Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
When I moved to Ireland, although I didn’t really know what to expect, I had a pretty clear idea of what I didn’t want to do or try. Then there were things I thought I would never be able to manage because I was too afraid.
1- Enjoy a good Irish breakfast
If you told me that one day I would eat sausages, beans and black pudding for breakfast, I would have laughed. Croissants, baguette, jam and butter…That’s my kind of breakfast. There was no way I would eat meat at 8 o’clock in the morning. Then one day, I ended up in a B&B and reluctantly tried the Irish breakfast. What a revelation! It didn’t feel strange to eat mushrooms, rashers, or sausages. It was tasty and trust me, it filled me right up to lunch time! Some of my French friends still think I’m nuts. They obviously haven’t tried it.
2- Have a phone conversation and understand everything
I used to hate ringing service providers. I usually rehearsed my speech about a hundred times, and when I finally decided to pick up the phone (after 3 cigarettes and 2 coffees), I forgot everything. I was afraid I wouldn’t understand the person on the other end of the line. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand me either. You’re going to laugh, but I was even afraid of ringing Domino’s Pizza. So I let my husband do all the talking. Over the years, when I became more confident in my ability to speak and understand English (well, the Irish accent, really) I started feeling a bit better about ringing. Now, I have no problem having heated discussions with the Tax office.
3-Drive an Irish car
I drove a French car for 4 years, and thought I would never be able to drive with the steering wheel on the other side. How was I going to shift gears with my left hand? I’m right-handed and it just seemed impossible. Fair enough, the first few days I kept scratching my right hand on the door, trying to reach invisible gears, but I eventually managed and I’m just used to it now. The hardest part was actually ringing the insurance (see point 2).
4-Manage to speak the slang
This all took off when I started working with Irish people. The first few years, although my English was good, it was very formal. Basically I was talking the way I learned at school. But this is definitely not how Irish people speak. Now I say “like” at the end of every sentence and start them with “sure, look it”. Everything is “grand” (because “There’s nothing we can do anyway”), and I over use the F word. The only thing I haven’t mastered yet? The Irish wit. But acquiring such an art is hard, you’re either born with it or you’re not. And well, unfortunately I’m not (but I’m working on it!)
5-Buy a house
Looking back, it was probably not a wise thing to do, but I actually can’t believe I survived the mortgage applications forms, the lengthy meetings at the bank, the stress of being approved for a mortgage, queue endlessly to buy off the plans. Yep, I really turned into a grown-up, which is amazing considering I still need my mum if I have a meeting with my bank in France.
6- Be pregnant
I remember telling myself that if there was one thing I would never ever do in Ireland, it was to get pregnant. I knew I would have children at some stage, just not in this country. I heard so many horror stories about hospitals and maternities that I was afraid of going through a pregnancy here. Having to go to appointments, knowing nothing about the terminology, the procedures, the care, it just seemed overwhelming. And then it happened, I became pregnant and going home was just not an option. Believe me, staying in Ireland at that moment was the best decision I ever made. Both my pregnancies were great experiences and I have nothing but a positive opinion on the Irish maternity services.
7-And raise kids
Raising kids in a different country never crossed my mind at the beginning, and this is probably the biggest challenge I have faced since moving here. I had to learn everything about childcare, entitlements, school. I had to face the task of raising kids in three cultures and two languages. My eldest having special needs, I had to get used to how the Health Services work, how ridiculously long the waiting lists are for everything, from a speech assessment (14 months!!!) to a diagnosis… But on a positive note, we met wonderful therapists, we are immensely happy with the school and the help he’s getting. And most importantly, I really think Irish people are a lot less judgemental than the French when it comes to disabilities and being different. And that is the main reason why I still want to live here.
So here I am, those 13 years have definitely changed me. I have accomplished so many things I didn’t think I would be capable of. When you move to another country on your own, you don’t have a choice. You have to be open-minded, try new things, overcome your fears and in the end you become a stronger person.
What about you, is there anything you thought you would never be able to achieve in your new country? Have you done it in the end?