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From Arizona to Dublin: Desert to Dublin

05 October, 2015 10:52  Erin Erin

desert to Dublin I am Megan of Desert to Dublin and my family of five (seven, if counting the labradoodles) has recently relocated from Tucson, Arizona, USA, to Dublin, Ireland.

1. Why did you move abroad?
Our decision to move abroad was prompted by a need for a lifestyle change.  Roughly a year ago the travel demands my husband was facing at work had become overwhelming for all.  We reflected on a time and place where we’d been happier as a family and concluded our time spent in Melbourne, Australia, as expats nearly a decade ago, had been our ideal arrangement.  After arriving at this realization, my husband began applying for a variety of phd programs, and though domestic programs were also explored, it was ultimately UC Dublin that most caught our attention.  After all options were presented and discussed as a family (children included), we determined Dublin was the right path for us.  

2. How do you make a living?
We presently rely on my husband’s part time university employment as a doctoral student for financial support.  Due to the fact I am a dependent on his student visa, I am presently a stay-at-home parent.  While I’m content at the moment to assist the children with their transition to a new country and culture, I do hope to explore how to pursue work opportunities and the bureaucratic logistics of that in the near future.   One never knows, but I am hopeful an opportunity may present itself.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My children have become very proficient users of Skype and FaceTime.  The three year old in particular loves to sneak away and Skype grandparents at the worst of times (of course it may be a bit unreasonable to expect him to master time zones at this age).  My ten and eight year old maintain contact with friends and family via email, as well.  Add to that my social media usage and the blog, and there isn’t any gap in communication to speak of.  It is incredible how much technology has expanded in the nine years since our last expat experience.  We certainly don’t feel the distance quite as much as we had then and I am very thankful for that.  

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Dublin?
Exploring!  Everything is an adventure!  I love shopping centres, grocery stores, chats at school drop-off and pick-up, community events… it is all an opportunity to learn and embrace our new home and culture.   There is never a dull moment.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Dublin?
In a word: bureaucracy.  Navigating one’s way through a government they have no understanding of is excruciating.  Registering with immigration as non-EEA citizens was a bit of a nightmare for us here in Ireland.  Additionally, we had the unexpected surprise of learning non-EEA student visa families are not eligible to use the national (public) school system here, leaving us to scramble to locate last minute placement in a private school for our daughters.  Being private primary schools are few and far between here, we have been forced to commute to the next district over.  It is a cost and time commitment we had not planned on at all, as we had previously been misinformed national schools were acceptable (and had even chose our home in close proximity to a national school).  This is the condensed version, I have detailed the full experience on the blog, as well.  If I were to offer advice to anyone wishing to avoid bureaucratic headaches, I would suggest research, research, research prior to your relocation.  That being said, in our case, the information that would have prevented our crises was not readily available online.  

6. What do you miss most?
Obviously friends and family top the list of what we miss most.  Outside of that, it’s the little things – Taco Tuesdays, a favorite tv show, American holidays, etc.   As the months wear on, we know from experience that list will become longer.  However, we also know, on the flip side, that once we return Stateside in four years we will have a long list of people, places, and things we miss from our adopted home country, as well.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Having children in school makes this part of the process a bit easier.  We have met many other parents through my daughters’ private school, as well as other parents in our neighborhood.  Additionally some Facebook groups have led to connections with locals who have been happy to answer some of our questions and concerns.   Ireland is a fantastically friendly country, meeting folks here isn’t exactly a challenge.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I can’t say that I’ve found anything especially “strange”.  Different, perhaps, but not strange.   The biggest differences were encountered when seeking a home to rent.  Irish apartments are typically furnished, which is in contrast to American apartments.  We had already purchased some furnishings of our own and had to negotiate the removal of the previous tenants’ furnishings.  Additionally the appliances are significantly smaller than American appliances.  I admit to feeling rather defeated and depressed as I first stared at my new home’s oven, realizing there is absolutely no way an American Thanksgiving turkey could be crammed into that shoebox haha!   It is certainly something we can adjust to and not worth fussing over.  One has to be very adaptable and low-maintenance when relocating internationally.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I’ve given this question a great deal of thought and I think the biggest myth regarding Ireland is the notion that alcohol consumption is a key part of their cultural identity.  I’ve not seen public drunkenness, apart from that of the tourists in the Temple Bar district.   I have no idea if the locals would agree or disagree with me, but would certainly be interested to hear their take regarding what I perceive to be a common misconception.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Some costs are higher (rent) and some are lower (groceries).  In the end, it’s all balances out to be roughly the same.  I will admit, as a family of five, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how far our food budget goes when grocery shopping.   This has been a massive mom-victory.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
I would advise new expats to really commit to researching the bureaucratic logistics of their move thoroughly (and then some) prior to arrival in their new country.   Even if you believe you have a handle on it, research some more.  Read all that you can on the laws pertaining to your particular visa.
Additionally, accept that you there will be loads of changes.  It is the low maintenance individuals, in my experience, that tend to adjust quickly and find the most happiness in their new homes.  One has to let go of any expectations and fully embrace their new country and culture as it is.

12. When and why did you start your blog? desert to Dublin
I began the blog just as our home in Tucson, Arizona, was being sold this past May.  Initially it was a means of announcing our move to friends and family.  From there it evolved into a chronicle of our adventure and, after facing some logistics issues, I determined it may serve as a resource for others considering a similar move.  There is presently a decent mixture of personal family-related posts, touristy posts, and informational posts.  I’ve waffled between committing to one path or maintaining all, and honestly, I do enjoy the variety so I intend to keep it as it is for the moment.   I hope other families considering the big leap to a new country find it to be honest and perhaps inspirational.  I don’t wish to sugarcoat the experience, there are obvious ups and downs with such a move.  But the great news is, the “ups” far outweigh the “downs”.  


Blog LinkMegan's blog, Desert to Dublin

Guide for expatriates in Dublin, Ireland
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