Why I will never move back to Dublin

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.

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Thank you, my arse

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:

€10.49...
€10.49…

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.

SIGH.
SIGH.

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.

Hello, one ticket to stop 3702, please.
Hello, one ticket to stop 3702, please.

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.

Oh, what craic we're all having.
Oh, what craic we’re all 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…

Me: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meeting the Manfredases

Manfredas: Do you fancy a couple of days in Hannover? We’d be staying with my parents…

Me: Oh God.

But I agreed to go; the chance to see a typical German family household with alles in Ordnung trumped my nervousness at having to try to be “normal” in a foreign language for an entire weekend. I made Manfredas stop at a supermarket close to their house so that I could pick up some flowers. I figured that I could at least make a good first impression even if it was going to be all downhill from there.

Me: What kind of flowers does she like? 

Manfredas: I dunno. Everything? 

Me: Sigh.

We arrived just after sunset and were greeted at the door by Mr and Mrs Manfredas. I needn’t have worried – they couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. We were ushered into the dining room where Abendbrot (evening bread) was waiting for us. Abendbrot, as far as I can tell, is basically breakfast without the jam and Nutella. Yes Germans, your secret is out…

Me: (eyeing a suspicious-looking grey mass on a plate) What is THAT?

Manfredas: Leberwurst (liver sausage).

Me: Jesus. 

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, which was so clean you could have eaten your Leberwurst off the floor. His dad had rigged up a radio to the light switch so it was a very nice, musical pee. I made sure to compliment Mr Manfredas on his ingenuity when I got back downstairs.

Musical bathroom
Musical bathroom

After a little more small talk – yes, Germans do that – we were off to visit Manfredas’ friend and his wife. We sat in the “party kitchen”, drank wine and good whiskey and I managed to not come across as a total idiot – I think.

The next morning, after a musical shower and a massive breakfast, we hopped on the U-Bahn to the football stadium where Hannover 96 were playing Sankt Pauli. As the Germans are capable of having ideas, the cost of the trip to and from the stadium is included in the season ticket in a bid to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

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The weather was a bit shit but Mrs Manfredas had been nice enough to lend me a practical German raincoat. As we approached security, I prayed that she had no illicit substances in her pockets. Having been briskly frisked and having my phone charger taken off me, we were in. The match was sold out and the atmosphere was buzzing. Sechsundneunzig – immer nett und freundlich. Various chants were being sung and I sung along with what I imagined the right words were.

Me: Are they saying “Ole asshole”?

Manfredas: Ha, NEIN! “Ole HSV!” (pronounced like “Ha ess fow” in German so an easy mistake to make…)

Hannover won 2-0 in the end and the stadium was a testament to what simple creatures men really are.

Woop! Ole asshole!
Woop! Ole asshole!

We met up with another of Manfredas’ friends on the way out and proceeded to the Hannover version of Oktoberfest. It was a bit like Las Vegas on steroids.

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We managed to stick the noise and drunkenness for one drink and then walked to the old city to find somewhere a bit more civilised. The German love of sausage appears to be strong in Hannover.

Manfredas brought me to Gosch, which is where the Hannover wannabes hang out. I looked a little out of place amid the primped and preened ladies in my over-sized red raincoat, jeans and trainers but it’s Germany so nobody really cares. Still, I wanted to find somewhere a little more “me” (i.e. dodgy) so we left after one.

Walking past a bar where women  with partially shaved heads and tattooed necks were roaring out the window at some poor bloke on a bike, I decided we’d found it.

Yup, this was the place!
Yup, this was the place!

We stayed for as long as I could bear listening to the Hannover Hyena laughing toothily at everything I said and then went for a bite to eat.

Sunday morning was sunny and warm and, when I got downstairs, Manfredas and his dad were sitting in the garden putting the world to rights. I decided there and then that my mission in life was to become a German pensioner – these people know how to live.

After another huge breakfast, Manfredas, his dad and I took a stroll to the nearby Blauer See, not five minutes from the house. Of course, this being Germany, there was also a beer garden.

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Manfredas: Do you want something to drink? 

Me: Ummmm.

Manfredas: My dad’s going to have a beer. 

Me: OK then, I’ll have a glass of wine. 

It was 11.55.

We sat and chilled for an hour or so, sunning ourselves and enjoying the peace and quiet. I made witty conversation – in my head – and Manfredas and his dad pretended that what I said in reality was actually correct German.

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Blauer See

We all went for a delicious lunch in a Croatian restaurant and then it was time to pack up and get on the Autobahn back to Berlin.

I can’t say how the Manfredases felt about me, but I’m a huge fan of theirs. From the moment I arrived, I “felt myself at home” as the Germans would say – the musical bathroom was just a bonus.