With Melissa S. I’m starting a new exciting chapter on my blog. I was curious how other nations feel about Ireland, what are their thoughts, do we share the same experiences…
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from southern Finland, Helsinki to be precise. I had a chance to travel quite a bit already at young age, so I grew up to be fond of exploring and discovering new places.
When did you relocate to Ireland?
I left Finland for the first time in January 2014 by moving to Leicester, UK. My original plan was to spend an exchange semester there, return to Finland and carry on with my life, but as things never go according to these plans, I ended up falling in love with a Canadian while in the UK. Long story short, 3 years later we live together in Ireland. I never felt like I left Finland because I didn’t like it – it just wasn’t enough, and spontaneously leaving everything behind to run away with a foreign guy might just have been the kick in the butt I needed.
Have you lived anywhere else beside Finland and Ireland?
Before moving to Ireland I lived in French-speaking Canada for a year, and 6 months in the UK before that. Ireland and UK are somewhat different when it comes to people, but Canada differs in so many ways from food to door knobs to the width of the roads… I truly fell in love with the country and wish to return one day. It was rough at first since I didn’t speak a word of French and Quebeckers sure know how to defend their minority culture, but I ended up landing a nice job and getting to enjoy Canada to the fullest by travelling from one coast to another. It’s a spectacular place, and the stereotypes are not joking when they make you believe Canadians are one of the nicest folk in existence.
What made you choose Dublin?
We needed to find an English-speaking country so the two of us would have equal opportunities. However, in the midst of Brexit and the uncertainty that comes with it, we didn’t want to return to UK. Ireland was a weirdly spontaneous and sudden choice, and after some pretty intense growing pains, we’re happy in here now.
Are you working or studying?
I study a postgraduate degree in social sciences. I specialise in racial and ethnic conflicts.
How do you like living in Ireland?
Frankly speaking, Ireland and I had some issues and misunderstandings at first. For a while I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make my home here: I was frustrated at the general inefficiency of everything from delivering mail to online banking – and I still am. However, I guess I’ve submitted to this Stockholm syndrome of mine and learned to love Ireland by now, with all its flaws. But I must admit it doesn’t feel like “it” – I can’t shake off this feeling of something not being quite there yet.
Tell me a little bit about the economy, lifestyle and cultural differences in both countries?
Ireland is to Finland like a stranger and a brother from another mother at the same time. When it comes to people, we’re completely different: Finns tend to enjoy silence, don’t speak much and definitely don’t do small talk. We don’t touch or strike up a conversation with strangers. We don’t have much craic. However, I think as nations we have much in common: the history of being colonised and oppressed under a world power has created this urge of proving something to the world. Irish newspapers love these articles like “This one Hollywood actress just found out her grandmother’s babysitter was Irish!” or “This really important American newspaper just said Ireland is quite ok!”. The same happens in Finland: a nationally known actor gets to play a dead body in an episode of CSI in the USA and it’s all over the news for weeks. Both Finland and Ireland have an intense need to be relevant in the eyes of others.
How did being an expat/immigrant change you and do you think you’re a little bit different now?
I’m not even exaggerating, it changed everything. Before moving abroad I was afraid of everything, comfortably sitting within my own comfort zone trying to find excuses not to take the leap to the unknown. Living abroad forces you out of that comfort zone: you’re alone in an unfamiliar place, you don’t know how to function, how to pay your bills, do your taxes, ride the bus. For a long time, every day is a day of discoveries and misfortunes. No matter how afraid you are, living abroad doesn’t let you hide in the corner and hope things will go like you’re used to if you just look away. Instead, you’ll have to go out there and get used to them. Every day changes you a little – whether I’ve become more aware of my own Finnishness or slowly turning into an Irish, I’m definitely not afraid anymore.
Have you ever experienced discrimination? Do you think you have equal chances when applying for a job or promotion?
As long as I speak English – so 99% of my time – no one seems to pay attention to me. However, last weekend I had my first-ever experience of speaking Finnish in Ireland when my friend from Finland came to visit me. I immediately noticed a slight difference: a woman in the queue in front of me at Tesco pushed me further with her shopping basket without saying a word while we were talking in Finnish behind her. In the bus someone changed a seat from next to us to somewhere else after 5 minutes. Small things, but noticeable ones. I guess people get frustrated when they hear a discussion in a language they can’t understand. I’m sometimes afraid of sending CVs since it obviously shows I’m not a local, and funny enough, in all the job interviews I’ve been to they’re always really surprised when I speak great English. There seems to be a prejudice towards my language skills.
How do you like Irish people? What are the biggest differences (habits, traditions, lifestyle)?
The Irish, oh wow. Where to start. They’re the funniest thing, highly inefficient, wouldn’t call them that hardworking either, but they have this lovable sense of wit I adore. They’re always helpful and easy to approach. The Irish are always late, never in a hurry – things happen pretty slowly in here. The Irish ask for a lot of patience, which has been difficult for me, having grown up in the country of high technology where everything happens online. Sometimes the Irish way feels a bit backwards to me: I’ve never received this much snail mail in my entire life! They’re also pretty touchy I would say, they like to pat your back or squeeze your shoulder.
Did anything surprise you since living here ?
The amount of dirt in the streets, to be honest. There’s trash everywhere. This is only based on my experience in Dublin, but also the lack of efficient public transport.
How long are you planning to stay? Would you move somewhere else for a better job opportunity, or some other reason?
My plans are a blank page right now – I might stay until the end of this year, or for the rest of my life. It all depends on how things go after my graduation, really. Landing a nice job would definitely make me stay until infinity and beyond! My boyfriend wants to stay in Europe, but I wouldn’t close the door from moving back to Canada either.
Do you think Ireland has a lot of job opportunities?
Depends on your field. My current field of employment offers me quite a large range of opportunities, but I also get contacted by some pretty big names like Google and Accenture through LinkedIn and such due to my IT and localisation background. In Ireland you have to get yourself out there and make yourself valuable – in Finland we just fill online applications and hope for the best.
Do you have favourite place/s that you go to when you want to relax (your happy place)?
I like to do occasional reality escapes from the city by doing little trips to places like Bray and Howth. I’m a city girl to the bone but hiking is what keeps me sane – a habit learned in Canada! Ireland has a gorgeous nature so would be foolish not to take advantage of that and explore the surroundings.
How often you’re feeling nostalgic?
I don’t really feel nostalgic. It’s nice to see my family and friends once in a while, but visiting Finland mostly just makes me happy to be able to stand behind my decision to leave. Finland and I had a good run, so to say, but it’s over, and I don’t look back to “the good old times” with tears in my eyes. I’ve lived in a few places by now, and all of those places have a special place in my heart, and I miss all of them equally.
We have to mention the weather 😀 Your thoughts about it?
It rains from all directions and it always takes you by surprise. You cannot run, you cannot hide, an umbrella is useless unless it’s made of steel and capable of resisting the wind. The weather changes five times a day and you can never trust what you see from your window. It’s like a never-ending fight against the world. I stopped doing my hair and wearing mascara because, needless to say, none of those things resist the misty rain very well. I decided to stop the fight and just adapt. Now I’m walking around looking like I just got out of bed and just dealing with it.
Would you recommend relocation to Ireland? Why?
It depends what you’re looking for! Ireland isn’t the easiest place to immigrate: there’s a lot of competition and the rental and job markets in Dublin are quite rough right now. Many of the world-renown brands are located in here though, so I’m sure that offers some special opportunities for people who are after that kind of jobs. Trinity College has a great reputation abroad, so I won’t complain about having graduated from there if I ever decide to move elsewhere. But to be completely honest: immigrating to Ireland was much harder than immigrating to Canada – and not because of legalities. Ireland can be a hard bite to chew.
Do you ever regret moving here?
– On those moments when it’s raining from left, right, over and under, my face is getting whipped by the wind and I’m knee deep in a puddle, yes. When I get knocked over by a passer-by on Grafton Street, yes. When I have to squeeze myself through the main gate of Trinity College amongst all the tourists to make it to my lecture on time, yes. But when I’m sitting on top of the Howth cliff, looking at the horizon of the Irish sea, completely at peace, all of that is forgotten and I fall in love with Ireland just a tiny bit more. No, I don’t regret moving here. I could lie on some beach in Spain I guess, but I want to believe this is where I belong right now.
Anything else you would like to mention?
In case someone is interested in reading more about my rambling around Ireland and Canada, I occasionally write a blog: http://www.land-incognita.blogspot.com.
I hope you enjoyed Melissa’s story, the next one coming up soon…