Nighthawks at the Diner

Nighthawks at the Diner

Every time I move away from somewhere, I realize certain things I miss, and find ways to adapt.  There are so many great things about Ireland I enjoy.  If I was having better luck at finding local work, I would be able to enjoy them more.  The local pubs always have good trad sessions going, and I have always LOVED trad music.  Even if I just have one pint, and get a cab home, it’s more than €10 Euro. I don’t think there are many times I just have one to be honest. The other thing I love doing here is just going for a drive (Americans…don’t call it a ride here!) And taking photos, or just enjoying the countryside (which is the whole country.). 

Unfortunately, I’m still waiting on my licence 3 months later, and it will probably end up being restricted to automatics (impossible to find in this country) whereas in America and Canada we don’t have separate licenses. My advice would be to just go through the test process instead of exchange.  

Finding work here locally is very tough as a local, let alone a foreigner who doesn’t have even an E.U. citizenship.  I just got two job offers though, so hopefully after the second interviews they will be solid.  

I’ve been listening to one of my favorite albums: “Nighthawks at the Diner” by Tom Waits lately.  I used to get up at the crack of noon, or later, and work all night at my studio and before that, a bar or music venue.  Playing music into the wee hours and watching the late night characters over a corned beef on rye and coffee and pie at 3am.  The jazz and blues clubs got to know me well, and whereas the local pubs here are more if a social atmosphere…the jazz clubs and some bars in the u.s. are more geared to letting people disappear and blend into the darkness.  A calm, dark corner was always available after a long day or night, the diner was always a few blocks away open to serve day old pie and mud coffee 24 hours a day.  It’s probably better to be here now as I need a bit more structure these days, a change.  All of the things I miss are great, but nothing I can’t live without and it makes them all the more special for when I go visit home, or any of the other places I’ve lived, as a tourist or visitor.  

Although I would love to introduce a late night business here, something different, it wouldn’t fly.  It seems the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Is more of a religion here.   There are only a certain type out all hours here, with a complete lack of other late night jobs and businesses… there is no further demand.  The same goes with the food.  There’s a certain take on every cuisine, and new or unknown things don’t do entirely well.  Perhaps I’ll check out the cities and do further research, but living in Dublin is completely out of the question considering living and rent expenses vs a pay rate that isn’t much different than the rest of the country.

I’ll have to roam Cork and Kilkenny soon to check out the life there since they are near enough.  I’m looking forward to getting citizenship here so traveling and doing business within the EU will be easier then.  

I’m going to RE-ignite a project I started in America…going to pubs and recording stories and conversations of everyday folk…stay tuned. Good luck!

Advertisements

Park your ego at the door (part 2)

IMG_7797

So where’s the talk of egos and snakes? What about New York?
In America, you’re taught to, or at some point realize you have to make yourself look better and exaggerate your qualities, maybe even just invent some, to get ahead or even just get. Everyone wants to be famous, in charge, or rich.  People seem to have to “keep up with the Jones'”  It’s all about who you know…  Not everyone is fake, but there seem to be many more masks here.  It’s not all bad like that, but there’s also a kind of code that people stick to socially to be polite, and it’s not always needed, sometimes a little honesty here and there would be refreshing.  In Ireland, people seem to be much more blunt and plain spoken.  They’ll tease you even if they don’t know you well, just let ’em in the door a little bit.  Some cultures might think some of the things they say are insulting or rude, it’s hard to explain because they aren’t rude or anything, it’s just a more straightforward and familiar way of interacting.  Getting back to the population and size differences.. New York alone, as I said in the previous post, is 19.75 million, give or take 750,000 illegal immigrants or so.  Ireland’s total population is around 4.6 million as of 2013.  And the landmass. Ireland is 35,595 square miles, or 84,431 square Km to the rest of the world.  The state of New York is 54,556 sq mi, 141,299 sq km.  You could imagine how hard it would be to get lost in Ireland,  and in small town Clonmel, everyone knows everyone.  It’s not just the sheer size, but Irish people are nosy, and talkative.  Loads of innocent gossip around the tea kettle.  I am actually excited for this in a way…  No, i’m not insane, I’m a man who wants to start a small business.  I want to tell the ladies in town something and have it reach across the continent by the end of Mass!  If you go to the pubs, people are actually talking to one another, in the US, it’s not as much a thing, people go and have a drink or two, yes, but strangers rarely get past some small talk before either continuing watching the game in silence, or talking to the bartender whenever they come over.  Not only that, but the audience is much smaller and less diverse here.   After work hours in Ireland, you’ll see everyone from 25-80 years old, give or take, strolling to their respective pubs.  You overhear conversations of all types, any day of the week.  It’s also acceptable to have business conversation, and to talk about work at the pubs.

To segue into the next section, Check your ego at the door… You don’t want to be puffing yourself up, or exercising your ego there…  It’s going to make them suspicious if anything.  You want to be honest about what you can and can’t do.  Don’t brag and boast.  Some well known people that I know from my industry really enjoy Ireland because they can go out to a pub and not be swamped by people taking selfies with them, or bothering them constantly.  The people around them may quietly say to their friend: “Hey, it’s your wan over there.” or ” look at him/herself over there”  but it’s pretty rare they are approached or swamped by anyone.  The president can be seen driving his own car, without security, to mass in some small town.   Peope arn’t impressed as much with who you are or your status (except in some circumstances in Dublin, D4 type areas maybe)  I have nothing against the area, or anything, but ALL of the people i’ve met and the stories I’ve heard, have all been sickeningly haughty and nose stuck up in the air, rude types.  I don’t enjoy anyone who looks down on others for any reason, let alone because they are “culchies” (people from rural Ireland, or rather, anyone not from Dublin) or because they are foreign, are of a certain service industry profession, etc… I’m sorry, but I’ve not been proven wrong to date, i’m sure there are many wonderful people from Dublin south, but….there ya go. Make up your own minds.  I’d rather go to a smaller town where people will go out of their way to help you or to say hi, be friendly.  This leads into a difference in cultures that seems contradictory though.  People in Ireland seem to be less likely to be inviting you over to their house for dinner or a movie night or something.   Family is family, and friends are friends, the line is distinct.  In the US, you can become part of the family with someone else’s family if you are a good friend for a while, but even if it’s not that case, people would be inviting you over if you are friends with them, it’s just what you do.  It can seem almost rude or suspicious if you’re coming from a place like the Hudson Valley New York.

I was thinking about adopting my friend’s Albino python as a pet when they asked if I would take it, I told them: “I don’t think Saint Patrick would like that very much!”  As a rule, I generally avoid talking about religion, politics, abortion, or sports with anyone, ever.  Now with the move, I’m more sure than ever about the first three.  Religion especially is a hot button issue there, and people are generally classed in two categories: Protestants and Catholics.  People glean a lot just from your last name or where you went to church or school in Ireland.  Judgement is made, and comments are sometimes made.

Don’t ever call the Irish, British, or refer to anything related to Ireland “British”  Just don’t go anywhere near that with a ten foot pole!  It’s not part of the UK, it’s not, Ireland has been a free state since 1922 after the Irish War of Independence ended when they sent those damn black and tans a packin’ and  Dáil Éireann declared independence from Britain.  Of course there are influences from the over 900 years of occupation, damn Normans…but it’s a vibrant, unique, and independent culture.

One of the biggest changes for me is a silly one… restaurants!  They don’t tip! who the hell doesn’t tip!? The Irish don’t..  They say it’s fine because they earn a regular wage, but i’m sorry, Millions of Americans make ends meet by providing a great dining experience to even more millions of Americans.  Waiters and Waitresses can work a weekend and a night or two maybe and pay their way through college, or support themselves and a kid very comfortably, and then some if they have a job at a good restaurant or bar.  Bartenders can make a lot of money here!  In return, the customers get a great, attentive dining experience that has extra effort put in to make their experience very enjoyable.  It’s supposed to be pleasant, friendly, and everything is supposed to be done, completely taken care of.  It depends on the type of establishment of course, and the people, and there are distinct levels in the type of restaurant.   It’s hard to really hit the nail on the head when explaining the Irish dining experience, because it’s not bad at all.  There is a decent cornucopia of food there in this new global world.  You can find food of all types, though it’s not nearly as diverse as other countries, it will hold it’s own.  I had some amazing food in Ireland each time I’ve gone.  The feel is completely different though, it’s not as welcoming or comfortable.  The seating arrangements and spaces are less intimate and more utilitarian and open.  The waitstaff does the minimum job required and is very standoffish.  You won’t find them often or easily if you need something, or have an issue (I never do have an issue, but sometimes you just want a little something else, or a side of sauce or something like that…  It’s not as friendly an atmosphere, yet, it’s nice in the way that it’s more focused on whoever you might be with that much more.  Overall it’s a laid back atmosphere.  I still feel like a complete (insert expletive of your choice here) every single time I leave a dinner without tipping.  It won’t change.  If they have a tip jar on the counter in a tea/bakery shop I get excited and feel very relieved! Not all is lost!  If I could get by on caramel squares and tea, I’d just eat at those places.

By the by..Caramel squares are amazing.

and those Neopolitan/cake/iced flaky things they sell in all the markets

and The Knot Irish whiskey

and chips drenched in salt and vinegar, maybe garlic sauce.

I am going to eventually open up a New York style pizza / Zeppole shop I think, because the pizza is not pizza.  “All the Italians came over with great recipes and started making Battered sausages and chips.”  There’s always good drunk food around!

 

So I think I’ll continue on with my lists of things to get used to next.  Stay tuned for all the new fees to pay, the home stuff, and more.

Park your ego at the door (And your snakes)

New Yorkers can be seen as loud, rude, egoistical, and a slew of other negative terms by outsiders. From the inside, we can describe ourselves as strong, resilient, no-nonsense people with strong family and community ties…die hard ones.
I’d say both New York and Ireland are among the most misunderstood and misrepresented communities in the world.   Ireland is seen as a land stuck in the 1800’s, thatched huts with no running water or electricity, men in paddy caps drinking in the pub next to a cow pen.  Horses, carts… bright and cheery people tipping their hats and greeting you with: “top o’ the morning!”. Ok fine, even if you don’t see that, you probably still have a fantastical picture that doesn’t jive with the real deal.  That’s not your fault, the country is portrayed that way, the accent is Always the same Americanized abomination instead of one of the myriad of real Irish accents.  If they do get it right, it’s always a Dublin accent, or a movie based in Dublin.  I’ve found that Dublin is probably the least Irish place in Ireland these days.  Should I rile up since Irish people by telling you why I think that?  Ok…maybe just some of the reasons… Dublin was heavily influenced by the British culture throughout the occupation, no blame here in anyone but the English, though the accent, egos, and condescending attitudes stuck!  Next, we have the tourists!  The tourists created the plastic paddy stuff.  All the things that people expect in Ireland, Dublin is almost the only place you’ll really see it besides the gift/souvenir shops or “American stores” as the Irish call them.  You know the stuff I mean, the little sheleighleighs, the leprechauns, shamrocks everywhere… paddy caps, even the names of the drinks.  See Americans think things like green beer, black Velvet’s, Irish car bombs and god forgive…black and tans are Irish drinks. If you ever dyed beer in Ireland they would beat and deport you. Black velvet was a London drink, And the black and tans were the biggest shower of b@$tards ever to roam the beautiful emerald isle! Why would they name a drink after them? It’s more likely to be called a half and half.  Anyway, back to Dublin. So the pubs in tourist areas like temple bar are not a good representation of Irish pubs, don’t do it.  There are so many things to see in Dublin, why does everyone go around concentrating on British colonial sites? VIKINGS people….Vikings…Nuff said.
Last but not least, the St. Patrick’s day parade…..it’s basically an American parade in Dublin.  It makes me want to throw up in my mouth a bit.  There are so many museums, educational centers, art and photo centers and the likes to see, I’d love to see the tourist travelers of the world, (the literal meaning, not the Irish ones) especially Americans, start learning about the true Irish culture, and not the American version.  And I pose a challenge to the Irish…STOP FEEDING US! Don’t you know Americans are like stray scabby cats? You feed us tasty garbage we are used to eating, we keep coming back for more, becoming more averse to the real thing, and peeing all over your house!
The Irish aren’t all hat tipping leprechauns with accents like Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise’s butcher jobs.  They are blunt, plain spoken people compared to Americans. They will tease and say things to you that even close friends don’t say in America.  They distrust, or frown on people that boast, or exaggerate for ego sake.  This also compliments the lack of importance they place on the famous, and celebrities.  Not all Irish people are big drinkers, though alcohol is extremely prevalent in the culture…
I could go on…
New York is next!
New York is a huge state, 19.75 million people live in the state.  Ireland has a population of 4.6 million! 
Let’s keep that in perspective and continue in the next part!

Going to Ameri…Ireland! An American Moving to Ireland (Part 2)

Going to Ameri…Ireland!  An American Moving to Ireland (Part 2)

 

IMG_7903

Once I decided to move to Ireland it was time to figure out what I had to do to make it happen.  I didn’t think it would be easy, but I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty awaiting.  From the most basic things, to the complicated official business, it’s a bear!

First, i’ll start with the basics.  One of my businesses is heavily reliant on electronics, not all of which are compatible or convertible to 220-240v.  American voltage on most electronics are 110 volt.  For the smaller things like cell phone chargers and some lower power laptop chargers, this isn’t a problem, just go out and get a different charger, or use a converter.  If you want to use anything that has a high wattage, such as power tools, amplifiers, kitchen appliances, etc… you would have to get a large, high capacity step up transformer.  These transformers are about the size of a small space heater or computer subwoofer and cost anywhere between 200 and 800 Dollars (depending on how many watts you want.)  Some of the audio visual equipment I have can be converted by opening up the case and re-soldering a wire or two to a different location on the circuit board, but not all.  Anything older is more than likely stuck to whatever voltage it was manufactured for.  I have some vintage studio rack equipment that are very rare pieces and super expensive and more often than not, they are from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.  The problem with some of these gets deeper in that there is also a difference not only in voltage, but frequency as well.  American electronics, especially when it comes to video equipment, operates at 60hz and euro uses 50hz.  Transformers do not address this issue.  So all in all, for the basic household things, TV, kitchen stuff, basic things, i’m going to sell it and just buy used items from Donedeal.ie (the irish craigslist) when I get there.  Some will say that there is craigslist there, but it’s only in dublin, and not widely used.  I’ve found a great deal of things on donedeal, and at reasonable prices just like craigslist.

While i’m on the subject of online classifieds, i’ll have to touch on the vehicle situation.  In another post I touched on the NIGHTMARE of getting an Irish driving license, but i’ll get onto the vehicle situation now.  In New York i’m used to the annoyance of having to pass an emissions test every year.  Not just an emissions test, but one that requires the service center to connect to the NYS system to pass the vehicle.  It will prevent you from renewing the registration because of this and ANY emission related code, even if it’s not increasing emissions, will fail the vehicle.  There are some loopholes in weight class and vehicle age, but for the most part, you can’t just get your mechanic buddy to slap on a sticker for a few extra bucks (the good old American way!)  I was just struck silent when I read, and heard about the Irish version though.  Not only do they make it really overly complicated (like EVERYTHING the government has there paws in) but it dips into personal freedoms as well in my opinion.  When I get on a rant about anything that has to do with freedom and governmental interference, my wife just rolls her eyes and gives me that “get over it!” look, but as an American, these types of things get right to our very core.  Granted, our country is full of frivolous bureaucratic bull of late, but there are some things that they just don’t touch.  For example, if I want to drive my car without a safety vest or road cones, I can.  If I want to have my washer fluid half empty, or have a temporary, non factory mirror, so be it.  They don’t check your headlight beam adjustment, or your tire pressure.  They don’t check your suspension more than visually or side slip.  They don’t check your exhaust emissions (except if you’re in California) They don’t check your brake balance, or even at all actually, just the brake lights.  Now I think that’s fine, I don’t mind them making sure they work, but sometimes your brakes wear unevenly, and unless you do your brakes every year, Rotors included, you won’t get balanced brakes ever.  They don’t check your doors to see if they open properly, and what if I want to have a custom car with no outside handles like I had in the past?  can’t do it in Ireland!  They don’t check your fuel filler cap.  We also do not check the brake lines and linkages etc under the car.  We don’t check the pedals to see if they are the OEM pedals, and they don’t care if you have a different size tires than the manufacturer specification, because depending on the terrain, season, etc.  it can be better to have a different tire on your car.  In the winter I use different size tires than the summer.  We don’t check the body work because it has nothing to do with anything except cosmetics.  We don’t check the exhaust pipes, only the emissions codes.  We don’t check to see if you have washer fluid.  Some of these things, I can see the safety aspect, but some are just frivolous.  Either way, none of these things are tallied for points or to pass or fail in the US for the most part.  If the inspector sees something dangerous, they will fail or tell you to fix it and come back, but they use common sense and it’s up to them and their knowledge and opinion.  I don’t like the idea of someone telling me what’s safe, or better, according to government and manufacturer specifications and rules.  There are a great many of instances where the government regulations and the manufacturer specifications are not the best thing.  The rules are not made by mechanics usually, and are mainly made so a profit can be made by certain sectors, companies, or unions.  Whatever the reasons, I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it though.  I just highlight these things, because they are all increases in cost and frequency of costs in maintaining a vehicle in Ireland, thou hath been warned.  Then you have a vehicle tax yearly, depending on the year, engine size, fuel type, etc…  We don’t even have a yearly vehicle tax here. (not overtly at least.)  We pay a standard 60 bucks or so for a registration, and 21 dollars for inspection, and in most states, you do have to have insurance, which is comparable to Ireland.  The tax can be as much as, or more than insurance in Ireland though…that’s a hefty sum for some!  So tally up the Tax, Insurance, and the very high required maintenance costs, and you’re looking at a kick in the pants.  I guess i’ll be a bit better off than most in that I work on my own vehicle, as long as I don’t get in the testers faces!

irelandabove

Next, let’s look at size…(and i’m not talking about the Irish curse)

I knew very well that Ireland’s streets and vehicles were smaller and cramped as I had driven there before, but I really hadn’t soaked up all the other size differences.  The towns are more compact and centralized.  In towns and cities, the houses are stuck together in big rows, and if they arn’t, there isn’t much space between them at all, not to mention the yard (garden) size is pretty darn small.  Properties are sectioned off to the Centimeter it seems.  and every bit of the countryside is accounted for and worked it seems.  Look at the above picture of Ireland, and now look at this picture of my home town from above. usabove

Most of that land is either state park for public use, or not used at all, or it’s huge swaths of privately owned land that people just use for hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.  And that’s just one very small snippet of one county in one state.  Ireland is about the size of, or smaller than New York state alone, and the civilization is much older.  So you could imagine how it’s all been utilized to the brim.  This creates effects that trickle down to everyday aspects of life.  The way people live together, the way that people live and interact with each other, and even the accents of the language.

Driving on the small roads isn’t that bad, but you really have to be on point and can’t be as relaxed as you can be in America.  If you drift even slightly to where a shoulder would be in America, you’ll be in a ditch or hitting a hedge or wall.  If you drift slightly in the other direction, you’ll be asking for a head on crash.  Most roads in the US have shoulders that are half the size of the lane, or a whole other lane on highways, and then after that, you have nice flat cleared swaths of grass in case the shoulder wasn’t enough.  The center dividers or double yellow lines also add another foot between you and oncoming traffic, and the lanes are wider as well.  I’d say that most of the roads in Ireland are about a lane and a half of american road at best.  Get to the back country roads and it’s one lane that you have to squeeze two cars through.  Why wouldn’t they just make them a little bit wider?  They don’t have the expansion capability we have in America.  As I said before, the properties are long divvied up and nobody is about to sacrifice the precious small area they have already.  Not to mention the barriers are pretty permanent.  The permissions for building are ridiculously hard to get around as well.  If they want to build a road, there are so many more roadblocks (no pun intended) to overcome.  Consider the scenery and visual aspects are regulated, the archaeology aspect is considered and can permanently shut down a project, whereas here, they would just send in a team to excavate the site, and then project continues.  Agricultural aspects, private property aspects, you name it!  There is no “Eminent domain” so the government can’t just come in and claim it needs to shave off a few meters of your property, or take it over completely.  And if they can’t do that here, they just buy out the property owner.  In Ireland there are certain laws and agricultural regulations that prevent reduction like this I believe.

Instead of a glut of large, workhorse pickup trucks that make the life of a working person in America easy, and more capable, there are small delivery vans, compact light trucks, and tiny luggage trailers towed by compact cars.  I won’t be able to go and pick up all of the materials I need for a job in one shot, I won’t be able to carry all my tools and ladders I will need for my jobs, and I won’t be able to tow and haul much.  This translates into more trips, more cost, more fuel, more wear and tear, and more time.  All of these things mean less money, in a business climate that doesn’t allow me to charge as much as I do in America already.  In fact, for a job I charge 189 dollars here, the same job in Ireland on average costs about 50-70 euro.  Add on extra operating costs and i’m looking at a huge reduction in profit.  The Economy in Ireland is not doing well, and people are much more frugal.  Unemployment is incredibly high in Ireland as well. I won’t get into why I think that is though, it’s a complicated issue, and has many causes.  Even with these limitations, things still get done in Ireland, and all you need is a little ingenuity and will.  The good thing is, everything is closer in Ireland!

The Cities are all lower to the ground, you don’t have all the big skyscrapers and highrises, the massive underground systems, and massive engineering marvels.  The amount of cars and traffic is at a refreshing level of low!  Every drive I took there was like an easy Sunday drive in my home area.  I love the scenery, and the lack of huge, city sized areas of industrial wasteland.  I love the fact that the hillside scenery is regulated so you don’t see a clutter of massive houses built into the sides of mountains and hills.  I love that Ireland respects and takes care of their farmers!

Usually, portions of food in America are seen to be the biggest in the world for the most part, but I disagree!  Yes, the packaged products such as bottles, candy, and what not, are smaller in Europe, and the choices are much more limited.  I actually like this a lot.  I think we have too many choices here in the US and are over stimulated by them.  The obesity and diabetes rates are higher as well.  Sometimes you just want a king size Reeses peanut butter cup though, or maybe a Coca cola that’s not watered down (I am convinced the Irish produced American brand sodas are more diluted.)  The portions you get for breakfast, or when you eat at someone’s house though….Much bigger than America! (unless you come from an Italian family in NYC!)  I wasn’t able to eat a full fry (Irish breakfast)  and I was struggling horribly to eat the dinner that was literally slapped and piled down onto my plate.  So many SHPUDS!  and apple tart with custard up the whazoo!   Anything that involves in-country ingredients such as meat, bread, dairy, and potatoes…prepare to loosen your belt.

Moving on…  I am used to an extremely diverse culture, a mesh of hundreds of cultures in one crazy mixing bowl.  Ireland is simple to understand and get along in as long as you know a few simple things.  The culture is relatively uniform, and doesn’t change easily or quickly!  You need to know what not to say, who to avoid, and where to avoid.  Before you go to, or move to Ireland, you should learn about the travelers….travelers…well i’ll just leave it at that and let you do the research…….

Shnacks…well…that’s another research project.

Ok, now the more light hearted stuff.

  1. Do NOT ask for a ride, or say, lets take a ride…it does not mean drive.  It is more associated with bedroom or backseat fun.
  2. Mickey is not a mouse. So leave your Disney “I love mickey” shirts at home.
  3. Fanny is not a pack you wear around your waist. or a cute word for a but your grandmother says.
  4. Sorry is not just used as an apology, someone will try to get your attention by saying sorry

Ignorance of the latter did help me once though.  There was a girl of questionable character (see shnack) passing us by on a street and she started saying sorry, then she started screaming it louder as we kept walking. I didn’t know she was addressing me though.  Then she yelled something like “You in the whatever colored shirt! You don’t have to be an A@#hole, I wanted a fag!”  Thinking I was ignoring her.  When in reality, I was wondering why the hell she was screaming sorry in question form.  It was amusing.

There are areas and neighborhoods everyone knows to avoid, but they are in close proximity to everything else, or right in the middle of them, so it’s a good idea to get to know the area you’re visiting, or ask someone you may know, or are chatting with about these no go places.  There is a real Jekyll and Hyde effect in Ireland between night and day in some places.  It can be a nice area, calm, lots of people walking around and no problems at all, then at night….BOOM night of the living dead…seriously.  I saw kids of 17-20 out screaming in the middle of the street, stumbling up to you and I seriously couldn’t tell the difference between them and actors on an episode of The Walking Dead.  When it comes to alcohol…well, it’s part of the culture there, it’s everywhere and always.  Ones work ends, and the mammys, wives, husbands and couples are done making and eating dinner, the pubs all fill up.  In america, there are slow nights more often than busy nights in bars.  The weekends are usually fairly busy, but can be slow as well.  I don’t think there is any night that’s considered a slow night in Ireland.  Every pub is busy at night, almost every night.  If it’s a slow night, it’s remarkable.  And there is no “let’s go out for a drink or two”  or “I’m just having a drink and leaving”  Once the taps are flowing into the pint glasses, they keep going, and going.  if they don’t, the glasses get a few fair bit of fills at least.  The number of pubs is really just amazing really.  I was shocked when I learned that there were 52 restaurants in a SMALL town nearby my hometown.  Take that picture and just change the restaurant to pub, and you’ve got Ireland!  Every block, every street seems to have a few. Even the tiny, one horse hamlets in Ireland have a pub (Usually reminiscent of someones living room with a bar.)  I used to think that the drinking age being 21 in the US was just making alcohol a forbidden fruit that teenagers were just going more wild about because it was forbidden or restricted, and also disagreed with the fact that you could vote, be drafted, or choose to serve in the military, but still couldn’t drink.  If you take the mystery and intrigue out of something here, It doesn’t have the same draw of abuse and binge draw that it would if it was normal and legal.  As I got older, and it seems that people are maturing at a much older age, and began hating the bars that even the young twenty somethings were drinking at…I started to see that perhaps even 21 was too young in most cases!  I wasn’t even close to understanding until I saw the walking dead teens in Ireland, heard about and saw the horrible and annoying effects that it has.  The first time I stayed in my wife’s town, I stayed at a very nice small hotel/restaurant in the center of town.  It was a quiet area in the early hours of the night, and even during the day it was just traffic sounds and talking of pedestrians.  As the night went on, and went into the early morning…It was horrible, I couldn’t sleep a few nights because of the screaming, and I don’t exaggerate here…SCREAMING.  Breaking bottles, and more screaming echoing through the stone and stucco lined main streets.  Then you have the kids that were hitting the windows of shops and setting off the alarms (another topic i’ll touch on next)  And there were no gardai doing anything, or even to be seen, anywhere.  In contrast, if that was America…The police would have been called after a few minutes of noise, and they would respond within 10 minutes, 15 tops.  And it would be rare enough anyway because the kids know that the cops would come right away if they act up like that.  These kids were just sitting right in the middle of the main intersection in town, screaming, laughing for hours.  You would go out, I could yell, and they would just either ignore you, laugh, or go away for 5 minutes, wait for you to go back up and then they would return and be louder.  I didn’t want to get arrested on my trip, so I didn’t go up to them in a physical confrontation.  The gardai in Ireland are pretty impotent, and don’t really do anything about noise or disturbances anyway.  I’m used to seeing a fleet of police cars from 5 different departments patrol constantly at night, and respond super quickly to any call or disturbance.  They patrol areas near bars even more heavily and take their job very, VERY seriously.  Also, people in America are very quick to call about any disturbance of the peace in most areas, save college towns, but even there, they still will be called a LOT!

Every single house and building I saw in Ireland had an alarm box on the outside of it.  I was told it’s because insurance companies either require you to have one, or give you a much cheaper rate and incentives to have one.  Now, I was not only kept up by screaming kids, but alarms that would go off for hours, with a 5 minute break every half hour.  Nobody showed up to check it out, nobody turned it off, no gardai showed, NOTHING, zilch, nada, zero response. by anyone.  I thought that maybe it was faulty, or a rare occurrence, but when a kid passing by threw a beer bottle at another building’s window, and that alarm started it’s many hour shift, I realized that this was not the case.  The next night, another building or two were screaming into the night with no response.  OK.. what is the point if nobody shows to check it out?  Who knows!  So, I learned never to stay or live in the center of town unless I invest in soundproofing. And why rent in the center of town was so cheap!

So I now knew who, what, and where to avoid.  I knew what the business and employment situation was, I knew what the vehicle situation was… now to get into the nitty gritty bureaucratic process of becoming legal and getting permission to stay, work, and live in Ireland.  Yes, I’ve just highlighted a lot of negatives, but the positives, at least for me, outweigh any of these things.  Ireland is a wonderful, laid back, friendly, beautiful place,  with a progressive government and culture.  The history is rich and intriguing.  The lifestyle fits me, and I love it!  It’s a hop skip and jump away from the rest of Europe, and travelling is MUCH cheaper!  The fact that it’s part of the European Union causes some difficulty though.  Since it’s borders are open for all EU citizens to come and work or live, it’s had to legislate to reduce the rate of Non-EU citizens coming to work and live in Ireland.  In order to come and live/work there, you need to have them salivating to hire you, and have the company offering you the job to provide written proof of the offer and salary.  The salary must be over 60,000 euro annually, or be on a diminutive list of rare jobs that they allow offers that pay less.  OR  you have to have 300,000 euro in capital on hand to invest in a business.  Or if you are retiring there, you have to have 150,000 euro per person in your account but i’m young still… Or, you have to be married to an Irish citizen.  I would never have been able to move there if we didn’t decide to get married when we did.  It’s next to impossible unless you have a very impressive CV in a field that is having trouble finding citizen employees, or a whole lot of money.  At least I didn’t find any way.  Of course, there are ways to temporarily stay and work, but only temporary, and they tax you to the point of breaking in that case anyway.  I agree with this policy due to the alarming unemployment rates though, I just think that they should loosen the restrictions on small business startups.  I plan on adding a few jobs to their market, and could do so with a tiny fraction of what they require for capital, and small, local business is the backbone of anyplace these days.

To get married, we had to inform the local office of birth, marriage and deaths registrar at least three months ahead of time.  You CANNOT get married before that three month period is up, probably to reduce the impulse or hasty marriages.  They do take marriage seriously in Ireland, and I love this.  Divorce is much, MUCH less common in Ireland.  I believe the divorce rate is about 13 percent, whereas in America, it’s 53% to 60% last time I checked.  You schedule a date and location for the wedding ceremony within this 3 month period and choose an officiant.  In our case, the registrar did it herself, and we were able to choose a nice upscale, old hotel that was listed as a location, though you can choose your own location and officiant if you want.  We were just choosing to do a small civil ceremony at first and then we can do the big family wedding when I get moved, settled, and working there.  A week ahead of the wedding date, you have to go to the registrar’s office to pay a 200 euro fee, passports, birth certificates, and fill out some forms.  A week later we were married!  It was the best day of my life, and I couldn’t wait.  So many people these days see it as a ball and chain, or the end of your fun years…I can’t understand that.  If you are planning on spending the rest of your life with someone, why would you do it if you thought it was a prison, or mundane, or a negative thing in any way at all?

After the wedding I didn’t just automatically get permission to work, or residence rights.  You have to separately apply at the local gardai immigration office.  You have to register your marriage and meet with the officer in charge of immigration there.  They will review and make sure that all is in order, they may ask you questions to make sure it’s all on the up and up.  I think this is a great thing, as I am very opposed to marriages of convenience, people just using the institution of marriage to get into a country and work.  It takes away from and makes it harder for the people that are doing things for the right reasons, and that really love each other.  It’s hard enough to be scrutinized or have your personal love examined as it is.  Then you pay another 300 euro fee, or 500 euro for long term residency, get your fingerprints taken, your criminal backround checked, Photo taken, and then you wait for your id card to come in the mail before you go down and get the stamp for your passport.  After that you have to go back 6 months later to get stamped, then a year, then three years.. after 5 years you can apply for citizenship.

So now i’m legal, what now?  Well, I still have to sell most of my things, close my business, save enough money to cover a few months of rent, a vehicle, living expenses, and cushion money in case the money doesn’t start rolling in soon enough.  Rent is fairly cheap in Ireland, especially outside of town, but you really need a vehicle in Ireland unless you live near your workplace.  I have to have a vehicle for my business, and wanted one to increase my chances of employment if I have to get another job in the mean time.  The public transportation is ok, but not great, and doesn’t go everywhere.  It also doesn’t run around the clock.

I’m still trying to figure out how to make the move as seamless as possible, finding housing, and taking care of finding and registering a vehicle before i’m in country.

I also will write about finding health insurance, doctors, and other mundane tasks soon! I haven’t been able to find any concrete info, nor people that have written about any of these things in detail.  Getting information from any public office in Ireland is also a nightmare, and very, very, very, very inconsistent.  You’ll get five different answers from five different people if you get a response at all.  Most of the time they just say to come in person when I arrive.  Also, finding housing is not easy when i’m in a different country, as most people want to meet you in person understandably.  I’m going to find out options and share them.

So that’s my boring blog post for the week, i’ll add something a bit more colorful next time.  I’d love to hear any questions or comments as well, so feel free!

 

 

Go-wan, make my Tay!

stockvault-teapot141578

I’ll return to my American Expat in Ireland journey next time, today, I was reminded of some differences I thought might be worth sharing.

Sometimes, the differences in culture are not overt. I have always blended well into the cultures around me, taking heed of the differences, as best as possible, at least, but there are differences that are fundamental to a culture.  You can’t always get by learning how to greet people, what gestures not to make, what words not to use, etc…  As an entrepreneur, and small business owner, as well as someone who has worked for, and represented other people’s companies, I have to be more diligent.  In the U.S. most people, no matter how small their business might be,  present themselves in the most professional manner they can.  A certain distance, or “bubble” is maintained, though in some places and situations, it’s ok to be more personal and relaxed regarding interactions with your customers.  This attitude and practice is familiar and expected, and if not maintained, can result in customers feeling they should be getting a better deal, getting lax on payment, scheduling, and the likes.

Ireland is fundamentally different.  I’ll use one of my businesses, the one that I plan on resorting to when I finally get back to Ireland, as an example.  I’m a chimney sweep amongst other things, and I deal with people in their homes most of the time.  I will greet them briefly, and get right down to business quickly.  Most people like this as customers, or they are indifferent about it.  If I were to do that in Ireland, without chatting with them a bit first, and being offered tea about 10 times, It would be viewed as almost rude, or suspicious in a way.   So here lies a problem for me…  Tea… I don’t really drink it much,  I don’t drink coffee much either, to be honest, but I do enjoy a cup of either occasionally.

Let me pose you a question.  What do you think the end result of 4-6 house calls a day would result in?  TAY!  more tea than I would drink in a year, in one day!  Irish women especially don’t seem to be able to hear the words “no thank you” when it comes to just about anything.  They just look at you with the eye of a CIA operative grilling a terrorist with rose colored glasses, and ask again, and again….and again….because obviously you must be mistaken, or confused about your want for tea, or spuds.   I’ve said no thank you to tea, just to find a freshly poured cup in front of me before I could finish saying: “No than…oh fine.”  Ok, so I had my first non-consensual cup of tea already today, now that i’ve processed what’s happened, I have to figure out what this story is that she’s already in the middle of telling me.  It’s got to do with someone named Mary, or John, something about mass, and a baby.  Forget it, you’re already lost, try to catch the next phase.  Oh no! She found out my last name is O’Brien,  There’s no way that an American can have a last name like O’Brien, so they ask if i’m sure i’m American, and then jumps into a story about one of the million O’Brien’s she knows.   Mind you, she knows my ancestors i’m sure, as my wife says, get a few of the old townswomen together, give them a few pots of tea, and let them at it for a few hours, and they’ll have traced my ancestry back to the baby Jaysus’ time.  Now i’ll have no Idea what time it is, how long i’ve been there, and i’m really itching to get started on the job so I can make my next scheduled client.  IF I make it out of there, I’ll have to do this all over again at the next stop!  Keep in mind, there’s going to be a bit of chatting after the work is done, and the vacuum can’t drown out the conversation anymore.  I’ve found that in foreign countries, i’ll be getting extra chatting to because i’m a foreigner, there are always questions and interests regarding that you can count on.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind a bit, really!  I love talking to new people, and hearing their random stories.  In my other business as a recording/audio engineer, I started a project where I set up a microphone at a random location, bar, park, street corner, and recorded random stories people had to share.  This world is full of stories, color, ideas to be heard and shared.  When it comes to getting work done though, this whole Irish tea and chat thing is becoming a foggy labyrinth that I have no idea how to begin to navigate.  I’ll have to figure out a whole new bag of tricks to move things along, but remain polite and personable.  I can’t drink that much tea, so i’m not sure how i’ll pull that off, maybe a hidden bottle to siphon the tea into, I don’t know, and I try not to think about it right now as I struggle enough with getting ready for the permanent move.

In the next post i’ll have to get into all the nitty gritty details, loopholes, and finagling that it’s taking to get over there, and what it took to become legal in the first place.

I’ll need to consult a sage on how to solve this tea debacle though…

<p style=”text-align: center;”><a href=”http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http://www.voidstudiosny.wordpress.com/POST”&gt; <img border=”0″ src=”http://cdn.stumble-upon.com/images/16x16_su_3d.gif&#8221; alt=””> Stumble It! </a></p>

Going to Ameri…Ireland! An American Moving to Ireland

IMG_7586.JPG

I think i’ve always wanted to move to Ireland.  I was born an O’Brien, proud of his Irish ancestry, in Hurley, New York.  The history, mythology, culture, accent, attitudes, all appealed to me from a young age.  This dream never seemed realistic to me until I met my now wife, who is born and raised Irish.

Here in The States, anyone with an Irish last name, is “Irish” though, if one of us American born were to say such a thing to an actual Irish person, well, I’d just recommend you don’t do that!  We come from so many different countries, rather, our ancestors did, and though we are Americans, what the rest of the world doesn’t seem to understand is our connection to our roots, and yearning to understand more and feel a connection to our mother countries.  We don’t have much history compared to most countries in the world, and I feel that the countries that our ancestors came from ARE part of us, and our identity.

When I met my red-headed, Aran jumper wearing, no-nonsense, bride, I was in limbo, recovering from a brain injury, and lost.  She was in a similar lost and despondent state, (minus the brain injury.)  We “met” in a very unusual way, we were penpals.  I always scoffed at these relationships, and never really heard of any that succeeded or that were genuine.  I had enough trouble with long distance relationships when they were in-person meetings and then forced into long distance mode, let alone an international one, where we had never even met in person!  Let me say now, the digital age is amazing.  In fact, i’d actually say to any TWO people that find themselves equally and completely taken with eachother.  We both knew almost right off the bat, that there was something amazing about this thing we found.  and I mean days.  Days of constant emails, every moment we had to write, we did.

Why would I recommend it?  WELL…You do not have the full force lust factor involved.  Yes, we saw eachother’s pictures a day or two after we started corresponding, but that’s just a general idea, and the natural human instincts, the physical body right in front of you, the smells, the voice, they are all hidden, or filtered through a screen and frozen in time. You really concentrate on the correspondence, we both can express ourselves better in writing anyway.  I don’t remember how long it took for us to video call for the first time, but it was a while.  After we both realized that we loved eachother.  I started recording my thoughts via my studio’s microphone after a while, and then she started recording her voice soon after.  I remember the first time I heard her voice, and saw her moving image on the screen, nervous, beautiful, and incredible.  It was a short video, she was just sitting on her bed, as she still does to this day, and said that I might like to see her and hear her to return the favor.  That was it, maybe 15 seconds long, but it will be in my head for the rest of my life.  We took one step at a time, Email, Whatsapp text, recordings, video, then video calls.   The video calls went from short ones, both of us nervous and excited, to longer ones as we lost track of time.  Today, we have been married for 7 months and have video called just about every single day since then, and we leave it running at night even so we can glance over and even wake up seeing each-other, but that’s what we have right now.  I still record my thoughts for her before I shut my eyes so she can listen when she wakes, just as I have done almost every single day since we met a year and months ago.  We talk to eachother more than any married couple I know.

I’ll talk more about the relationship some other time, I’ll get back to my decision to move.

We “met” in January, and I was on a plane to actually meet her in April.  By this time we knew this was IT for the most part, but we were both sensible people, (despite what you may think about our unique circumstance!)  So, we had to meet of course!  I wanted to go to Ireland anyway, and this was definitely reason better than any other.  I got on a Boeing 747 headed through Heathrow to Cork at night,  I love flying at night, the moon lighting the clouds below, the stars shining clear and bright.  The lights of New York City shimmered below in an orange and white ant colony below.  I saw them scroll off the window to the left and saw the moonlit Atlantic below.  The statue of Liberty, that so many millions of immigrants saw welcome them to this amazing country waved goodbye to me, and we were off across the sea.   I could not sleep, though I had been up for 20 hours already, the excitement was soaked to my bones.  The flight was calm, quiet, and comfortable, and it “flew” by much quicker than I thought it would. (pun intended)  It was still dark when Ireland appeared below.  The lights were further apart, scattered, disordered, the landscape was rolling and old.   The sun was about to start peeking around the horizon, but it was already brightening the sky halfway through our flight over Ireland.  I wish they could just land straight in Cork, but there were no flights directly from New York to Cork.  Cork being a small international airport.  I didn’t seem to hear her when she told me that I could get a bus from Dublin, straight to her town in Tipperary for only 20 Euro!  I wouldn’t make that mistake again!  Anyway, by the time we crossed the channel into English airspace, the sun was dawning and fog covered the land below.  We landed in Heathrow, and the sunny day, and crisp air woke me up the rest of the way.  I had enough time to get to my connection and grab a sandwich before heading to the next terminal for my half hour flight to Cork.  I texted my girl, who was waiting in Cork for the bus (she doesn’t drive.)  As I went through the UK border, the officer asked me a few questions, where was I going?  What was the purpose of my trip? do I have anything to declare?  He then proceeded to smile and say that he has family that are O’Briens, and joked about me going home.  I made brief small talk, and gathered my things, but started to feel like I really was going home.  I got onto the plane a little while after and was off to Cork!

When I arrived in Cork, I went through the Irish immgration station, and the officer there, then proceeded to tell me that he was an O’Brien as well, and said “welcome home!” I laughed and gathered my things, put on my belt, zipped up my boots, and made a “Bee-line” to the baggage claim, which, in this small airport, was almost straight ahead and in view.  I walked only a 100 feet then, through some red doors and saw a stunningly beautiful redhead sit down in a seat facing away from me just before I opened the second door.  I paused so she wouldn’t see me before she sat down because I wanted to surprise her.  It worked! I walked right up next to her and just stood there looking down until she looked up.  She was listening to Pride and Predjudice (her favorite book) in her earbuds, and was surprised to see some boots right next to her!  She stood and we immediately hugged so tight, and lingered as I smelled her hair, and whispered to her.  We then just started walking towards the exit as if all was familiar and normal.  We walked through the doors, and I was hit with a fresh air, mingled with the smell of a farm I remembered so well from my uncles organic farm in Pennsylvania.  There were no beeping cab horns, yelling pedestrians, vendors, police whistles and sirens… just fields and cows. I remember thinking “this is my kinda place!”  We stood in the smoking corral as I had a very much wanted cigarette, and I put my arm around her waist as I stood behind her.

I had no euro currency, as I thought I’d be able to exchange some when I got to Ireland, but not realizing it was a bank holiday there which the Irish take very seriously!  In America, i’m used to those types of services in airports and cities, to tbe open even on most holidays.  So it was a good thing she met me there, as I couldn’t even afford bus fare until I could change some money, my credit card stopped working when I got to Ireland, and I think it may be because I just used it in England an hour before.  I’d have to find somewhere, or hope that the hotel would allow me to just pay after my stay or until I could get money exchanged or my card sorted.  We got into cork city center, and were to meet up with her two friends that were with her in Cork to go out the night before.  I remember the sun being much brighter, but not as hot.  It seemed less filtered almost.  maybe it was the lack of humidity and smog, but also the latitude possibly.  We walked around a bit to find a pub and possibly a place to exchange my money, and ended up parking my suitcases in an outside area of a pub while she went in to get us pints.  We sat outside in the bright sun, talking and commenting on people walking by.  The owner of the pub came out and told me that I had to move my suitcases, they were taking up too much room apparently, though they were in between us and not in anyone’s path.  I must say that this put me off, and stuck in my craw a bit, but I can’t stand that kind of illogical act that is more than likely because he didn’t like the fact that I was an american and probably though t we were both tourists.  Who knows, I was just happy to be there with her relaxing on a sunny day in Cork city.  (Which is a rare enough thing!)

After our pint,  her friends showed up for another, and we drank, introducing ourselves and chatting for a bit before heading into town a bit more to look for food and a place to change money.  I was directed to a small internet cafe and print shop, and they were able to change some money for me, though it was at a fairly steep percentage!  Keep in mind that when you want to change money, it’s best to just go to a bank in a town somewhere, not in the airport or nearby, the percentage and fees are much more reasonable in the banks.  So, I had money, two pints, this amazing woman beside me, and annoying suitcases.  We had some time to kill, so we grabbed a hot chocolate and iced coffee drinks, and then headed to the bus after.  The bus ride to small town Ireland, in south Tipperary, was a beautiful, scenic one, it was short as well, in American standards.  I remember looking over at her, putting my hand on her leg, and holding her hand occasionally, there was a need to keep contact with her now.  The sun was starting to set, and the light a bit more orange than bright white and yellow.  The grass was so much greener, they don’t call it the emerald isle for nothing!  We got off at the bus stop and started wheeling back into the center of town to the small 8 room restaraunt and hotel I was staying at.  I arrived, and they already had my card info, so they gave us our keys and we headed up to the room to drop the suitcases and get ready to go back out.  It was so relaxing, we just wanted to lay there, quiet and content, and slightly tired from the journey and day, but I got changed, and refreshed, and we headed out to a local pub.

The town was beautiful to me, nestled in a valley near slievenamon, and on the river suir.  We walked around a bit and went to her favorite pub, a small antique pub in the center of town on a narrow street.  This is not a tourist town, so I was now getting the true, unfiltered. unedited Irish experience, I wasn’t there for tourism, but to see where she lived, her natural habitat, if you will.  We had a great night, and briefly headed back to my hotel before I walked her home, as she had some things to do around the house in the morning for her mother.  The weather had suddenly changed cold, the mist in the air was almost frosty, and I needed a jacket all of a sudden.  I was told the Irish weather changed very rapidly, and now knew, only slightly, what that meant.  We walked past a group of screaming teenagers, the pubs were all closed, and it was about 0200, but they were screaming none-the-less.  I was put off by this, an normally would have said something to them, but I was content, happy, and didn’t want any trouble to spoil my time.  We walked a few more blocks, slowly, and without a care in the world.  After I saw her safely home, I strolled back with my hands in my pockets, looking all around me, breathing deep, relaxed and content.  The kids had gone, and all was silent by now.  I thought how even in the small city I lived in upstate New York, there are 24 hour stores all over, and cars going every which direction.  Here, there was only one 24 hour store, that was a 20 minute walk, and closed it’s doors so you had to order through a window, but since I didn’t know what they had, or any of the brands, I just ordered a good old coca cola, a bottle of water, and left it at that before strolling back into town.

I went back to the hotel, and continued texting her until we fell asleep.  I would see her in the morning.

This was going to be my new home, I decided to move to Ireland for sure that night, and next, i’ll get into the process more, and all the things i’ve learned along the way.

To Be Continued…