I recently had an interesting conversation with my friend Simone:
Me: I think I might be a weird expat.
Simone: How so?
Me: Whenever someone asks me how often I go home, I look a bit confused and tell them “every evening, same as you” and then I realise what they meant. Do you still think of Germany as home?
Simone: Hmm, tricky question. I feel like parts of me are in different places.
Me: Ha, I feel like all of my parts are in Berlin!
And that’s the truth of it. Of course there are some people that I miss in Ireland, but if I never set foot on Irish soil again, I wouldn’t be any the worse off for it. Maybe I’m being unfair on the Irish but it does seem to be a particularly Irish condition.
Most articles I read by Irish expats see them counting down the days until they’re next back on the Emerald Isle, drinking copious amounts of Barry’s Tea and cooing over some random relative’s new baby. In the meantime, they envelop themselves in a comforting Irish bubble in whatever country they happen to be in, bemoaning the fact that the locals aren’t more “Irish”.
I, meanwhile, am rolling my eyes and feeling faintly nauseous.
But back to the title of the post. I was recently back in Dublin and, while I had a nice couple of days, mostly I was amazed at my total disconnect with the place. So, some reasons I could never live there again:
1. Everything is so expensive
OK, it might seem a bit shallow but everything is such a total rip-off that it turns my stomach. The quality is the same as in Germany (if not worse), yet people are paying at least twice as much.
No, your eyes do not deceive you; that’s €6.75 for a glass of Chardonnay. As far as I’m aware, it didn’t have gold flakes or diamonds in it and I can get a better glass in my local bar in Berlin for €2.80. The “Have your party with us” invitation would probably require remortgaging your house. I didn’t see a bottle in a supermarket for under €9, while here in Berlin, I’ve discovered litre cartons of wine for €0.99 in LIDL. I’m not saying it won’t kill you but it’s nice to have options. And you can always use it as paint stripper – if you survive.
Before you judge me, it’s not just booze. You might find it hard to believe that I’m not this naturally beautiful (ahem) but I do use hair dye. A quick glance in Boots confirmed the worst:
In Rossmann (the equivalent store here), it’s €4.95. I mean, really, what the …? Don’t even get me started on rental prices and childcare costs.
2. Public transport is dire
The weekend before I went back, Manfredas’ dad asked me if I would take the S- or U-Bahn from the airport to my house. He probably wasn’t expecting the guffaw he got in return. You see, in Dublin, we have two overground train options – neither of which go anywhere near each other, the airport, or where I’m from, and buses. Oh, the buses.
Gamely, I thought that I would take the bus from the airport and proceeded to look up my options. Half an hour later, ready to throw my laptop out the window, I decided I would take a taxi.
Ticket prices are based on “stages”, for example, 1-3 stops is one price, 4-13 is a higher price… really, life is too short. Drivers will accept exact change only; there’s no information on the majority of bus stops about where you are, when the next bus is coming or where’s it’s going to, and stop announcements on the bus are helpfully in English and Irish which most Irish people can’t even understand. Jesus, even Riga was streets ahead – there you go Latvians, your long-awaited compliment.
3. Irish people believe their own hype
Ah sure, there’s no place like Ireland for the craic, is there?
If “the craic” means standing around in over-priced bars, unable to hear yourself speak over the self-satisfied roaring of people standing right next to each other raving about how much “craic” everything is, then yes, you’re probably right.
Ah sure, you just can’t beat the Irish, can you?
I probably could. I’d just need a big stick.
Ah sure, there’s no better place in the world really, is there?
You see, everything in Ireland is just brilliant, according to the Irish. That is, when they’re not complaining about how shite everything is. Go figure.
4. The lifestyle
I’ll admit that “silent Sunday” in Germany was a bit of a shock when I first got here. However, after the first few weeks of waking up on a Sunday and realising that I had no food – yet again – I got used to it. I also got used to seeing families out biking, walking or playing in the park together.
Believe it or not, the last Sunday I was in Ireland, it was a glorious day. It was the second week in October and probably one of the last days that people would see blue skies for months. And what were the locals doing? They were walking around shopping centres, glassy-eyed, spending money on things they don’t need, paying for silly rides for their kids, and buying over-priced meals from food courts – probably while talking about how much “craic” they were having.
There are plenty of green spaces around where I grew up, but they’re mainly used as short-cuts to get somewhere else. Unlike in Berlin, there are no barbeque areas, no dog-walking zones, no playgrounds… not even a bench to sit down and read a book on for a while. People rush from over-heated home to over-heated shopping centre. The first thing I did when I got back to Berlin was a bit of good, old-fashioned “lüften”. Ah, the relief.
5. Irish people never shut up
Fionnuala: Oh, blah blah, the weather, blah blah, so-and-so’s wedding, blah blah, state of the economy, blah blah, guess who died, blah blah, so-and-so’s hip replacement, blah blah…
Anyway, it seems I’m being a bit of a hypocrite on the last one as I’ve just gone over 1,000 words. Guess you can take the girl out of Ireland…