Expat Life in Ireland: The Seven Year Itch

I never actually considered myself to be an expat here in Ireland, in fact when I first came here I didn't even know what being an expat entailed. I'd never even heard of the word. Nobody around me ever used it. By the time I'd learned the meaning of the word, I felt that I didn't fit into that category at all:

Screenshot taken at dict.cc

Let me explain a little...

I originally came to Ireland because after enjoying (and I use this term loosely) twelve years of German's education system I was thoroughly fed up with with burying my nose in a pile of books day in day out. I didn't know how to deal with all the suggestions everyone was throwing at me, especially all the suggestions about finding a suitable vocational education. I therefore did what a confused teenager does best. I stubbornly went against everything everyone was telling me, packed my bags and left the country.

I still remember the last day of school prior to my graduation. We spent it with our classroom teacher and she was asking us about our plans. My classmates all enthusiastically talked about the schools and universities they'd applied to and the subjects they were planning to study. Some of the lads proudly bragged about joining the army and the rest of my classmates shared which kind of vocational education they'd decided on (I distinctly remember that most of my classmates' choices were fairly dull. At least five of them chose to study hotel management, it was kind of "in" back then and I contemplated it for a while myself but came to my senses when I realised that it everyone was doing it.).

When it was my turn to speak and my teacher asked me what I was planning on doing after the summer, I smugly told her that I'd be living it up in the west of Ireland for an undefined length of time. Most of my classmates gaped and even my classroom teacher took a moment or two to process the news. (I later found out that she spoke to my dad about my plans to go to Ireland and my dad apparently told her that he had no intention of interfering with my plans since I was a stubborn thickhead with a long track record of walking head first into the nearest wall. Gee, thanks Dad!)

Now, let's cut a long story short and fast forward seven years to the present day. I barely remember what life in Germany was like before I left for Ireland. Whenever I return to my hometown in Germany I feel a bit like a stranger. A lot of things have changed, I frequently get lost and it takes me ages to figure out which bus I have to take whenever I want to visit one of my friends. These days they usually take pity on me and to reassure me they tell me to text them when I'm on the bus. They then make sure to wait at the bus stop nearest to their home for me to make sure I don't get lost.

Even my bedroom back home in Germany isn't a reflection of my current self. It looks exactly like I left it when I was a foolish, stubborn and confused 18-year-old teen who had no idea what to do with her life. I still have that rose I got for my 18th birthday. It's all dried out but the colour is still there. A concert ticket from early 2005 is the most prominent thing pinned to my pin board, along with an autograph from one of my class mates who in 2004 had the intention to become a famous football player. I wonder what became of him. The books on my bookshelf reflect my childhood and early teenage years. There's a single bed wedged into one corner of the room with Easter bunny stickers stuck all over it. You can still find all the school books from my final year at school on the shelf above my desk. My desk chair is still as broken as it was eight years ago - my dad never fixed it. There was no need, nobody has used it in the last seven years.

Seven years on I'm no longer registered in Germany, I've no permanent residence there nor do I have health insurance or a bank account. I'm a tourist in my native country, a tourist who happens to hold a German passport. That, along with my birth certificate, is the only proof that I am a German citizen. I once contemplated to give up my German citizenship in favour of an Irish citizenship but I never made it past the contemplation stage. I guess you can take the girl out of Germany but you just can't take Germany out of the girl.

There used to be a time where I completely resented even mentioning that I am German. Whenever I did tell people that I am German, they would throw random German words at me, tell me how much they liked German beer or the Oktoberfest. My punctuality was praised and I had to listen to endless stories about German efficiency. The novelty of it wore off pretty quickly, I can tell you that. It was so much easier to pretend to be Canadian. My brother is Canadian; he immigrated to Canada more than twenty years ago. Whenever people asked me where I am from I'd tell them that I grew up in Toronto and Ottawa prior to moving to Ireland. I'm not entirely sure it was believable but apparently being Canadian is not that interesting than being German or at least that's the impression I got back then.

Since it takes a lot more effort to argue that I in fact do not have an American accent, I also often took the easy way out and let people believe that they were right in their assumption and that I am in fact American. I distinctly remember that there was one occasion where a taxi driver was convinced that I must be Australian. Too tired to argue with him I let him believe he was right and informed him that I hailed from Melbourne where (if I am not entirely mistaken) an aunt of mine lives. Whenever I was feeling particularly cheeky, I put on my best Irish accent and pointedly insisted I was Irish.

These days I just say that "I'm originally from Germany..." and leave it at that. It is true after all. It's exhausting to listen to people natter on about Germany but I've had a lot of time to fine-tune my act and these days the right answers come out almost automatically. I don't even need to really think about it all. I politely accept any praise, cut the conversation short when people want to talk politics and generally just smile and nod for anything else.

But I suppose, for the purpose of this blog post we can just assume that I am an expat, living it up on the Emerald Isle, the home of Guinness, leprechauns, never-ending rain and a bunch of other weird things that hail from the place I've come to call home.

Lately, I am however fairly fed up with this place. Actually that's not quite right. I love this place. The ever-changing weather does occasionally get the better of me and I grumble about it a lot but I can't deny that Ireland has a unique charm. Once it captures your heart, it captures it for life. This places changes you, it leaves a lasting mark on you, a bit like a tattoo. You just can't wash it off and laser therapy won't work either.

Still, if you're going to ask me how I currently feel about living in Ireland my answer will be fairly short and to the point: Fuck this. (Just this once I won't excuse my frank choice of words.)

I'm not fed up with Ireland but I'm fed up with some of things I've got to deal with on an almost daily basis.

I'm tired of being given four different answers to the same questions, all leaving me none the wiser.

I'm tired of having to argue my point until I finally get what I want (providing that I am in the right). Please just stop talking bulls***. If you don't know what you're talking about, just shut up and admit that you don't know. The world isn't going to end and I won't think any less of you. In fact I'll even think you've balls for being honest.

I'm tired of having to give excuses for everything and anything. Why is "I'm busy after five" not a sufficient excuse for not being able to take a phone call at that time? A simple statement such as "I'm busy" satisfies my Chinese friends, hell it even satisfies my boyfriend. He doesn't consider it necessary to drive me insane with asking me "Why? What are you doing?" even though I wouldn't mind if he did. Then again I don't need that gesture from him to know that he cares, he has other ways of showing me that. Seriously people, back off! I will usually explain myself to my friends but I shouldn't have to explain myself to a mere acquaintance. This is ridiculous. Next you'll be asking for a detailed time plan of my day, yes?

I'm tired of that stupid "How are you?" greeting. I've not managed to get used to it in the last seven years and I doubt that I ever well. Please don't ask me how I am if you don't care for an honest answer. There are days when I really don't feel like replying "Not too bad, yourself?" Sorry, folks, I know it is common courtesy but I'm tired of that kind of superfluous. I really am tired. So unless you care about the answer I'm going to give you back off and don't make me force a polite smile when I'd really rather stuff my face with chocolate and cry because I've PMS and miss my family/friends/boyfriend (not necessarily in that order).

I'm tired of everyone and their dog having an excuse for not doing something or blatantly lying to my face about why they haven't done something. Here's a newsflash for you: be honest. I get that you have a busy life too and I also get that you're only human. It's perfectly acceptable to occasionally forget something when you're running around like a headless chicken, trying to run your life and stop it from crashing all around you.

I'm not going to bite your head off for being a bit forgetful. I may frown a little or even chide you a little but I will understand. What I quite frankly have no patience for is you lying straight through your teeth and telling me a cock and bull story about why you haven't been able to do something. If you have to do that, please at least have the courtesy to try and be original with your lie.

If I am waiting for an official document from you, then please be honest with me and set the correct expectations instead of being a careless twat. How would you feel if I were to withhold important documentation you need to apply for let's say a mortgage? I don't think you'd be too amused. You have no right to be this disrespectful about certain matters (my apologies for being a little cryptic here but I don't want to resort to naming and shaming although I really think that I should) just because they don't directly concern you. One day they may concern you too and then you will wish that you could've shown the same courtesy to those people who previously went through what you had to go through. 

I also don't quite understand why it is necessary to tell me an idiotic white lie about why you were unable to respond to my forth email asking for a simple update. In saying that, I don't really understand why I need ask for an update four times in the first place but irrespective of that a little honesty really goes a long way, you know?

If you haven't realised it, trying to deal with Irish officials is trying. You often get nowhere at all and when you do get somewhere it isn't where you'd actually intended to be. Everything has its own pace and there is no use rushing people, you won't get anywhere at all. In fact, I'm convinced that if you're first in line and you moan too much and have too many demands you're placed at the bottom of the pile until the clerk in charge has decided to forget about your requests or handed his task over to a replacement clerk.

Irish interpersonal relationships are still a mystery to me. I'm slowly getting the hang of most of them but I still fail to see how a piss up in the pub around the corner from work contributes to the quality of life. I've no interest in seeing my colleagues drunk, I'd like to keep our working relationship professional and I'd like to keep joking around with you, bantering back and forth to lessen the stress of a busy working day.

What I don't want is cringe at the memory of that time when I saw you dancing on the table, grinding your arse against your manager's front. There's only one word I have for that kind of behaviour and that's: slut (or pervert if you're a a guy). I've been called old-fashioned and a prude but I will continue to defend my point of view. I refuse to get pissed with colleagues and it doesn't make me a prude nor does it make me a bore.

I don't need to get so drunk that I can't even remember my own name to have fun. For the record, I'm a ton of fun sober, not so much when I'm drunk. Yes, people it's actually possible to have fun and let your hair down without downing shots in rapid succession. If getting drunk is what's required for you to believe that I'm fun to be around, then you'll need to find someone else who is willing to destroy their brain cells for you.

Ireland, Dublin is especially is a melting pot for people from different parts of the world. What's lacking however is a distinct understanding of cross-cultural differences. People quite frankly don't care. My French colleagues only ever went for lunch with other French colleagues. My Polish and Eastern European colleagues were the same. It's sad. Most of these people told me that they came to Ireland to improve their English, learn a little more about Ireland, meet new people and gather work experience. Yet, any chance they get they hang out with those people who speak their native language. Why? I honestly don't understand it, all this makes no sense to me.

The distinct lack of cross-cultural understanding is however what's truly saddening. It builds an barrier between people and promotes the founding of little groups and cliques who only stick to each other and have no interest in getting to know anyone else. It reminds me of my early teenage years back in secondary school. It's tiring. I always thought that this is only a teenage thing and that people grow out of this ridiculous behaviour but apparently that's not the case at all. Really, really sad. I wish some people would make more of an effort to learn about different cultures, understand why people behave in a certain way and learn to respect this. Food for thought.

As you can see, the seven year itch isn't a myth after all. It also doesn't just apply to marriages and partnerships. That blasted seventh year seems to be just a little hard to swallow.

I could continue to vent about all those little things that irk the hell out of me but I think just by writing this I've blown off quite a bit of steam. So instead of continuing to be a negative pain in the backside I'm going to draw a line and prepare an post about expat life in Ireland that's actually useful. I'd like to try and be of some help instead of simply spreading negativity. Let me tell you one thing though, sometimes a girl just has to vent.

In the meantime you can look out for part two of my seven year itch. I'll make sure to be in a better moon then.