Glenn: An American in Dublin
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Dublin, etc.
I’m an American expat living full time in Dublin since July of 2011. I work as a freelance travel journalist and an online writing coach. Though I moved from Indiana, I “grew up” in Atlanta, and have lived in nine places around the U.S.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Before I started “An American In Dublin”, I was always against blogging because it seemed so self-absorbed. Then, as I began the process of moving overseas and starting a new life in another country, I realized that it was a pretty complex undertaking, both logistically and emotionally.
As a travel writer I also realized that cataloging the experience through a blog, and encouraging conversations about the various aspects of the modern immigrant experience (everywhere - and not just in Dublin) might be useful to others. So I started the blog as a way of breaking ground for those that are interested in living overseas but are intimidated by the process.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Though I’ve taken a lot of flack for my list, I have to say that the post, “Five Things I Hate About Dublin Ireland” has done wonders to get a conversation going about the early days of life in a new city/country/culture, and common expat frustrations and challenges faced in the first few weeks and months. Strangely (or not), my follow-up post, “Five Things I Love About Dublin Ireland” hasn’t been nearly as popular.
Disclaimer: Please recognize that “Five Things I Hate About Dublin Ireland” was written more than three years ago, and while I still stand by that list, the entries were chosen (at least partly) to represent common categories of expat concerns (infrastructure, transportation, food, pets, bureaucracy, and societal pace and priorities) faced by expats everywhere.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Dublin differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
We’ve deliberately chosen not to have a car here in Dublin, which, for most Americans, is a big step. While we do rent a car on occasions, we mostly rely on walking, buses, the LUAS and the DART (local light rail systems), and the occasional cab to get around. I love it, and, frankly, can’t imagine going back to the “car lifestyle”. Not having a car has meant that we have to plan ahead a bit more, but we’ve also gotten in better shape, and have gotten to know the city better as a result of not simply “whizzing past” shops and parts of town that are on our way to other things. We explore a lot more than we did in the U.S.
There was a bit of culture shock, but nothing too extreme. Getting used to the language and colloquialisms, and the Irish character and pace of life was not tough, but definitely required an adjustment period.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Dublin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’m not sure you can be prepared for everything, but, with the Internet, modern immigrants can use forums and information sites to get a feel for many of the everyday things that impact life in their chosen destination.
Before moving, I spent time combing through these resources on a daily basis. That made everything easier (not perfect).
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Shortly after we arrived, our dachshund ruptured a disc in her back. It’s very common in this breed, and, as likely as not, had nothing to do with her air travel experience or her brief stay in quarantine. Fortunately we already had a local vet we were happy with.
Yet, when we took her in, they told us, “Your dog is giving out.” “My God, she’s dying?” we replied. “We didn’t think it was that serious.” In the United States “giving out” means dead or dying.
It turns out that “giving out” is Irish slang for complaining loudly. Our vet meant she was just being really vocal about her level of discomfort. Once we cleared up that miscommunication, we got the dog tended to and everything was fine. But for a few minutes there the language barrier was a very real issue.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Dublin?
- Make Lists: Before you move make lists of everything from what you like to eat, to medical concerns, and your daily habits. Use those lists to drive your research, and how you think about your life overseas. If you always eat yogurt for breakfast, where will you get that in your new home, or are you willing to switch to a local alternative? What about your children’s school, what about hair conditioner, and car repairs, etc. The lists are endless, but they’re also essential.
- Explore and Experiment: Think about why you are moving, and what, if anything, you’d do “differently”, change about your life, or like to try. Use your new life as an immigrant as an opportunity to test out those things. Some may be right for you, and others will remind you why you’d avoided them in the past.
- Be Prepared For Changes: At Home: Remember that when you go back “home” you will be different, and your old home will have changed as well. While the Internet and our phones make it easier for us to stay in touch, when we move overseas life back at home moves on without us. When we go home the impulse to pick up where we left off may be quite strong. Many expats are shocked at how quickly notions of “home” can shift.
How is the expat community in Dublin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Because it is a popular tourist destination, a tech industry hub, and a world capital, Dublin has a massive expat community from all around the world. In some ways it’s almost too easy to hang out with other expats. If you are not careful you can spend all your time with other migrants and miss some of the local culture.
For that reason, I’ve tried to use Meetup groups and other avenues to participate with locals (and expats as well) in activities that interest me. Trying new things with both locals and expats is, in my opinion, the best way to shake off the new arrival fear and intimidation factor that many of us feel when we first move.
Making friends with other expats, and heeding their advice is a great way to reduce the learning curve. But remember to be as generous (pay it forward) with newer expats, a few years down the road, when you are the wizened expert.
How would you summarize your expat life in Dublin in a single, catchy sentence?
Living overseas has been the best (and hardest) experience of my life; doing it in Dublin has made it even more rewarding.