Things About Ireland That I Won't Miss

It's another glorious day, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. It's the perfect weekend weather. I should be at the beach or at the very least in some park, relaxing with a good book. Instead I did my weekly food shopping and other than that I have mostly been fairly lazy. I am still thinking about grabbing a good book and going down to the pond to read and watch our baby ducklings but at the moment I am sat on the floor of our balcony, half in the shade and half in the sun.

It suddenly occurred to me that my new laptop's keyboard is still too new for my liking and I don't like that. I like my laptop keyboards well used. I type a lot and I like to see the results of that on my keyboard, it's a stupid writer's thing I have, don't question it, I fear it will make no sense to anyone other than me. My previous laptop lasted a little over five years, in fact there's nothing wrong with it other than that it runs on Vista (which is a crime in itself) and is so incredibly slow that you can comfortably run a mini marathon while it's starting up and opening Google Chrome.


These past few days, since finalising my move to China, I've been looking at Ireland in a somewhat different light. I don't dislike living here as much any more but I'm also looking forward towards my upcoming challenge of living in China (I must be mad!). Actually, if I'm quite honest I never really disliked living in Ireland, my personal circumstances just made me want to go somewhere else and try something new. For a while I even contemplated going back to Germany but I've been gone for so long now that I feel perpetually lost whenever I go back for a visit. My time for a return to Germany hasn't come yet, I don't know if it ever will, but let's just wait and see what the future holds.

In the meantime, there are some things about Ireland I definitely won't be missing. I don't know what I'll actually miss, so I'll save that post for when I've actually left. Once I've had some time to crave what I'll no longer have at my fingertips that blog post will be an easy one to write.

I'm not much of a list person but every now and then I will actually go ahead and put together the one or other odd list to put things into perspective, however before I launch into a rant about all the things I know I won't be missing I would like to reiterate that Ireland really isn't a bad place to be. I wouldn't have stayed for eight years if it was that unbearable. There are a lot of opportunities here in Ireland, especially for young people who speak more than one language. I always think of Ireland as the melting pot of Europe, our very own version of the Big Apple.

There's a diverse mix of cultures here, everyone comes together and in a home away from home you make friends for life, friends from all over Europe, scratch that, friends from all over the world. I have met some amazing people, with the most intriguing backgrounds. They all have stunning stories to tell, they have some fantastic experiences to share and you never fail to be awed by just what made them pack up, leave and settle down in Ireland. Even in my eight years here, I'm not sure I've heard it all but I'll be forever grateful for the great bunch of people I've met. Some only came into my life for a short time, others will stay with me for good, no matter wherever in the world they are or where it is that I am.

In terms of opportunities, Ireland has a ridiculously low corporate tax rate which is why so many international companies choose to make Ireland the place where they set up their European Headquarters. They all have customer service departments or call centres and need people with language skills to come and work for them. I've worked with some ridiculously talented and intriguing people during my professional career. If you're in the right place at the right time you have a ton of opportunities waiting for you. Ireland, Dublin especially, is a multi-cultural melting pot and there's no place quite like it. On any given day you can hear at least 10 different languages when walking the city's streets. You can taste food from all over the world, be it at a restaurant or a colleague's mum's home-made food. And well, one mustn't forget the famous Irish fry up, the best hangover cure there is.


Hungry? I sure am. [Image courtesy of Google Image Search]

So you see, I really don't hate it here in Ireland, although my continuous moaning could indeed fool you. While I'm planning to list a bunch of things that I definitely won't be missing about Ireland, I'm going to challenge myself to find something good about a somewhat less pleasing circumstance.

So let's get started.



The weather.
The Irish weather is without a doubt unique. It seems to rain for about 350 days out of the year, it's never quite as cold or warm as it should be although it was pretty darn cold in the winter of 2010 with piles of snow and so much ice that the country actually ran out of supplies to grid the roads and walkways. On the flip-side this year's summer is actually the warmest summer I've ever experienced in Ireland. We've been blessed with some gorgeous sunshine these last few weeks and it's not just me who's enjoying it. I'm still as white as milk but that'll never change. I either burn and look like a crab or I'm just plain white. There's no healthy in-between for me sadly. But my white skin is greatly admired whenever I'm in China, apparently it's something of a novelty.

Still, I can't stand the Irish rain. In this country it can rain for days on end and while that fact earned Ireland it's nickname of "The Emerald Isle" it can be pretty darn annoying when all you want to do is get out of the house to enjoy some fresh air and maybe sit on the terrace of your favourite café. It's true that the winters in Ireland are usually quite mild but then again, you've got to remember Ireland is an island. There are some pretty strong winds coming in from the sea and they will make you feel like you're freezing to death. It doesn't matter just how many layers of clothing you're wearing, the wind will still get through and chill you right through to bone. Then again, it's a welcome excuse to grab a hot chocolate in Bewley's Café on Grafton Street.

Also, what with all the rain, rainbows are a common occurrence here in Ireland. I remember, on a recent 3h train journey from Dublin to Sligo, I counted no less than five rainbows, all of them vividly spanning across the sky, making me awe and ooh at them. In my 18 years of growing up and living in Germany I've seen maybe a handful of rainbows, but in the eight years that I've lived here in Ireland I've seen more than I can possibly count.

Also, I've seen some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets. I'll never get used to the prevalent rain throughout the seasons and the icy storms in winter or the six to eight months of the year that you hide away under your thick winter jacket. If I was to stay I would likely continue to moan about it and thoroughly curse the weather.


Sunset over Malahide Beach


Perpetual Lateness.
I know, different cultures, different customs but please, I am German and it is in my nature to be on time. If I am not going to be on time, then I'm going to let you know in advance. I will text/call you when I'm on my way. There's nothing good about this point either. If you tell me that we're meeting at 7pm, I will make my best effort to make it to our appointment at 7pm and if I cannot, I will make sure to let you know. I cannot stand to wait around like an idiot for anything between five to 20 minutes without any news about when you're going to show up. Thankfully most of my friends are nothing like that but it happens often enough in work actually. You have a meeting set for a particular time and two minutes before the meeting organiser decides he or she needs to run across the road to grab a coffee and have a smoke on the way back.

I will accept the cultural differences excuse, but there is no reason for not letting me know when you're going to show up. We live in the age of mobile phones, smart phones, the internet. There are so many ways to let someone know "Hey, I'm running late" that I'm not even going to continue debating the subject. I can feel my blood boil already.

On that note, when I first came to Ireland buses showed up whenever it pleased them. They all had time tables but to actually adhere to said time table was virtually unheard of some eight years ago. In fact, the Luas was the only public transport in all of Ireland that was punctual. Any other public transport had their own unique way of interpreting their own time tables. Things have improved a lot in recent years though, so credit where credit is due. You can now almost rely on a bus to get you from A to B in a timely manner. 

Here's to continuous improvement! I have complete faith that Dublin Bus will one day be reach the same level of service as the German bus system so long as they don't use the German rail way company Die Bahn as an example, because let's face it, we all know Die Bahn doesn't know what a time table is, let alone how to stick to it for the majority of the time. Last minute late arrivals are so common that they have actually been incorporated into the company's code of conduct. I don't know of any other company who can react as quickly and speedily to the news of a delayed train as Die Bahn can. It is astonishing.


Tourists on Grafton Street.
This is a mildly sore topic for me and sadly I don't think I will able to find anything good about it, since the situation is highly unlikely to change. While I have absolutely nothing against tourists, I do mind it when you're standing in front of a jewellery shop but thrust your arm out to point at a dress in the windows of the shop on the other side of the road. I am trying to walk past you and I'd rather not have your index finger poke me between the ribs or only narrowly avoid my nose or eyes. There is nothing that's stopping you from strolling across the street to have a look at the dress, instead of excitedly shouting and pointing. It's a dress you've spotted, not Bono. Mind you, if you do spot Bono on Grafton Street you still have no right to shout excitedly and yell so loud that I can hear you even though I have my earplugs in.

To add to insult to the injury, Dublin City Council recently decided to redesign Grafton Street. They have the audacity to remove the famous red tiles and replace them with boring white tiles. Soon enough Grafton Street will look just like any other shopping street in the world. The red tiles are part of what makes Grafton Street special. Those manky white tiles will be grey with dirt in no time and soon enough they'll be black with leftover chewing gum sticking to the ground, dirt stuck to a spilled pint of Guinness and whatever else. There is definitely absolutely nothing good about the 'renovation' of Grafton Street. If you're already ripping up the ground, just replace the old, broken red tiles with new ones but don't change history to the point that it's beyond recognition. I definitely won't be missing Grafton Street's new white tiles.


Roundabouts.
Ireland loves roundabouts, there's no disputing that. They come in all sizes. There are massive roundabouts that cause traffic mayhem, roundabouts with traffic lights, roundabouts that are so tiny that you could miss the fact that you just went through a roundabout and roundabouts that seem to be quite useless for crossroads could have done the job just as well.


What a beauty...not!

I'm not a fan of roundabouts. I get confused driving in them and my driving instructor had a hell of a lot of fun trying to teach me how to not freak out. Most of the time I did just fine but still, there's something creepy about a roundabout and how people are seemingly unable to follow the rules of the road while navigating in a roundabout. The picture above is Leopardstown Roundabout, a stone's throw away from my home. It's a place of perpetual confusion, messy driving and honking cars -- I call it 'Little China'. I have to cross it on my way to work and sometimes I do fear for my life.


Cows and Sheep.
I kid, I have nothing against cows and sheep. In fact I love that they've space to roam lush green pastures full of sweet, fresh grass instead of being squashed together in a stable that's way to small to be legal. Ireland's farms still have the space to let their animals roam free and it's a refreshing sight. I remember in my very early days I went for an interview to take up another Au Pair job and even though the family didn't have a farm, they had a couple of horses on a pasture nearby and their three dogs, some chickens and a few geese were running around freely in the garden.

When you're on a train to Sligo, Cork or Belfast or any other destination for that matter cows and sheep are all you see. Sometimes you see a few horses or goats but mostly it's just cows and sheep. I'd really like to see more goats, loads of horses and maybe some pigs.


An Intercity train that takes three hours.
Irish fast trains (intercity) are truly a mystery to me. A train ride on the intercity from Dublin to Sligo takes just over three hours. The same journey would take between an hour and a half to two hours in Germany, also with an intercity and in China or Japan that train ride would probably take an hour.

Irish trains are still quite slow and the train network only connects the larger cities, whereas in Germany almost every little town (even those in the middle of nowhere) has a train station.

I love taking trains, there's something special about boarding a train and sitting back to watch the world go by. Granted on a high-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing there's not much of the world you can see (Hello pollution!) but the feeling of being on a train is still a special one. When I was a child I used to drag my mum to the train station to sit on the platform and watch the trains arrive and depart. That was more fun than eating ice cream. My dream is to take the Orient Express one day.

Irish trains don't quite live up to the magic of a train ride, then again the Irish countryside is beautiful and most train journeys take you right through the middle of nowhere so there is plenty of rolling, green hills to look at. Every so often you'll spot a single house somewhere, or an old ruin or even a farm. And then there are of course all those cows and sheep...


Ireland's non-existent healthcare.
The Irish healthcare system is well and truly a joke. Granted, now that I'm moving to China I've not exactly chosen a better place except maybe that certain tests and medications are much cheaper.

Medical insurance or no medical insurance, in Ireland I pay between 55€ and 140€ to say hello to my GP or visit a GP like swift-care clinic. On top of that I have to pay for all my medication upfront and let's not even get started on dental care. Unfortunately there's absolutely nothing good about a medical system to has so many gaping holes in it that it could pass for Swiss cheese and there's no way I can find something positive about it. Irish healthcare providers have a mysterious way of paying for medical treatments and if you don't get your treatment at a certain clinic, which is covered by your health insurance provider, you don't even need to submit a claim form.

In Ireland all medical bills need to be paid for upfront so there have been many occasions where I really thought that being sick is a question of being able to afford it. Ireland tries to draw attention to mental problems but getting treatment for them or finding an affordable psychologist to talk to about depression isn't exactly a walk in the park. Discussing medication such as contraception with your GP is an endless nightmare for many GPs prefer to brush such a subject under the carpet. There is no such thing as a gynaecologist, if you want to see one you need to beg your GP for a referral letter to the nearest hospital with a good gynaecology department.

Any costs accrued must be carried by you since your health care provider will undoubtedly consider the test/treatment useless and not pay for it. The government does pay for a smear test but many GPs don't have the right set up for it so you end up awkwardly sprawled out on the examination table instead of in the correct position in a gynaecologist's chair. Buying a pregnancy test or asking for the morning-after pill will result in getting criticising glances from the pharmacy staff up to the point where you end up feeling more uncomfortable than you did before you plucked up the courage to actually go to the pharmacy.

If you're a man you're life will be a whole lot easier but it is simply not fair that women are being put through this and not given access to adequate gynaecological medical whenever necessary. I come from Germany. Women there have a GP and a gynaecologist, they visit both regularly and religiously and there's nothing to be ashamed about it. My friends and I will frequently discuss the subject and none of us will sit at the table with a red face, looking for the emergency escape route.

I simply cannot condone such a lack of basic human rights for women and please don't even get me started about the abortion bill that's being debated at the moment. Ireland is so backwards sometimes that it hurts. I'm not fan of abortion myself, in fact I don't know how I feel about it, except I know I couldn't end a life but sadly there are circumstances where it is simply necessary to resolve to abortion and to deny a woman the right to do so is unacceptable. Religion should have no say in it and if I hear one more person tell me that Ireland is a catholic country I'm going to scream. I have every respect possible for the world's religions but not when they want to take away human rights.

Unsightly naked or half-naked men.
After my rant about the Irish health care system, I thought it would be better to end this list on a lighter note.


Excuse me while I turn into a pile of goo.

I used to have a neighbour who took great pleasure in standing in front of his living room window (with the curtains drawn back) drinking coffee. As such there's nothing unusual about such a habit, I do it too in fact, only I'm not butt naked when I indulge in my morning or afternoon coffee. I'm not denying that my neighbour (I think he moved) has the right to run around naked in his own home but if you're going to flaunt yourself in front of your living room window for everyone to see, please at least have the decency to make me feel all hot an bothered about it. If you've got a beer belly and just generally look absolutely hideous then please don't flaunt yourself in front of my eyes. Yes, I am that shallow.

I also don't quite understand why, as soon as the sun comes out and temperatures range between 20 to 28 degrees (which happens every blue moon and actually it's enough for temperatures to range between 15 to 18 degrees), everyone and their brother has to run around city centre topless. All the good looking men keep their shirts on and manage to look hot in sunglasses, t-shirt and shorts while all the teenage boys, men with beer bellies or anyone else who should keep themselves covered up, flaunts their bits for everyone to see. I know I said I would try to find something good about this, but there is simply nothing good to be said about half naked men flaunting themselves in public when they really shouldn't be half naked to begin with.