The Company you Keep: Celebrating Immigrant Differences

In the ex-pat community you often hear people say that to have a true local experience you shouldn’t hang out with other immigrants, particularly your own kind (Americans if you’re American, the French if you’re from Paris, etc.). “Buswah”, I say. “Utter codswallop”, quoth I. “Complete claptrap”, I bellow. You don’t have to hang out with locals to have a “local” experience.

First of all, what the (insert expletive of your choice) is a “true local”? If you’ve moved from elsewhere, even a dozen miles up the road, you may never be a local by local standards. So, while fitting in, and getting to know the culture is good right and proper, I say, don’t try to be something you’re not.

What you can have is an authentic transplant experience, complete with all of the screw-ups, misunderstandings, unvarnished idiocy, personal baggage, shameless bigotry, and cultural self-righteousness that we’re all capable of on any given day. And one of the things that can ease those burdens is talking with people who are in the midst of similar experiences. For immigrants, that will often be other immigrants.

So, for that reason, I’ve found not that I avoid the Irish, but often they are somehow less attractive as targets for my rants of frustration. This is particularly true on days when something “cultural” has come up and I’m dying to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of Irish friends. I love them dearly and have cultivated Irish friends who will listen to, and often understand, my cultural growing pains. Many of them have spent time in the U.S., or as emigrants to other countries. They get it. But there’s something unifying about turning to someone who is not a local and saying, “You will not believe what just happened…”

And, while I can, and do, share those moments with other Americans in Dublin, they are frankly less interesting to me than folks from elsewhere. I’ve already got an American perspective on things.

That said, I don’t shy away from Americans, but I’ve found that the bulk of my expat acquaintances here in Dublin tend to be Brazilian, Spanish, Croatian, Italian, etc. That’s not because I’m avoiding Americans; it’s simply what works for me. And given the amazing diversity of this city, it seems very true to the local immigrant experience.

And that’s the experience I can have.

Glenn K.
Dublin, August 2015



Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (Yeah, right)
Finding the “Right” City For You

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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4 Responses to The Company you Keep: Celebrating Immigrant Differences

  1. Jeffrey says:

    I’ve only just recently bumped into your blog and have found the entries I’ve read very insightful thus far, so thank you for taking the time to document your journey. Will certainly be reading through the older entries over the upcoming days.

    I’m currently at a stage in my life where I have very little holding me back from going overseas for an extended period of time (A lifelong dream of mine) and have the funds to support myself if I were unable to get a job while away. I’ve been very seriously considering moving to live in Ireland for a year under the Australian “Work & Travel Visa” starting around February 2016, wanted to know what your biggest advice would be for a solo traveler in his early-mid 20’s wanting to live there for a year.

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      That’s a great question.

      I would say thgat before you move anywhere you should take some time and money and make a scouting trip to a non-touristy part of your target destination and do your best to live like a local (whatever that means) for a couple of weeks. Look into mail, banking, groceries, doctors, social life, hobbies, etc. And once you’ve done tat go home and weigh your options.

      Also, think about whether you want to move somewhere where they speak the same language. There’s nothing wrong with tat. It’s just a far less challenging experience, and in some ways probably less immersive and transformative.

      Hope that helps.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  2. John Hughes says:

    I am a US resident, but also have Irish citizenship. I plan to retire in Ireland and will be living on my Social Security pension. I understand the US and Ireland have a bilateral agreement on pensions and would like to establish a current account (perhaps with Ulster Bank) in Ireland. From what I have read opening an account and getting utility bills in my name can be a frustrating experience. Do you have any suggestions on how to best go about doing this (apparently many exchange fees can be avoided if I set up direct deposit of my Social Security checks). As a retired journalist, my monthly checks are not huge($25,000 US per annum), so would I be correct in assuming I won’t have huge tax problems. I worked in Belgium some years ago using my Irish passport and the IRS was never even aware of it. I did file taxes for the years I worked abroad upon returning the US, but the amount I owed was paltry given the tax breaks I was entitled to as an American working abroad. Any advice on opening an Irish account would be greatly appreciated. Cheers, John Hughes.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time comment.

      My short answer is, I don’t really know, but I can recommend a good accountant if you want one.

      For us the tax thing is complicated by the fact tat I don’t have a work permit but my wife does, etc.

      There are some tax treaty breaks for Americans earning money (from any source in Ireland, the U.S., or elsewhere) while residing in Ireland. Bu I’m not sure how that works with various streams of retirement income.

      I know that if you are an American citizen, you will ALWAYS have to file (even if you will owe no tax). There is no way to be an American citizen an a tax exile.

      I hope that helps.

      Glenn K.

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