26 August, 2010

Life in Ireland

I have to say, for starters - that my life in Ireland is pretty different than how i imagined it. I'm not complaining by any stretch of the imagination - it's just been different. If you did not already know, I am American and moved to Ireland to be with my Polish husband (who i call V on the blog) who i met on the INTERNET! ahahhha! It still has shock value, that. But i digress...

Life itself.

I don't know what exactly i was expecting. Americans have this stigma of Ireland - that it's a magical place. It is, but i find the magic to be more created by all the history (the ruins, the friendliness of the people) and the culture, than it is by leprechauns, rainbows and gold, shamrocks, ghosts, and the like.
For an American having never been in Europe before (except for a 10 day trip to Northern Ireland on a mission trip in 2009... but that was more serving community than touring or learning the ways of the Irish), it was a completely new and exciting experience! The stores, for one, are not open "late" like the WalMarts, Krogers, Meijers, and Albertsons of the USA. They close around 5, and if you're lucky - 6:00pm. Don't be surprised if they're not open on Sundays, and definitely don't be surprised if they don't open before 10:00am... no matter what business they are in.
You'll still be able to find a cobbler in town, but he will likely also cut keys and do a fair amount of tailoring. The signs on many shops are still hand-painted. In some ways, it's like stepping back in time - but in others, you're painfully reminded that it is currently the 21st century, when your cell phone doesn't get reception.
Also, you wont be able to find your "one stop shop" and get everything you need. You'll need to go to the hardware store for nails, the paint store for paint, the grocery store for food, the toy store for toys, and the little shops in town (or second hand) for clothes.

Things are slow in Ireland. Laid-back, is probably a better term. America's fast-paced "now, now, faster!" attitude doesn't apply. If you want something done in a time-frame, i recommend scheduling in advance. For instance, V had asked for our internet to be set up in January in our new cottage. I think it was March before we finally got it.

Things are expensive here. The euro is very strong against the dollar, so it's nice in the way of paying my American bills (darn credit cards!) and that sort of thing - but food is expensive and served in smaller portions, petrol is over $6 per gallon, and electricity is outrageous. We dont even use the clothes dryer because of it. We try to make sure to turn off lights in rooms we're not in, and we do our best not to leave on the water boiler during the day.
Yep. Water boiler. It's a little tank upstairs in our bathroom, in a little cupboard - and if we want a bath or shower, we turn it on about half an hour before we take it - if we want hot water for dishes, same thing.


When i moved here, i had expected to hit the ground running doing things like i did in the states. I expected a busy lifestyle and the ability to drive all over creation at a whim. My thoughts like this came to a screeching halt when i entered the country and realized that without permission for residency, i wasn't going to be doing much - and without a PPS number,  i wasn't going to be doing ANYTHING in the way of working or driving. I found out the hard way that there is a certain order to doing things... take it from me.
Get your 3 month visiting stamp upon entering the country. You'll need that 3 months.

Fill out your paperwork applying for a PPS number. Then wait. You'll get a letter allowing you to stay until your paperwork is processed, about a week after you send it off. I had to send in my actual passport!! Ahh! But i got it back with the letter allowing me to stay... whew!

Then go to your local Gardai office and have them stamp your passport allowing you to stay until you get the paperwork processed.

Apply for residency. This was easy, but a ton, ton, TON of paperwork. We had to get documents from V's work stating he indeed does work there and isn't about to be fired, a handful of recent pay stubs, and some other information as well as an apostille proving the legality of our marriage certificate from the states (where we were married), as well as having to send in an original lease agreement and the certification that we're living in a legal residence... ugh! it was a lot of work to gather these items together because of all the waiting time. I advise that you'll be better off if you're coming from the states, to just get an marriage certificate apostille there and bring it with you. The one i got was $5.

Then wait some more. Your PPS number will come in the mail, and you can go get a GNIB card from your local Garda Immigration officer. If you're married to an EU citizen, it's free, but if you're not - it's €150!! Be sure to bring proof of your address and proof that you live together.

After a while, you'll receive notification that you're either allowed to stay or need to get out. haha Fortunately, i was allowed to stay and granted residency for 5 years.
So, i started the process back in February/March, gathering stuff and sending it in - and only just received my residency, in August.

I can now apply for work! I should get on that.


When we moved into our little cottage - it was charming, until we ran out of oil to heat the place! haha! That was an adventure. It was so, so cold in the cottage that i would walk around in my wool coat over two sweaters, 3 pairs of socks, and two pairs of jeans, and some mittens if i didn't need my dexterity. I could see my breath! It's funny now... but at the time, we couldn't dry our clothes after they were washed because there was just no heat! The clothes would hang wet for a few DAYS before they finally dried out, unless we had the help of drying things by the fire, which was still a long process.
I learned that an open fireplace will suck ANY kind of heat right out of an already drafty cottage, and take your sanity with it. One week, we decided to splurge, and spend €250 on oil to heat our cottage. It was a huge expense for us and it didn't even last 3 weeks.
This winter though, we'll be warm. During spring, we bought a wood stove (and used it all throughout summer...).
Spring was nice! It was a cool spring, but we had lots and lots of sun in May and early June. My garden was so happy! But i wont grow tomatoes again, without a greenhouse or poly-tunnel to house them in. Lesson learned.
Summer has been mild. By mild, i mean warmer than usual, with less rain than usual (according to the locals). It's stayed in the mid 60s (F) mostly and gotten into the 80s (F) only for one or two days.
People dont let rain stop them from doing things though, and i love that about the Irish. They're of the same mindset of those in Seattle - going out with an umbrella, just in case.
I have learned to love the invention called the "umbrella" :)


Something else that i wasn't anticipating for my new life in Ireland - was being cold so often. I love cool weather, don't get me wrong - i had just lived in Ohio (and thought i would be staying there) and banished many of my winter clothes to the depths of a Goodwill store - so i didn't have much in the way of warm clothes, and learned pretty quickly that some of the clothes i had were more for looks than for functionality. My wardrobe has changed, where i can afford it. I would say that if you're expecting to come to Ireland to live, bring a couple rain coats, some wellies (rain/rubber boots), and a good supply of lightweight, heavy, comfortable sweaters, not to mention leggings to go under your long trousers. Summer is great! You wont need that endless supply of tank tops and shorts though. "Style" only seems to apply in certain areas. Everyone here wears what's comfortable and functional for their job and the weather.

Buy a pair of nice slippers if you're moving into a place with hard-woods. You'll appreciate it, even if you're a "barefoot" type of person.

As for me, i'm still learning. It's been an adventure to go see places on the weekend, and try to find stuff to do during the day. I have my drivers license now, so it might be fun to be able to get out and about once in a while... but the tiny little windey, bendy roads are frightening - especially at high speeds (speed limits are high) and with nowhere to go, if you need to go onto a shoulder of any kind (it's all walls and hedges!)
If you're new to the country, i wish you luck! it will be fun, i promise.


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