I am a reluctant morning person. I’m probably at my “best” early in the day, but I like my sleep. My city is the same. While Dublin looks lovely in the morning, it is often up late, and frequently in its cups, so it’s a city that generally starts late.
Cycling at 6:30 this morning, with the sky tinted rose out over the Irish Sea, and the sun still crawling towards its first cup of coffee, I was struck by the fortitude of this town. Despite the late night and an early morning chill, delivery men and women, the frosty joggers, and the gung-ho get to work early types were all making their way in the day. I’ve always loved to see a city early in the morning, while it’s still stumbling around bleary-eyed in its manky old bathrobe. You learn a lot about a place if you catch it with its makeup off.
Getting to know your city at all times of the day is invaluable. Make a point of seeing it not just when it wants you too. Sneak up on it. Surprise it. Catch it off guard. For potential immigrants this is critical.
In today’s world of too much information and endless sources of input, we are fed a constant stream of constant streams. No, I don’t know what that means either. Except to say that the key word there is “fed”. We are given information freely, and, effectively, told what to think.
One of my favorite lines from the TV show ‘The Wire’ (a show packed with good lines) comes when a wise old clergymen tells a police commander “Nothing in this world is more expensive than free.” That’s certainly true when it comes to getting to know a place. They (the powers that be and their PR operations) will tell you what they want you to hear. They put out the message:
“Dublin is a party town filled with good-natured easy going folks who like to drink and stay up late.”
And before long, true or not, that’s what people expect. They go looking for it, and publicans, restaurant owners, and officials give them that. The whole system gets geared to that thing, and the reality of a place is determined by all manner of information that we get for free. But is it true?
If you are going to live there, year round, possibly for life, you must look deeper and find the answer to that question.
It’s for this reason that I always recommend taking a pre-emigration trip if your circumstances will allow it. When you take your scouting trip, make an effort to get up early and stay up late. See the city with its shirt untucked. Read the literature and the hype, but enjoy the beauty of sunrise. Say hello to people on the street at 6 in the morning. Do they grumble or say hello back?
A good friend, and fellow immigrant who writes the New Dubliner blog tells me that Paris is really not a “morning” town. By ten o’clock they are just getting the day’s deliveries.
“10 o’clock, seriously?”, I asked, stunned.
Even in Dublin the early morning supply runs are substantively under way by six. In the U.S. it’s often 3 or 4am. Yes, American excess truly knows no bounds.
But my point is, a city’s, and indeed, a country or culture’s, rhythms reflect its values and priorities. They are a pretty good indication of what you can expect if you move there. So, get up, and get out. Get to know the place where you live, and the place where you think you’d like to live.
In the meantime, please share you experiences with city rhythms, and catching notable places off guard.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
* Renting Abroad, Home Maintenance and Property Management in a Foreign Country
* Corporate Taxes Abroad, and the Con Artistry of Luring Foreign Investment