When we moved to Dublin in 2012, we knew there would be a lot for us to figure out. Everything from learning a new banking system, to understanding how utilities operate, to figuring out where to buy various items you need (There are no mega-stores here and usually a pharmacy is only a pharmacy). That is on top of settling into life in a new city/country/culture.
It can be quite challenging. In fact there were times in our transition that were just hard.
We met one family here in our first year. At one point the wife told Liz she has to tell herself over and over “T.I.N.A.” (This is not America). As you might guess, they no longer live here.
Even as we learned to begin navigating various systems (like banking) it was more than 3 years before we learned some of the intricacies of those systems (like finding bank that wasn’t taking €150 or so fees over the course of the year).
At this point…almost 5 years in, we feel much more comfortable navigating our way around…or at least knowing who to ask!
All that said, there are a few things that have changed for us, from the time we landed to now. Some are things that we changed when we first arrived, and have changed again. Others are things that we didn’t anticipate changing, but over the past 4+ years have changed pretty drastically.
So, here are our top 4 things we’ve changed since our first year in Dublin.
1) We drive a lot less.
Neither Liz nor I have any issues with driving in Dublin city centre. And since we both learned how to drive on cars that had manual transmission, that transition was seamless. But while we found ourselves driving a lot our first year, we now drive less and either walk, or take public transport much more often.
During our first year, we probably filled up our tank ever 2 to 3 weeks. Now, unless Liz has to be up at the family farm for something or other, it is likely every 6 weeks that we need to fill up. We’ve actually talked about getting rid of the car, but haven’t made that leap yet.
Why this change?
For one, it is more convenient. Our street is on a major bus route; we are a 12 minute walk to the train station and a 10 minute walk to the grocery store. And with no car, no worries about parking, or traffic or stuff like that.
In addition it is a good way to strike up conversations. Now, I’m not chatting with people every trip I take, but especially when Méabh is with us, meeting people while waiting for the bus or the train is a pretty normal occurance. And that doesn’t happen at all in your car.
2) We eat less vegetables
Okay, I didn’t say all the changes were positive.
While the “more walking change” is good for us, this one, probably not so much.
Why this change?
I’m not sure exactly what it is…I do think that part of it for me is that the frozen vegetable selection is not nearly as good over here. (And frozen vegetables are easier to make:-). I’d also say that it has something to do with the fact that vegetables are more expensive here, but so is meat, and we still eat that a lot. This is probably one we need to change back to, but for now, it is what it is.
3) How we heat our home more
When we first moved here, we went through an immediate change. When we lived in Upstate NY, we had the heat on as soon as it got cold, and kept it on as much as needed. And while I didn’t appreciate the times when the heat was high enough so the kids were wearing shorts in January, it didn’t bother me all that much.
When we arrived here, we knew people generally heat a bit in the morning and a bit at night. We tried that and our first bill was over €500 for one month. (To be fair, that place had single pane windows). I quickly became the heat police. We rarely heated our place. The second house we rented was partly built into the side of a hill, so it was naturally warmer than our first place…but the heat almost never went on…and the kids never learned how to turn it on.
Why the change?
Last year, after moving into our current place, I was facing a revolt. It was cold, the house was damp (which means mildew) and I realized that I needed to give in a bit on keeping our home like my own personal Fortress of Solitude. While I was fearing the worst when the bill arrived, it was only about €200 for 2 months! Now even in months when I’m thinking people are getting a bit careless with the heat, it has rarely gone over €250.
I no longer have to wear bicycle gloves when I type!
4) I pay more attention to American Politics.
One of the best things we did before moving here was spend 6 months working with a cultural coach. That he gave the time to us that he did was an incredible gift. He is a huge reason we didn’t have to keep saying ‘TINA’ our first couple of years here.
One of the things we talked through was how I would go about learning more about Irish culture, government, sports, etc. so that I could engage people somewhat intelligently in conversations. (I have the added benefit in that I’m married to someone who know Irish history extremely well, so I can often pass the conversation over to her.)
Why the change?
While much of that has been incredibly helpful, the fact is, while I’ve learned a reasonable amount about Irish politics, (although I still can’t pronounce Tánaiste), most people I speak to are far more interested in speaking to me and Liz about American politics than they are about hearing our thoughts on the Dáil.
So after 4 years of pretty much unplugging from US politics, I’ve started following it a bit more closely. Not so that I could take a side (like many of you, I wasn’t a fan of either side this time,) but more to be able to give context to how this could happen. Since many of the conversations we found ourselves in began with the question, “this can’t really happen can it?”
This last change got me thinking about technology (tv/internet) has changed a lot about cultural adjustment. That is probably another post however.
Also published on Medium.