People call me adventurous. I’m not really sure that’s what I am. When I’m determined to do something, I do it! Traveling with a family of 6 is an adventure in itself, I guess. It is, but so is having a family, and so is LIFE. Sometimes instead of adventurous, I think people mean hard and something that they or not many would want to do. I love to plan and research. That’s how I go about things. It makes me feel more confident in my decisions.
I’m probably asked at least a few times a week if I’m settling in, how I like it here, and if I miss home. I pause a lot before I answer and I know they’re wondering what am I going to say. I’m someone who wears their heart on their shoulder. I pause because I want to be truthful in my answer, but I also think I’m trying to be truthful with myself.
The answer for now is…
I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel completely settled in one place or the other. I’ll always feel a pull between my American home and now our Irish home. I love them both and for mostly different reasons. When I’m in the opposite place, I do think about the things that I love about the other. How can you not? But since we’re new to Ireland, I try not to dwell on those things. It takes away from my happiness of where I’m at now. I don’t want to miss out on the joy that I have now and I want my girls to experience it too. Anything can change at any time. It’s important that we enjoy what we have today.
I tell my girls that what we did is not for the weak or faint-hearted. It takes courage, strength, and determination to move countries. There’s so much involved literally, physically, and emotionally! I hope my kids learned a good lesson in resilience and determination as we went through this together. It’s hard to understand something so life changing if you’ve never done it. I have to remind my girls of that from time to time when they’re struggling with feeling different. It can feel a bit like a Wizard of Oz effect where your entire life has been sucked up and placed somewhere else. It can feel like you’re on that yellow brick road searching for all of the things that make you who you are and makes your home, a home.
A Year Gone By
It’s been a little over a year since we moved. It took a good part of the year to get set up and feel like we can just go about our lives like we normally would do but in another country. And since I did go back to California just before we were here a year, it made me reflect a lot on my year of living abroad. Although it wasn’t our first rodeo in moving countries with our family, it’s been different in a lot of ways.
So, here’s the good stuff. The stuff you really want to know about. The differences, the changes, what’s hard, what’s easy. While I could write a novel to tell all, I won’t. And while I didn’t write a novel, I did split this blog post into two parts. My hope is to paint a picture of some of the changes in our lives in the last year. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be really glad that I’m doing this and you’re not! I’m not sure what my Irish friends will think. Regardless, here are notable realities I’ve come to know while living a new life in Ireland. It’s just a few things I’ve learned, discovered, or still trying to figure out while living here.
My Notable Realities
A Slower Pace of Life
It seems like I hear a lot of people say that they want a slower pace of life, especially those of us who come from fast pace places like California and New York. Usually, that means you move out to the suburbs, not another country. California life felt so fast. If you don’t keep up, you could get left in the dust. Everyone is in a rush, even when they’re not trying to be. I hoped that things would slow down for us living in the countryside of a small country. It has! But, what I didn’t realize is that EVERYTHING else is slower too.
In my experience in Ireland, things don’t happen so fast. Living out in the country doesn’t help. When I first visited Ireland nearly 20 years ago, I remember thinking ALL of Ireland was rural. I know now, that even people in the countryside think I’m more rural. That means waiting for a lot of things to happen.
What Does A Slower Pace of Life Mean Anyway?
I thought a slower pace of life meant me getting to be more relaxed in life and not always feeling like I’m on the go. I thought it would mean I didn’t have to keep up with so many things. But a slower pace of life also means waiting a lot longer for any kind of service you want to come to you. Something I didn’t think about or prepare for. That’s not easy when you have a house you want to get set up right away.
It’s taken some patience on my part. It’s not like home where there is so much choice and competition. Processes are different and sometimes you just have to wait. However, I appreciate the fact that many businesses are family-owned and family-run. It means you know the people that are serving you and your community. If you don’t know them somebody else does. You don’t find that too much where I’m from.
So, I’ve learned that a slower pace of life doesn’t only mean fewer cars, fewer people, and less to keep up with. Although summertime does bring a lot of cars to the West of Ireland. Sometimes I think I’m busier than I was. Living in a small community in rural Ireland means that everyone knows everyone. When everyone lives only minutes away, it becomes easier to see people. In California, it would take us a good thirty minutes to see good friends. In a small village, there are only so many places to go, so you see people often. When your children go to a school with only 30 students you know all of the families. It makes play dates much easier. Everyone is watching out for one another.
A slower pace could also mean a little more laid back. I know I can worry too much and be a little high-strung. So chilling out and letting things happen usually won’t kill you!
Word of Mouth
This is one thing that I’m still getting used to. It’s been a long time in my world when you relied heavily on word of mouth. I don’t even know if I remember that being a thing. Ireland has yet to lose itself in the online world. So, if you want to know about a lot of things, you have to figure out who to talk to. That can be hard when you have a lot of introverted tendencies.
Sometimes I feel the old teenager in me has resurfaced and feels left out because no one told me what’s going on. I have to push her back down and remember to just ask when I don’t know or keep my ear to the ground as they say. Other times, I’m worried I’ve missed an email or a text, specifically when it comes to school or the girls’ activities. Nope! The information just hasn’t gotten around yet. Eventually, you find out where to go or who to go to get the information from.
Who to Go to
When we first came, I was searching high and low on the internet for activities I could get my girls involved in. I could hardly find anything. It so happened that the lady we bought our car from was a wealth of information. Apparently, Facebook and Whatsapp groups were the places to be. But I still had to find the groups. As school started, I was able to talk to other parents and be in the know.
Now, I don’t know what to do with so many Whatsapp groups on my phone. But I had to come out from under my shell and bring out the extrovert in me to start asking questions. I’m a little more in the know these days, but I still find myself wondering how the heck people find out their information. It has to start somewhere. Luckily, people are always willing to help where they can if you just ask!
I thought I was a good driver, but now I’m not so confident in saying so. It takes getting used to driving on the “other” side, not the “wrong” side. My spatial awareness on my left side (the non-driver side) needed a serious adjustment. I’ve driven in Ireland before but usually avoided it if I could. The roads are narrow, bumpy, and winding. The kids hardly complain about being carsick anymore. They’ve become so used to the roads.
I’m used to freeways with 6 lanes going in one direction and wide roads that fit parked cars on either side. Driving in Ireland is like driving in a video game. I should get points for avoiding sheep, bikes, walkers, tractors, and passing cars on a two-way road, but big enough for one.
Getting Comfortable in the Driver’s Seat
I’m not as nervous as I used to be, but I don’t love driving somewhere I haven’t been. You never know what the situation will be like. A lot of driving questions flood into my head like if I drive in, will I be able to get out? Is it two-way traffic on a one-lane road? Will there be enough parking? Is the wall along the driveway wide enough and I won’t hit a wall again (yup, I’m not ashamed to say I did that ONLY once)? At least I’m not the only one whose cars have a few bumps and bruises. Believe me, I take stock of the number of cars I see with scrapes and dents. However, I am impressed with people’s reversing skills in this country. They can back into a space like nobody’s business!
The big cities make me even more nervous. The roundabouts, signage with not enough warning, and sometimes there are so many white lines that I can’t tell where I’m supposed to be. Regardless, I get around. Now I understand why no one wants to insure your rental car when you drive here on holiday. I watch the many tourists drive around the area nervously, and I completely understand their fears.
I Don’t Have An Accent, You Have An Accent!
It’s still hard to think that I’m the one with the accent. I’ve even asked people if I sound American. Duh, Krista! Although, I am told that my accent is mild. I think that’s because when people think of an American accent, they usually think of a southern twang or someone from the east coast like Boston or New York. At least that’s the accent I hear when Irish people try on their American accent. Of course, I don’t sound like any of them.
While I don’t see my American accent going anywhere soon, there are definitely some phrases and words I’ve picked up. Again, how can you not? It is so much easier to use typical words used here than having to repeat yourself. The older girls have said that they’re keeping their accents too. I think they’ve come to the age where their accent sticks. They are similar to me because we feel silly saying words that don’t naturally roll off of our tongue. That could change the longer we’re here. Other times, they like to give me a hard time when I don’t use words like rubbish for trash or sweets instead of candy.
The older girls and I often have a laugh as we stick Irish phrases into our conversations with our best Irish accent when we’re at home talking amongst ourselves. “It’s good craic” as they say. I’ll let you look that one up if you haven’t heard it before. But then, the little one comes home and she can’t help but use the words she hears in school.
Sounding More Irish Every Day!
At her age, she’s still learning a lot of language from the teacher. It’s adorable when she tells me the teacher never gets “cross” with her or asks me to find her “nickers.” I can’t help but giggle sometimes. My daughter above her is also picking up the Irish way to say things because that’s how her friends talk. It reminds me a lot of my past students who were learning English from their friends and teachers at school. What’s really cool to me, is that the younger ones are picking up Irish lingo, but also learning the Irish native language, Gaelic. Before you know it, they’ll be speaking Gaelic with each other and giggling at me. And I won’t have a clue as to what they’re saying.
You find yourself saying things you’d never think you’d say. Sometimes it’s to be funny or to be understood. There are also times when others like to point out my funny American words. So, I change it up. While my kids might start sounding more Irish, I’m too old for my accent to change and I won’t try. So, I’ll continue to sound like me I’m sure with some sprinkles of Irish in there.
I hope my kids had a good lesson in resilience and determination as they looked on.
So many people I know would NEVER move to another country, and so many I know are curious because they would if they could, but circumstances might not allow them to. And some may be making plans to move abroad as we speak. I hope I was able to give you a little glimpse into what it’s been like for me! I don’t know what the future holds, but while we’re here in Ireland, I will share my interesting experiences with you. What are you dying to know about? Look out for Part 2 if you want to know more!