Getting Better All The Time: Building a New Life Overseas

Just now, well into our second year of living in Dublin, I finally feel comfortable saying that life is going well.  I won’t say, “better”. That’s not exactly why we moved.

Despite months of pre-emigration planning, and few (if any) language issues, it has taken a good fifteen months for us to juggle the details, bureaucracy, cultural differences, and our comfort zone to finally feel like life is on track.  Looking back on it, I think ours was/is a pretty normal adjustment period.  It was a shock, but I’m here to tell you that anyone who plans to move abroad should expect an adjustment period. Life is not going to be “better” right away.

Why People Emigrate

People emigrate for all kinds of reasons.  Some choose to go, while others are forced into it.  For those that are forced, by economic, political, religious, or cultural reasons, their fervent hope is that life will be better in their new home.  Fleeing from tyranny and oppression, you hope that life will be better.  And, ultimately, eventually, it may well be.  But the hard truth is that it probably won’t be right away.

Of course, if you are running for your life, going somewhere where people aren’t trying to kill you, life is necessarily going to be a bit better.  But if you’ve fled under duress, chances are you‘ve not had the time to gather paperwork, and life possessions that you might have liked.   As a result, arrival in your new home, and the first few months, will likely be spent just ironing out the basics and starting over.

If you are lucky enough to move emigrate on a corporate transfer, or as a diplomat you may have the benefits of what is called an “expat package” in which many of your daily expenses (housing and transportation, etc.) are covered by your employer. But, even in this sheltered environment, there will still be challenges (new schools for the kids, spousal employment) that may keep you unbalanced for months or years.

I’m not saying this to warn against moving overseas. In fact, I think one of the greatest things we can do is to share our ways of living to a much greater extent.  Maybe then we wouldn’t be scared shitless of the great unknown just across the border. I’m writing this to caution that immigration may make your life better, in a host of expected (and unexpected) ways, but it probably won’t be “better” right away.  That said, there are some distinct advantages to life being “worse” for a while.

Advantages of Immigration

How often have you said, “If only I’d known then what I know now…”? Well, one of the miracles of immigration is that it offers the chance to start much of your life over in very concrete ways.  Friends, career, hobbies, education, finances, advocacy, and health & wellness are just a few of the areas of your life that can be reevaluated and adjusted when moving abroad.

Since we moved to Ireland, Kalpana (my wife) and I have both made new friends, and picked up old hobbies (knitting and hiking), dabbled in long lusted after experiences (model boating, Irish language study), and reinvigorated dormant professional paths (writing for the stage and screen).
It has taken time and work for us to get to this point.   But all of these things would likely have been much slower to happen (or might never have occurred) if we weren’t already restructuring our lives. Clearly, change breeds change in this regard.

If you are considering permanent, or semi-permanent, relocation overseas with the hope of a “better” life, know that while it may be better eventually, it probably won’t be right away. But you should do it anyway.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

Lets Talk About the Weather


About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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8 Responses to Getting Better All The Time: Building a New Life Overseas

  1. shannonsapt says:

    Glenn, I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to have stumbled onto your blog. I just moved to Dublin this past Monday and I’m feeling rather lost and alone right now. I can’t wait to read about your first year here and know that it is going to help me navigate mine.

    Also, I’m a writer too! I work in Children’s TV animation and was attempting a writing career in LA before making the move to this ex-pat life.

    Maybe at some point, if you are up for it, we can meet up for coffee and compare war stories.


    • Hi Shannon,

      I’m glad you fund my blog, and, more importantly, found Dublin. It’s great.

      I don’t know if I mentioned it in my “About” post, but I too am an LA screenwriting refugee.

      We should definitely get together for coffee.

      Email me when you are settled and want to talk.

      In the meantime, I hope the site helps.

      BTW – On Dec. 1 a play of mine is part of a playwright’s workshop showcase at The Mill theatre in Dundrum. Come on out and say hola.


      • Shannon, I do have your email, and a copy of your messgae. If you want to keep your email private (off the public board), feel free to delete your last message, or if you can’t, ask me to do it. I lived in Hollywood (behind the In-Out Burger on Sunset. Before that I was on Klump in NOHO ( just up the street from Pitfire Pizza, and Tokyo Delves).

  2. shannonsapt says:

    Hi Glenn –

    Yes, I thought about my email address after I posted my reply. I can’t seem to delete it, so if you can go ahead and do that I would really appreciate it. I’m also doing a blog about my Dublin expat experiences – TheNewDubliner. I had never done a blog before this either.

    Ready to get freaked out?! I also lived on Klump! I was a regular at Pitfire. It truly is a small world, isn’t it? Blows my mind.

    Now that you have my email, feel free to email me when you have a chance. Looking forward to swapping Dublin AND Los Angeles stories.


  3. Amy S. says:

    I know this is an old post but thank you thank you thank you! I also stumbled upon your blog today. My boyfriend was born in Ireland and he badly wants to move back. When I asked him ‘Where do you want to live?’ (as I am thinking about where I should look for jobs after I graduate in May) he went on a rant about how much he hates it in America and wants to move back to Ireland asap. I, being the planner and researcher I am, have spent a lot of free time today looking at what it takes to move to Ireland. So I was ecstatic to find your blog!! I can’t wait to read about all of the details of the move and your life currently. Please keep posting and updating us! And my boyfriend moved to America when he was a year old, I believe. So I’m not sure how much he remembers about it and if it’s really just the city he lives in that he hates.

    Thanks again!

    p.s. Did you actually have to learn a whole new language or do they speak english with some of their own slang/Irish words?

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