Everything Is Ireland’s Fault: Or Why I’m a Bad Immigrant

Hey, Ireland, I’ll let you in on a little secret. As much crap as you talk about the immigrants within your borders, we talk about you too.

Even after nearly five years of living in Dublin, a town I’ve grown to love, and genuinely call “home”, I still find myself having days when things don’t go my way, reflex kicks in, and I blame it all on Ireland and the Irish.

“Ahh, Christ, it’s feckin’ Thursday. Typical Ireland. Letting Thursday follow Wednesday.”

Okay, I’m not quite that bad, but there are days when it’s close. If things aren’t going my way I may lapse into a round of “God damn Ireland, that’s so typical. How very Second World”, etc. And from what my wife tells me, I’m not the only immigrant to have these feelings.

As the daughter of immigrants in America she recalls her family and immigrant friends of the family waxing rhapsodically about the old country and how America just isn’t the same. And, now, as an adult she hates it when I, and others, do it here in Ireland. Though I catch her slipping into it sometimes too. It seems a condition common among many/most migrants to feel down about the choices they’ve made, and have regrets.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things screwed up in Ireland (and, of course, everywhere else, including America – so spare me the “America’s bad too” comparative hate mail). But when I, and everybody else, lash out at their new home in this way, it’s really not about you; it’s about me (us). It’s about me having a bad day. It’s about me having a hard time adjusting to the system. It’s about me thinking I’ve finally got the kinks worked out, and am fitting in, and then having the world jump up and trip me over something stupid (something I would have seen if I hadn’t let myself get overconfident).

And I think the reason so many immigrants run afoul of this trap is because we all go through those stages of thinking we’re fitting in and finally “home”. We imagine that we’re approaching that state of grace (belonging) we’d hope to find (the absence of which is often the very thing that made us want to leave home in the first place), only to be reminded that it’s not perfect here either. So we go back to doubting our choices.

And regret is not a state of grace, and it’s most definitely not why we came.

Pa,
Glenn K.
Dublin, May 2016

 

 

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Hobbies, activities, and finding your niche as an immigrant.

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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17 Responses to Everything Is Ireland’s Fault: Or Why I’m a Bad Immigrant

  1. Alisa says:

    Hi Glenn, I first read your post about 5 things you hate about Dublin about a month into my move here. I was astounded that we had noticed nearly all of the same things, and within the same time frame (emphasis, once more, on those stupid double taps). Additionally, just seeing your list gave me a sense of comfort, and a sense of relief that I’m not absolutely insane as I had previously thought, based on the confused reactions of my partner (an Irishman) and his friends (also Irish). I’ve been here 4 months now, and while I’ve gotten used to furiously passing my hands under the hot, cold, hot, cold, hot taps to create a murky concoction of kinda sorta lukewarm water, my biggest sense of discomfort comes from doubting my decision to move here to Dublin. My home is Canada, and it’s becoming vividly apparent that the living standards are quite different here. I don’t expect perfection, and I’m slowly coming to terms with the country’s deliberate choice of a pint of Guinness over efficiency, but I feel a sort of maddening fear creeping over me. Most days, it sounds like: You left a first world country that believes the customer is always right, that offers you a doctor at no fee, that respects a woman’s right to choose, that believes in honouring appointments and writing in plain text on its official government websites….to live here with a significant other who happens to be Irish. Is one person enough to knowingly downgrade your living conditions? How does one cope with that? I’ll end my post here, somewhere between a diary entry and a plea the likes of “how did you do it, Glenn?” and hope that you will have time to drop me a line, or perhaps, to run into me on a street the name of which I’ve yet to learn.

    • Hi Alisa,

      First, let me say I’m sorry Ireland is not working out for you.

      Second, I’m not sure what I can say except that I wouldn’t counsel moving “for” someone else under any circumstances. If living overseas is not something that you’d thought of doing before you met the person, it’s such a big step that I wouldn’t recommend doing it based on anything as frail as human relationships. That has less to do with the move than the relationship. If moving doesn’t work out, for any number of reasons, and the new country doesn’t suit you, you may hold it against person, and that’s bad for what night otherwise be a very good relationship.

      Also, Ireland may be working out for me more than you because I suspect I’m older than you. But older/younger, I’m sure we’re both looking for different things out of life right now. Who knows, in 5 years you may love it and I’ll be itching to move.

      Finally, as you say, you came from Canada and I came from America, so we’re comparing different things. Right now, the U.S. is a pretty unappealing place.

      Anyway, I’d say hang in and give it a full year at least.

      Best,
      Glenn K.

      • MA says:

        Thinking of visiting a friend in Dublin, but I love the US. There is nowhere more appealing and plan to get back ASAP.

  2. Tom Quinn says:

    I moved retired here from the US two years ago. I have an Irish passport and friends and relative here. I lived here for almost ten years in the 70s and 80s, was married here
    and our son was born in Cork. I also spent summers here with relatives. So in a way I was coming home.
    I really think that most Americans would run from Ireland screaming! Buying a house was a nightmare even as cash buyers. We had a deposit down on three houses. The first one kept our deposit for six months then the seller decided to pull out. He put the house up for sale again three months later with a higher asking price. Same with the second house. We were renting a house in a beautiful fishing village. It had storage heating and
    a dryer. Our electric bill was €847. Don’t even own a dryer now!
    Getting a drivers license was awful. Had to apply as a new driver. Had to take minimum
    10 lessons and do the test. Failed first two times. Even though I have been driving since 1972 I was told that driving in New York does not mean you can drive in Tralee!
    Dealing with banks is another hassle. It took two months to get them to change our
    address. They were sending my Visa bill to the US. Tried to make a payment and was told that they don’t take checks! This was an Irish bank account that we had since 1980.
    We could never have survived without help and advice from relatives.
    Getting reacquainted with Irish culture was not easy. When we expect friends to visit we
    now know that 2pm really means after three. I will yeah means maybe. I will now, in a minute means you just will have to wait!
    All that being said, I am glad to be back and would not want to live anywhere else!

  3. Mary Ann ODonoghue says:

    Ditto ditto ditto. And I don’t think I’ll ever get used to those things that often bug me (i’m here 12 years) but at this stage I also wouldn’t live anywhere else. Go figure. I think I need more Americans to talk to. Not to rant to, but just to talk with people who ‘get’ me. Thanks for the blog!

  4. Perhaps I was lucky in that my wife’s family took me under their wing,when I moved to Ireland.But I came here with an open mind,I knew the history between Ireland and the UK my father in law is full of information. If you travel anywhere, you have to respect that you are representing your own country too.It is pointless to moan,you can do a lot to change things.I have friends from England living here too,but if they moan about Ireland, I always ask them is it Ireland or you that’s the problem. I think it really took me three years to settle down here.Like anything it can’t be forced.I wonder do you travel around Ireland much.It is actually stunning and very interesting.Also as well as family and work,I do voluntary work with the homeless.I would keep going Glenn and embrace the opportunity.

    • Mark,

      Thanks for readimg, and particularly for taking the time to weigh in with another immigrant’s expreices.

      And I have traveled around Ireland quite a bit. As a professional travel writer, I actually travel quite a bit.

      And, while I have grown more accepting of Ireland, I can’t entirely let it off the hook.

      There is actually quite a lot of disfunction in Irish society. It’s nearly Second world and quite provincial in many cases.

      That said I’m quite happy here, which in and of itself is a lesson about what you really “need” to live.

      But Ireland is actually a shockingly messed up place at times.

      And, no, I’m not saying that other places aren’t. But the Irish love to dismiss their dysfunction by saying, “Well it’s not as bad as it was/could be/has been” ( or, “It’s just as bad elsewhere”) and use that as an excuse not to change an progress.

      And, honestly, I think that one failing is the thing that holds Ireland back the most. It saddens me every time I see it.

      Cheers,
      GK

  5. Oh Glenn we had a terrible problem here in Limerick, with drug gangs and it has lots of social problems too.But I try to be part of the solution, work with the homeless voluntarily. Do as much as I can for my kids schools,and get involved where I can.I find often that Ireland seems to be the little guy in the playground,in the European Union.Some of the lads I try to help through the homeless volunteer work get no chances of a break.It takes a total back seat to helping refugees.It is a very big issue here lately.Used to work with teenagers in a soccer program,i call it football, and then funding was withdrawn and most drifted into drugs and crime.These same lads are now turning up at the homeless shelter. They were given no chance to flourish.When the soccer finished some joined the drugs gang,and ended up in jail,it seems a never ending cycle.It is only volunteers and food and private donations that keeps them from dying.I think that if more was done here first then Ireland would be a much better place.Sorry can get a bit passionate about this.No offence mean’t.

  6. Susan McClean says:

    My grown daughter and I were thinking of moving to Dublin, county Cork. What advice
    Can you give us about living spaces (hostels) and work? I’m on social security retirement,from U.S., but she would have to work as a waitress or something. What do
    We need to know first off.

    • Anna Moved-to-Dublin says:

      Cork is a 3h drive away from Dublin, so I would not recommend looking for accommodation there.

      First of all: Always get a job before moving. No landlord will rent to someone without a Letter of Employment! And that doesn’t guarantee anything, either.

      I came to Ireland from a EU country, so no doubt US immigrants will face more challenges than me, but about living in Dublin: To anyone thinking of taking the step – AirBnBs are easy enough to get in the beginning. That doesn’t mean they are cheap, however. A proper apartment/house for rent (don’t know about buying) is a very different thing. Even the dirtiest, coldest, dampest studio apartments start around 800€, and will be let almost immediately. There are tons of people desperate to find housing, so landlords can freely set any price they want.
      Even if you already have a permanent job contract, letters of reference and the necessary funds to provide a deposit and the first month’s rent, chances are one of the other 30 applicants that enquired in the first 5 hours the apartment was posted online earns just a little bit more, or looks nicer, and you’re out. It’s frustrating.
      I have also repeatedly been told “no welfare”. This is no problem for me – I have a secure job. I doubt someone with no job along with another person working some job with most likely low income will find anything. Ireland is pretty generous with welfare for foreigners (again, from an EU perspective), but that doesn’t go with instant housing. Dublin provides apartments for poor people, but without choice and a waiting period.
      Also, the job market isn’t that amazing. It is really easy for someone speaking a second language other than English to find a job in IT support, but other fields are a lot less generous with job offers.

      No doubt Susan won’t come back to read this after more than half a year, but anyone else, please keep this in mind. No country is waiting for unemployed immigrants. Make a solid plan before moving. Read up on where you’re going.

  7. Rory says:

    Been in the US for almost 5 years. And not against you in any way like hey, you think Ireland bad what about your country but rather let me tell you about where I moved.

    The coverage of the Syrians here and lack of effort for them is pretty depressing. The way the media and people in general speak about Mexican immigrants is disgusting. I really don’t understand the belittling of Canadians either…they are almost a carbon copy of Americans only they are a little nicer and a little less entitled.

    And then the big issues. Some much extremism and violence! And I’m not talking about the terrorist attacks, I’m talking the every day Americans. This is a pretty scary place. I just had my first kid…it really put things in perspective. I think we’ll be leaving pretty soon.

    • Rory,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment and share your experience.

      While there is a ton wrong with America I also think you haver the misfortune of living in Arizona where anti-migrant sentiment is particularly aggressive.

      I have never once claimed America was good. Notice I don’t live there, and haven’t for five years.

      I’ve also never compared America to any other place.

      Cheers.
      GK

    • MA says:

      You want to stop watching CNN. Outside the cities, as in most countries, you will find the people friendly, accepting and infinitely gentle. The Europeans have put in the “effort” for the “Syrians” and we see each night the some real violence.

  8. Curt says:

    Hello Glenn,

    Thanks for all the interesting writing.. I hope you’ll be able to get back to it soon. When I discovered your blog I binge-read nearly everything – it’s great to find a perspective that’s thoughtful, critical but also self-critical, and with a sense of humor.

    We’re thinking of moving to Ireland in the next year or so (with two kids, 11 and 13), all with citizenship thanks to my late grandmother. I was in Connemara a while back for a week and loved it, but I know relocating is a different matter altogether, so that’s where your blog is really helpful.

    My wife & I lived in Moscow for a few years, so I hope that since we learned to live with (and sometimes appreciate) the trials and quirks of life in Russia, we’ll be equipped to deal with Irish life. There will be adjustments, but as a Californian who’s been in the American South for over 10 years, at this point I’d welcome a different kind of not-quite-fitting-in!

    • Curt,

      Welcome.

      I’m glad you’ve liked the blog, and hope you’ll continue to find it useful.
      I hope you find Ireland “easy” by comparison.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and let us know how you get on.

      Cheers,
      Glenn K.

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