deep in 12 month contracts. Just get on with it all. Don’t complain. Live in the moment. Hush the naysayers. Enjoy the perfect days. Light candles in the dark. Listen to music, not the news. Look for the good in everything. And make yourself a cup of tea. Spring will follow winter, and so will the daffodils.