Expats in Ireland


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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After six-and-a-half years, dozens of new friends, two jobs, hundreds of kilometers of exploration around this island and one Irish husband, I am moving back to America.

In a few weeks, said husband (you used to know him as Mountaineering Man in the early days but his real name is Cormac) and I will be saying farewell to Ireland. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for all that this little green island has done for me – I feel like a different person to who I was when I landed back in March 2010.

cor2And for that reason, the move will be bittersweet. It’s hard to believe how much has happened since my first blog post from Ireland, where I wrote about discovering a proper fry-up, the Irish obsession with tea and their penchant for tardiness. I remember writing about my first car (Peugot 206) and learning to drive on the opposite side of the road AND car; trying desperately to understand the Irish accent; my first real bout of insecurity about the move; introducing you, the readers, to Mountaineering Man; and marrying him. And a million things in between and since – there’s just too much to share in one post.

So for the next few weeks, I’m dedicating my blog to a special series of farewell posts that will highlight some of the best moments, people, places and things about my time in this beautiful country. I hope you’ll join me for this final farewell!

San Francisco, 1999.

I was in a major pickle.

I’d spent the night at a friend’s flat after too much wine. She had to go to work early, but told me I could sleep in and let myself out as the front door would lock behind me. That’s what good friends do.

I woke up a couple of hours after she’d gone, made sure I had my handbag and jacket and walked out of the flat. I heard the tell-tale “click” of the lock as I firmly pulled the door closed behind me. I walked about 10 steps and turned the handle of the front gate. It was locked, and the only way to open it was with a key – which was nowhere to be found.

Surely the key must be around here somewhere, I reasoned. I checked under the two potted plants, a discarded paper bag and some decorative rocks that lined the walkway. Nothing. I peered into the window of the neighbouring flat, but it was uninhabited; there was nothing but trash on the floor and it looked as if no one had lived there for months. To make things worse, my mobile phone battery was dead, since I hadn’t planned to spend the night and therefore didn’t have my charger with me.


I know what you’re thinking. A gate? Why not simply climb over it? Like many flats in San Francisco, this one had a gate about 15 feet high with spikes on top [similar to the one in this pic on the right]. It was made of wrought iron and had vertical bars, just like a jail cell door (cue irony). With no vertical bars to put my feet on, scaling it meant I’d have to pull my full body weight up by my arms. My upper body strength – or lack thereof – simply couldn’t cut it. The saddest (or most hilarious, depending on the POV) part was that people walking by could see me trying to wriggle my way up this thing. One guy even stopped and tried to help, but upon realising the severity of heroism required, shrugged his shoulders with a muffled “sorry” before strolling off.



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.


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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!



For the first year I lived in Ireland, I mainly worked from home. While I loved the freedom (making my own schedule, staying in my PJs, etc.) it wasn’t the best way to socialise myself in a new country.

Though I had a small group of friends in Drogheda (where I lived back when I first came here), I was starting to feel pretty lonely working at my dining room table most days with little to no interaction with other human beings. It was so depressing that at one point, I was putting on makeup and getting excited about a trip to Tesco for milk and eggs. At least I could talk to someone, even if the interaction was limited to a 3-minute chat with the check-out lady.

After relocating to Dublin and moving in with Mountaineering Man, I took a job at a digital creative agency in town. As with most agencies, the hours were long which meant that I spent more time with my 50-odd colleagues than I did with MM or anyone else in my personal life.


The people who really became my family there was my workgroup – the Social Media team. There were four of us for most of my time there and I was the only female in the bunch. We were a scrappy lot, and I mean that in the best way. Philip – a long-haired thrash metal rocker with a sharp wit and a thick Northern accent – welcomed me into the fold with a typed-up list of recommendations and advice. “Don’t ever, EVER eat at the Bridge Café,” he wrote, referring to the greasy spoon deli and one of the only choices for food near the office.

To this day, I’ve never eaten there – despite the fact that Philip has gone against his own advice and eats there almost DAILY now (“I was wrong about it!” he claims, though I attribute his change of heart to sheer desperation thanks to a lack of decent eateries in the Ringsend area). Philip is the master of the hilarious yet thought-provoking quip (“Some day soon, somebody is going to print a 3D printer on a 3D printer and the universe is going to implode”) – and so-bad-they’re-good jokes.


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Even on the sunniest of days, when the sky and the ocean simultaneously reflect the most radiant shades of blue and the birds chirp away in the full, lush trees and everyone’s showing off their stems in rarely-worn shorts and exposing their bashful big toes in sandals; even on those rare, beautiful Spring days in Dublin, there’s something missing.

It was one of those days yesterday, and while Mountaineering Man toiled away at the office I decided to head out into town and get some much-needed Vitamin D, plus a few other things I’ve been meaning to purchase. My first stop was Fallon & Byrne, a place that has become almost a sacred place for me. Some people have churches; I have gourmet food shops and farmers’ markets. Even if I only need one item, I amble down every aisle and rest my eyes for at least a few seconds on every single item on every single shelf. From smoked salted almonds and squid ink lasagna sheets to sweet-smelling star fruit and whole wild rabbits, the selection is comprised of the most wonderful, mysterious things that never fail to inspire.


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