I’ve met Leandra Castellino on the internet, one boring afternoon during the snow storm in Ireland. We expats were united in the laughter and surprise; how is it possible that only 5 cm of snow has such a huge impact on the country?! In the following weeks we met and became friends, she always laughs at my craziness and I am inspired with her personality… So, let’s dig deeper into Lea’s world…
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in the south of Germany, but I’m half Italian. I lived in the same city my whole life before I moved to Ireland.
Why and when did you relocate from Germany?
I moved to Dublin on January 1st 2017. Living in Ireland was my dream for a long long time, I think I first started talking about it when I was about 6 years old. I wasn’t exactly unhappy in Germany, but my life was boring. Same old sh** every day, I even worked for the same company for 11 years at that time (and I’m not even 30 yet). When my company had a vacancy in the Dublin office, I didn’t think twice. I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision, I was scared of failing, but I felt like I had to do it.
Have you lived anywhere else beside your native country and Ireland and how did you like it there?
I’ve never lived anywhere else than Stuttgart, Germany. I spent a while in Hamburg at the beginning of my apprenticeship but I didn’t really live there.
What made you choose Ireland?
When I was a little kid – around the time my parents got divorced – a band called The Kelly Family was really big in Germany. They won so many awards and are still holding records for the most sold Album. They were 9 siblings singing together, and even though they were born all over the world, their roots were Irish. On one of their Albums had the Cliffs of Moher in the background.
I loved their music, and I loved the idea of an intact family. My older sister noticed my fascination for this band. She started telling me stories about Ireland and it’s fairies, she showed me photos of all the green, mossy fairytale places and she even played some traditional Irish music for me.
To me as a little girl Ireland was the perfect country, the country, where everything was better, everything was perfect. I had a very romantic idea of Ireland. When I was about 15 and due to finish school, my parents took me on one last family holiday, and they fulfilled my dream by bringing me to the emerald isle. I immediately felt at home and I knew, I was coming back, which I did a few times over the years, for holidays. Every time I went back home I got depressed. I think I’ve always been Irish at heart.
Are you happy with your job? What do you like/dislike about the environment at work, relationships with colleagues?
I’m working for a German company, but we’re very international. I’ve been working with them for almost 13 years – a bit more than 11 years in Germany, and now in Ireland. In general I do like my job, and I find it a lot easier here in Ireland than it was in Germany. Even though I’m still trying to find my place with colleagues and customers, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than it was in Germany.
Dress code is stricter here, which sometimes annoys me. I’d prefer to just jump into a pair of jeans and some sneakers in the morning than spending time in front of my wardrobe thinking about an outfit. But people (in general speaking) are a lot friendlier here than in Germany. Germany is also full of rules while Ireland as an island kinda has it’s own rules, which makes work life a lot easier.
How do you like living in Ireland? Were you happier somewhere else?
I do love my hometown, and it will always be home to me, but OH how I love Ireland! And it doesn’t have to be Dublin, I just ended up here for work reasons, but the whole country makes me happier than I was ever before. I was so scared coming here, I knew about the rental crisis and as I brought 2 cats with me I knew it was going to be really difficult.
But I was really lucky, my company helped me a lot and I found the cutest little studio flat ever, in the perfect spot so my cats can go outside and I can get to the sea easily.
After living here for more than a year it still sometimes hit me, when I’m walking through the city centre without thinking twice where to go, or when I’m somewhere in the nature, all alone, enjoying the view: I’m not here for a holiday, I really live here now! This is home! And then I could cry from happiness and I need to pinch myself.
How different is Ireland from Germany, what do you miss?
Germany is known as a very efficient country, which I have to admit, compared to Ireland it is. At least in some situations. Quite often I have to think of the Spanish manana – some sort of “why do it today, if I can also do it tomorrow”.
This is something I’m not used to from Germany and it took me a while to get used to it. On the other hand things like the online accounts on mywelfare.ie or revenues.ie or even the online doctor my health insurance offers are great and something I didn’t know from Germany! I feel like people here are friendlier, especially towards foreigners – you can tell they are used to tourists and lots of different nationalities living here.
At the same time people here in Ireland are more conservative. I have tattoos and piercings, partly visible, and I feel like they are not as accepted here than they are in Germany.
So far no one ever said anything really, nothing bad anyway, but I do feel like an outsider or like people look at me differently.
A big difference is the housing standard – and I’m not even talking about the rent prices. Most apartments in Germany are a very high standard and quite modern. Here in Ireland the “good” places are more like old German farm houses somewhere down the country. Things like no plugs in the bathroom or the two separate tabs for hot and cold water, you won’t really find that in Germany anymore unless it’s a really old house. Also the low water pressure is quite different. But I got used to all that quickly.
There are far more important things in life than that!
How did being an expat/immigrant change you? Do you think you’re a little bit different now?
It changed a lot! As I mentioned before, I lived in the same town my whole life. My friends were mostly the ones I met in school or during my apprenticeship. Stuttgart and me – it was a bit like a 50-years-marriage. We knew each other in and out and I didn’t feel like I was experiencing anything new at all. I struggled with depression for a while and got treated for it, but afterwards I felt like I had this stigma on me.
I was the depressed one, the one my friends had to look after. I don’t blame them – I’m very grateful I have friends who care so much about me – but it makes it easy to let yourself go, cause you know someone else will pick up the pieces for you.
I’m not saying I did that, especially not on purpose. But I noticed a big difference shortly after moving here. All of a sudden I was on my own. Sure, my company helped a lot and I found friends within my colleagues, but mostly I had to start all over again. Find new friends, find a new local pub, and find new things to do. I wasn’t able to call for help anymore, I had to do it myself. It made me a lot stronger and it helped me to find out who I really am, what I really like and enjoy.
Due to the lack of friends when I first moved here, I started doing things and going places on my own. I went hiking a lot, I took different busses every weekend and got off where ever I thought it looks nice. I found lovely places and I started taking photos of these places. It didn’t take me long to buy a proper camera and find Ronan HD Photography who taught me (and still does) how to take photos and who challenged me to go out and take more photos when I felt down and lonely.
Photography makes me want to get out, makes me wanna see these places myself and also allows me to share my new life with friends and family all over the world. I found a new hobby – and I didn’t have any hobbies in Germany, really – and I’m so much more active than back home. All this makes me stronger and happier than I ever was before.
Have you ever experienced any discrimination, or someone being rude to you because of your nationality or race?
I think overall the Irish like the Germans. I do get a good bit of slagging for the German efficiency, for always being on time, and I even heard the Germans are to blame for the current housing crisis, but so far I didn’t have any bad experience. The only thing I really didn’t like was a cheeky insurance agent who told me no wonder was I single, having two cats…
How do you like Irish people? What are the biggest differences (habits, traditions, lifestyle)?
I feel like here in Dublin, people are all the same. All the girls wear the same clothes and same style of make up, no matter their age or size. Sometimes this annoys me, as I am more a jeans and sweater type of girl. But other than that, Irish people are so friendly and warm hearted and I always feel very welcome!
I do like that bus drivers get a thank you and that people in the shops are quite friendly, too. I know most of the “how are ye” are just polite small talk, but it still sounds a lot friendlier than just a nod and a grunt (that’s what you’d get in Germany in a shop).
Did anything surprise you since living here (positive or negative)?
I find it quite surprising how much the Irish like to stick to themselves even though they’re so friendly. They would chat to you anytime, but it’s difficult to really become friends with Irish people.
How long are you planning to stay, would you move somewhere else for a better job opportunity, or some other reason?
I’m not really planning anything, I try to take life as it comes. But I do like to joke about how I’ll be able to get the Irish citizenship in a few years. I would actually consider it when the time comes.
Do you think Ireland has a lot of job opportunities? How do you like the nature, lifestyle?
Ireland has a lot to offer, be it jobs – so many big and international companies here!
Nature or lifestyle, Ireland has it all. I’ve never seen a place with more theatres, concert halls, pubs, life music everywhere, and at the same time mountains, the sea and all the green just around the corner…
Do you have favourite place/s in Ireland?
I love the Wicklow Mountains, especially the area around Lough Tay, and I love Howth and its cliff walk. But when I really want to be alone, relax and enjoy the nature, I either walk from Malahide to Portmarnock at sunrise when there’s no one else out, or I walk from Portrane to Donabate along the coast, where you’d only find a few people walking their dogs but not the amount of tourists you’d get in other places.
How often you’re feeling nostalgic?
Not very often. I tend to get very excited when friends and family bring (or send) certain German sweets and drinks (it’s called Mezzo Mix and it’s basically coke mixed with orange Fanta). I’m also very happy to get Pretzels in Lidl, but other than that… I love Ireland and my life here. With Facebook and Whatsapp, I don’t even miss my friends and family too much.
We have to mention the weather 😀 ?
It’s not as bad as people think! In some parts of Germany we definitely have more rain than in Ireland – rain for days without end, while here the showers usually end as quickly as they come. I also like that winters don’t get as cold as in Germany, but I did get a bit annoyed when the whole country was shut down for days just because of a little bit of snow! The first two days it was funny, but then I got really bored.
Would you recommend to other people to relocate to Ireland? Why?
This is a difficult question. I definitely recommend others to try out new things, leave their comfort zone and even leave their country / hometown. But I would never tell anyone to move to Ireland. This is a decision that everyone has to make themselves. I spoke to so many expats who are extremely unhappy here, because they can’t see the beauty of this country. Sure, you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind, and if you’re like that – see the negative rather than the positive – Ireland will probably disappoint you. But if you’re able to adapt and if you WANT to make it here, you’ll probably be the happiest ever!
Do you ever regret moving here?
NO!!!! Never. My dream came true the day I got my one-way-ticket and so far life here is better than I would ever have hoped for. There’s nothing to regret!
Read More: Dutch guy: “Move to Ireland, the people here are fantastic!” © Life in Dublin