Expats in Dublin


Today, Mountaineering Man and I will board a plane for our one-way journey to America, capping off two weeks of leaving parties and farewell drinks and goodbye hugs and well wishes.

To say Ireland has been good to me would be an understatement. I came here six-and-a-half years ago from Los Angeles, where I had a close-knit group of friends, my family within driving distance to my condo and a job that had me interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. But there was a growing sense of loneliness that I just couldn’t shake, leaving me feeling disillusioned and weary.

Perhaps it was a long-ago heartbreak that never really healed, or one too many flaky “let’s have lunch” invitations that never materialized or the hours upon hours I – like most people in this traffic-clogged city – spent in my car. LA was wearing me down, and no matter how many dinner parties or new hairstyles or glasses of Pinot Grigio I had, nothing changed, not really. And I was desperate for change – something, anything.  I reasoned that moving to a new country would be such a massive shift in my reality that it would effectively force change in every other aspect of my life. It had to.


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I’m from Los Angeles – land of gyms (and plastic surgeons). The last gym where I worked out before relocating to Ireland had mini refrigerators filled with iced face towels, so people could cool themselves off after a tough workout. Very LA.

Gyms in Ireland are slightly different, to say the least. Most are no-frills, though many are priced even higher than my aforementioned LA place. I tried a few and found very little inspiration; one place had machines so old they barely worked, another had personal trainers who knew little about customized training and worked off the same standard program for every client.


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This one is going to hurt.

Today is my last day in the office at Kellogg’s European Headquarters in Dublin, and if I can get through it without tears it will be a miracle.

My expectations when I first joined Kellogg’s in July 2013 were purely professional. I hoped to apply what I’d learned in my previous roles to help grow the company’s digital marketing capabilities, further develop my knowledge of European business and gain an understanding of FMCGs (that’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods for the uninitiated, which I was at the time). In a nutshell, do a good job and not make a fool out of the guy who hired me. If I made a few friends and acquaintances along the way, well, that would just be icing on the cake.

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So it’s a wonderful and heartbreaking thing to say that I’ll be leaving behind some very special people today, who in a relatively short period of time have become life-long friends.

It’s no wonder when someone leaves Kellogg’s, they always talk about how much they’ll miss the people. The culture of the company is truly special, and my colleagues genuinely respect and support one another – even when under intense pressure. The emphasis on assuming positive intent, building relationships and nurturing trust has greatly influenced the way I approach work…and life.


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It’s funny how certain foods can transport me back to a very particular place in time, and how some of my fondest and strongest memories are tied to certain dish or flavour.

I remember a trip to Westport back in November 2010, which was my first-ever weekend getaway with my then-boyfriend Mountaineering Man. There are many special moments from that trip, including a failed trek up Croagh Patrick (we hit a storm about half-way up and had to turn around), but one that stands out is a tiny little meat pie called a pithivier – something I’d never heard of nor eaten before.


The little, enclosed pie was about the circumference of a 2-Euro coin, as it was part of a multi-course tasting menu created by Chef Seamus Commons at La Fougere Restaurant  in the Knockcranny House Hotel. The golden, flaky crust enveloped a bite-sized portion of tender, slow-cooked rabbit, and the flavoursome nugget sat atop a little swirl of fig reduction – another first for me. To this day, it’s the thought of that perfect bite that brings back all the other memories of that wonderous weekend.



In a few short days, I’ll be meeting my best friend from back home in New York City for a long weekend. It’s been over six years since we’ve had time by ourselves face-to-face, mainly due to this hectic day-to-day thing called life and the literal ocean that sits between us.

As an expat, you learn to live without your family and friends as that’s just part of the deal. When I was preparing to move from Los Angeles to Ireland five years ago, all of my friends promised they’d visit. “Finally we have a reason to go to Ireland!” they’d say, earnestly. Five years later, only one (the aforementioned best friend) has actually followed through.

I’m not bitter about the lack of visitors. Let’s face it: it’s a huge ask, especially for my friends back home who get about 10 paid vacation days a year. Throw in kids, the expense of overseas travel and the not-so-amazing weather around here and you can’t blame them for spending their precious holidays in other locales. If the tables were turned, I’d probably do the same.


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It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I landed in Ireland. On the one hand, it seems like yesterday that I put an entire apartment worth of furniture into storage in Los Angeles and set out on what was supposed to be a one-year adventure here.

On the other hand, so much has happened since arriving – far more than the average for four years, if there was such a tracker (“How Many Major Life Moments Tracker” or something of the sort). I met and married Mountaineering Man;  lived in three apartments; had two regular radio features; am currently at my second job; visited Paris, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Seville, Brittany, Regensburg, London, Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Japan, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Mayo and a number of other towns and villages in Ireland since settling here. I’ve been to three wakes, two funerals, two weddings and one baptism. I’ve made dozens of new friends, both Irish and expats, and have chatted with at least 100 taxi drivers.

When you live in Ireland, you gotta (or “hafta” as the Irish would say) talk to the taxi drivers – they know everything.



When I moved to Ireland just over four years ago, I went through my fair share of culture shock. There were the big things – like struggling to understand what everyone was saying (to be fair, I was living in Drogheda!) – and a million little ones, like seeing grated cheese in a cold sandwich (so…odd) and realising that you can’t buy liquor on Good Friday.

Life was quite different here than what I was used to in Los Angeles, my adopted hometown. I say “adopted” because I was actually born in Japan and lived there until I was five years old. With my mom’s entire family still living there, we go back to visit when we can, and a couple of weeks ago I went back again, this time bringing my Irish husband along for the first time.

I’ve heard many describe Tokyo as being like another planet with all its flashing lights and cosplay devotees and talking billboards. This is true, but Japan is also one of the most civilised countries in the world: it’s extremely clean, incredibly efficient and the people, respectful and polite.


You can literally set your watch by the train timings; if a train is scheduled to arrive at the station at 13:02, it arrives and departs at 13:02. Taxi cabs are nothing like the ones here or in America. Drivers wear full suits and white gloves and doors open automatically via remote (in fact, drivers will insist that you do NOT touch the doors). They are so clean you can eat off them. When you walk into a restaurant or a shop, the employees immediately greet you with irasshaimase!, which is “welcome” in Japanese. And when you leave, the entire staff calls out a cheerful arigato!



When I lived in Los Angeles and worked as a freelance writer, one of my favourite afternoon breaks involved going to the local art house movie theatre for an escape. The Laemmle Theatre in Pasadena always featured a good mix of indie and foreign films, plus they’d turn a blind eye when I’d sneak in a cup of good coffee from the cafe at  Vroman’s Bookstore next door.

I typically chose European films for the ambiance. What is it about skirts fluttering against the tailwind of a Vespa that sparks a desire in every woman to live out her own Fellini-esque fantasy? For two hours I’d sit alone in the dark, quietly sipping coffee whilst absorbed in these fanciful flights of imagination.

I’d dream of one day visiting the seedy piano bar in The Beat That My Heart Skipped or the muted rouge-hued cafes in Amelie – with a dashing European suitor, of course. Like the young schoolgirl who spent her evenings envisaging a new life abroad whilst singing along to Sur les quais du vieux Paris in An Education, I too would aspire to one day turn my Francophile fantasies into reality.


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As my fellow expat and friend Lily said during our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday evening, our friends are family to us as we don’t have our blood relatives nearby. Whether they know it or not, our mates play a very important role in our lives here – far away from our moms, dads, sisters and brothers back home.

This was the spirit behind what my friends Bill and Sharon dubbed Thanksgivingpolooza, a three-day weekend away in the midlands of Ireland to celebrate a very American holiday. The idea sprung about a couple of months ago, when Mountaineering Man considered who we could invite for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Every year we have to choose just a handful of friends, as our space in Dublin simply doesn’t allow for any more. A hunt for a bigger space was launched.


After some Google searches and Twitter queries I came across Bishopstown House, a beautifully-restored Georgian estate with multiple bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a roof deck and a massive kitchen. There’s also a private pub and more bedrooms next door in a converted stable house. There is some interesting history behind the building; Michael Jackson chose it to be his Irish estate but he passed away before the refurb was completed. It is now rented out as a holiday home. Sad for the King of Pop, but lucky for us! After a few group emails, I booked it and on Friday we all met up at the property with food, drink and supplies and hunkered down for the weekend. Thanksgivingpolooza 2013 was on!



Food brings people together, and there’s no better evidence of this than the daily lunchtime meal at my office. I’m very lucky to work at a company that provides its employees tasty, inexpensive and healthy food for lunch every day, prepared for us by a staff of dedicated chefs. There is a different menu every day, each featuring a hot main course (always with a vegetarian alternative) and side dishes as well as a daily salad bar with plenty of variety.

Last week the Q Café at Kellogg’s featured some very special menus, one that I had a hand in creating. It was the much-anticipated Come Dine With Me competition: a representative from each department was chosen to create a full meal menu (starter, main course, dessert) with recipes, which the canteen cooks would make for the entire staff at our Kellogg’s European headquarters. I was putting my best recipe skills forward on behalf of the Marketing department. No pressure, right?


Of course there was a kicker to the normal CDWM rules: We were each given a star ingredient that we had to feature in our main dish, and I – ever the unlucky one – drew FISH. I say unlucky because, in my experience, a lot of Irish people don’t like fish unless it’s battered and fried, and our kitchen doesn’t use a deep fat fryer. The others received relatively tame main-dish ingredients: Jenny (Nutrition) got chicken; Joe (Sales/Procurement) got beef; Diarmuid (Supply Chain) got ham/bacon and Ruanne (HR) had to feature pork in her main course.


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