I was looking for another accommodation, because my new job was in Leixlip, County Kildare. I wrote about that on the page “Settling in Dublin”. By my experiences I wished to rent a small apartment, prefarably in Leixlip, but first I still was looking in Dublin for one. Unfortunately they either were too shabby or the rent was 1000+ EUR/month. No, you are wrong, it was not as nice as in Norra Hamnen in Malmö or Västra Hamnen in Helsingborg, if you know Sweden and this cities. The studio apartment for this rent were very small and if they had two rooms (1 bedroom and a living room), they were smaller as such nice studio apartment, that my daughter has had in Sweden. The studio apartments in Ireland usually have the bed directly next to the stove. Even my son Samuel’s first apartment was significantly better than what is offered here and the rent was around 400 EUR/month – definitely it is not possible to compare with Sweden. Ok, the apartments are furnished, but the small apartments seem to be furnished with things people did not want at home. Most of them were also damp. It is surprising what a big difference there is between studios and 1 bedroom apartments in Ireland. After looking at three one-bedroom apartments in Dublin, I began to think, that I could have more fun for the money – that I could afford a car if I lived cheaper, so I started looking for apartments in the suburbs and at the countryside. But they were not much cheaper either – just a few ten bucks but most of them were very modern and newly built. In the meantime, the Irish have actually figured out, how to build without the moisture penetrating and without using a lot of energy for heating.
I was looking at an apartment in the same town where I work. The rent was actually quite low at only 550 EUR/month, but it consisted only one bedroom, a small shower room and a kitchen, that was called living room, because they had placed an armchair at the dining table. It was freezing cold in there. This was partly due to the fact that it was one of the few winter days we had snow here, but also that they never heat empty flats, which, of course, gives the moisture a very good opportunity to crawl in. Then I decided to try to share an apartment with one person – with other words, I was looking for a room again (become a resident again). I looked at opportunities in Leixlip, where I work and the neighboring towns. Most people who rent out are quite young and that makes it difficult for me to just rent a room, for these people do not like to share with elder people. There was a nice room anyway, but the guy decided to rent it out to someone else. The next room, I looked at, was in the same place where I live now, but the kitchen was not tidy at all. Many of the new houses have stoves with ceramic hobs, but I have not met any Irishman yet, who seems to be able to take care of them. That stove was so dirty, that I actually asked the guy, if he knew how to clean such a hob. He had painted concrete floors in the living room, something I had never seen here before. When he gave me a lift to the bus stop, he told me, he was an engineer – in the food industry! He decided to share the house with a friend he told me later. Though I did not have to say no.
The next attempt was of the slightly more unusual kind. I responded to an ad for a room to rent. I made my appointment with the owner (I was not sure, he was), who said, when we met, that he is a police officer (I was not sure, he told the truth) and told me, that he probably has to work somewhere else in Ireland, but it was not really decided yet. He apologized, that there were no curtain rails and explained, that it would not be possible to apply some. Several days later, I answered him by email, that I could imagine to rent the room and he wondered, if I was interested in renting the whole house, because he did not have the opportunity to live there (during the viewing, he had also told me, that his little sister came every other week or once in a month and visited him …) so I was very surprised about his new offer. I actually asked him, how much the rent would be and it was quite much. Though, I explained, that there was a reason, why I wanted to rent a room and not an apartment or a house and that I had responded to the ad, because he was advertising a room.
The following week, I agreed with four people on viewings for different rooms. They were all a little further away from my work. As for some ads I responded to, the people were, by the way, first interested in meeting me and renting out, but then they had moved themselves. I also visited an apartment, where already six youngsters were living. When the door was opened, a lot of shoes welled out of the hall. I decided not to be the mum, who takes care about their mess. I chose to look at the apartment, which now was closest. It was located in the neighboring town to my job company and there is a shuttle between the company and the town, which the employer offers free of charge. I did rent that room. The owner of the apartment was a mature woman. She was born Irish, but had been working in the USA for many years. When she got sick, she did come back home to Ireland. She is better now, she can and does work – in the health sector, as a care assistant. The only problem is, that she smokes, but she smokes “only” in the kitchen. It would be better if she did it outdoors, of course. Fortunately, she does not smoke much. She is open minded by her experience of living abroad.
A few days before, however, I came across a cheap, well-used car by a colleague who had the opportunity to buy another car from another colleague who had resigned and moved to Paris. So the first colleague tried to sell the older car she had, because she thought it was a shame to drive it to the scrap yard – and it really had been because it is still so nice. She sold the car for 900 EUR and therefore I asked to see it. When I started the final sprint to find a room, I was no longer depending on the bus or the shuttle. That was once again a sign that those who have more get more. It was the same in this case, too, because now I have a car and live quite close to my working place. If I was needed at work outside of my normal working hours, I’d be there in half an hour or maybe a little more at the latest by walking, or I could take the shuttle, but it is great not to have to be outside when it is raining, windy or just cold. In addition to that, it takes me only 5 minutes to drive to work. I can sleep an hour longer in the mornings – I enjoy it! I can go to shopping malls that are badly located, when one lack a car. I also can go on holidays around Ireland to see more of the country.
I liked my work at HP International bank. I created contracts partly, that means, I had to fill in forms with the data, we did get from our sellers in Sweden – yes, I was working with Swedish now. During the interview my now teamleader told me, that I have the dialect of Scania (a Swedish county). The teamleader was good. At the end of the month we often had to work extra hours, but our company did deliver pizzas or salads to eat, though we should have a good time anyway. Sometimes we also got extra stuff like a backpack, when we had worked out a good result. Even our salary was based on good results and we got some extra money, at the end of every quarter of a year. We were also internationally set up and our closest “foreign” colleagues were German. I did get a good contact to them as well. In our group we were some Swedish people, two women from Finland, one woman from Norway, a guy from Denmark and a Polish guy, who worked in English.
At work there was a social club, mostly offering social events, e.g. a Christmas party. Instead for pampering the adults, vi did pamper their children, because a lot of them had children. We had a Santa Claus, taking the kids in his lap. There was a photografer, too, recording every child. I had joined some weeks before and I was the grandma of the Santa Claus, wearing a special apron. It was read with white edges. I welcomed all kids, one by one and that was very important for some of them, who were a little shy. Afterwards I did get praise, because I was so good at it. I continued then as well in the group and had some good ideas, my colleagues also agreed to. Unfortunately, I had to quit, because I was leaving Ireland (more about it later).
New in Cellbridge, I was looking for the forest or almost a park. Luckily there was a park, which I enjoyed sometimes. It was hard to find friends there. My landlady still was the only one I could talk to in private, but I found out, that Cellbridge had an own photography club. I became a member and also found a girl to spend some time with. She was from Lithuania, if I remember right. The photo club had competitions and both of us were lucky to have one or two of our photos in an exhibition. We were looking for motivs together in our surroundings or, sometimes a little more fare away. In May 2009 I was following a group of male members to a monastery and the park, close to it, for taking photos of bluebells. This excursion was really special. Before this day, I had taken photos with my smartphone or my point and shot camera, but the day before our excursion, I was driving to Dublin in the late afternoon and bought a Nikon system camera, one of the cheapest, which was in store. I also bought a special backpack for transport. I did not really know, how to use the camera and tried to find out it during the day, starting with the little time I had, waiting for other photographers. I did make some beautiful photos and also have got an advise of one of the members, how my photos could become even better. The area, where we were photographing was fantastic, this time of the year. There were blue bells everywhere. My favorite photo you can see below.
In February 2009 (I think it was), I did get chest pain, which was bronchitis, the GP said, but she did not write an attestation for sick leave. I was infected by the colleague next to me and I had got it really bad. I have not been very sick for years, but now I had a fever and pain in almost my whole body. My colleague had it for four days while coming to work, telling me, she cannot afford to take sick leave. When she finally was going to the GP, she had to stay at home for a while anyway. You may know, that the Health system in Ireland is very different to the Swedish and even the German system. One has to work for an entire year, before the right of service, even one is insured by the company (employees has to distribute as well, the amount will be taken from the salary). Before the year has past, one has to pay for the GP’s service and medicines privatly. Fortunately my sickness was the worst during the weekend and my landlady pampered me with tea and recommending a hot bath. The bath helped me a lot and so did the tea. I only was away from my job for Monday and Tuesday. With a later occation, one of my superiors, not my teamleader, told me, that the company could reduce my salary for the two days i missed, even we have 10 sick leave days a year. It was, because I did not get the attestation of the GP, which I had told them already. At the same time she told me, that the female GP is known for not writing attestations.
We had some privilege at HP, because it also is an IT company. They had one or two machines, where we could develope photos from digital cameras. We could make photo books as well and more, but only a limited amount. This machines had touch screenes and once, when I tried to use it, it was working badly and went crazy. The colleague, who had to serve the machines and help us to solve problems got angry. After that, I did not use that opportunity anymore.
By the way, I had run out of medicin for my thyroid. I did not go to a GP anyway and thought, I will make it without medicine until the day in April 2009 a colleague told me about a very competent medical doctor, who exactly is a doctor for problems related to sports, but he also treat other diseases. It took time to get an appointment – it always does at good doctors and sometimes at all doctors in the area. When I finally met that doctor, he asked one of the nurses to take a lot of blood tests of me. I had to wait around two weeks and then call for the result. Unfortunately, the result was not findable. Before I did get the final result, I had moved to Germany. This doctor tried to get hold of me several times and wrote a letter, because my results were bad. My former landlady forwarded the letter to me, though I could calm him down and tell him, that I had moved and had better health service now.
I had agreed to work at the HP International bank in the hope, that they would not outsource part of their service. I actually asked about that during the interview for the job. Anyway during spring it was a fact, that change is coming. Some employees were offered other jobs at the same place, but with lower income. A lot of employees did not get the chance to continue. I was one of them, they wished will continue in the same roll and around the same salary as at that time. Unfortunately my daughter got very sick, though I was looking for another job, closer to home. I tried in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. I had only a chance in Germany. It was at a subsidiary company to a Swedish company. I quite my job at HP, just because of my daughters health condition, because from Hamburg, Germany I could go by car to Scania county in Sweden and could do it every hour of the day. The trip was about 5 hours. From Cellbridge, I had to go in the middle of the night to catch a flight at 6am and 2:15 hours but by the time shift one arrives at 9:25am, afterwards one has to take a train to go to Scania, which also takes almost three hours, I think more. In addition to that, one can only fly once a day. Therefore it was much better for my daughter, that I moved to Hamburg.
Before I left, I hoped, the Danish guy would be allowed to stay instead of me. I thought, he was working good as well as he never had taken sick leave and you have to know, that some Danish diaclects are very hard to understand for Swedish people. I had problems with it by myself. The wife of the Danish guy was a nurse and from somewhere abroad, if I remember right, from an Asian country and there was no way for her to get a permit to stay with her husband in Denmark, because of the inhuman politics during the last few years. After all, the company decided to continue work with a Swedish guy. The guy had taken sick leaves many times – especially after weekends. He did not make a secret of, that he was partying during the weekends and could not come to work for his hangovers. Besides this, he also had planned to travel the world, when losing his job. He was not really happy to have to continue working. By the way, the Polish guy also continued working here. He had to work with big, international companies, but the Swedish branches. Our teamleader was sure, the companies would not mind, that HP’s assistant will perform the service in English.
My last weekend on Ireland had arrived. Martina had promised me a free visit of a museum in Dublin and I obediently showed up there on Saturday. However, I did not see her at the entrance, so I paid the entrance fee and informed myself about the “Viking Age” in Ireland. The guide said that the Nordic countries at this time were so overpopulated that people emigrated: the Swedes to Russia, the Norwegians to Canada and the Danes to England. In Sweden I had never heard of this, however, from poor harvests in the middle of the 19th century when many people – not just Swedes – emigrated to America. So different stories are told in different countries, but it is just a point of view. Of course, I also read about the Crusaders, but it was long after the Vikings. The museum’s exhibition building is next door to a church, which can also be viewed for an entrance fee. I had not bought a ticket for the church. I thought it was expensive enough with the museum. Where one comes from the museum and can enter the church, Martina served and she let me into the sanctuary for free. Unfortunately I could not enjoy it, because my parking time was running out and I only had a very quick look into the church. By the way, the entrance fee for the church is explained by the fact, that the church does not receive any money from the state and they need to finance their activities in some way.
It was Sunday and I have been to a German colleague. We have been in the woods and tried to pick mushrooms. She said, she is good at it, but today we were unlucky. The forest – or better the park – is not too far from where she lives. She goes there quite often. Before we left the area we also came to a lake with a lot of water lilies. Many of them bloomed. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me. I would have loved to take a photo of this beautiful view. By the way, you have to pay an admission fee, if you enter the area by car, because the park has not grown naturally, but has been painstakingly planted. It is certainly only 2 Euro per car, but long live the right of free public access. We Swedes are really lucky.
Here I would like to end with a little consideration – a look back. One thing I did not like at all in Ireland was that drivers always honked when someone was driving a little slower, because she/he were looking for the right direction. My Finnish colleague tried to prepare me for this, when I just had bought the car. She said one should not care about the honking, it would just be a nice reference to the respective, reminding that she/he should continue. However, I have not perceived it as such. At least, I was happy, that my car had not been registered in Dublin, but had the license plate from Cork. Due to this, it was not as bad to drive in Dublin or in the neighboring areas. There were less honks. In any case, a little consideration was given. In Ireland, and especially in Dublin, it has happened several times that people walked across the street very slowly when the traffic light was red for them. I have got the impression that they thought they owned the street or maybe they were completely in different thoughts and did not pay attention to the danger to their life.
I am really happy, that I hiked some of the Irish mountains, though I know what that means and I am proud of myself, because I have made the excursions in the Wicklow Mountains and my lonely hike to the top of Diamond Hill in Connemara. The two peaks on Errigal Mountain in Donegal, which I have climbed with my son Samuel, have been my masterpiece because the path there occasionally went very close to the cliffs and I got over my fear of heights on this occasion – but in a Ferris wheel I will not go again!
I agree with the saying that Samuel has introduced me to: “In Ireland you do not need a prison, because the whole country is a prison.” This, of course, refers to all high walls and fences. That was probably also, why I was so happy to get out into nature and up on the tops of the mountains. This was freedom for me. The freedom I was very used to in Sweden and which I love of all my heart.
The economic success that started, when Ireland joined the EU in the early 1990s, has probably changed a lot in the country. At least that is what people I have talked to said. They also told me, that before the ‘Irish tiger’ awoke, Irish people have been more friendly. With the better economic times, the Irish have probably lost the important values of life. The Irish seem indifferent to the ruins of the old houses, to the bad roads, maybe also to what others think of them and also no longer seem to see the value of providing good service. Nor do they seem to take the care of themselves, their children and animals seriously. Many times I have seen parents with children in strollers, who ate french fries and/or burgers. The number of dogs, that do not seem to have a home is frightening. One must be careful that no one accompanies one home. The animal shelters are overcrowded and no one seems to care. Of course, there are also positive exceptions everywhere. Despite the financial successes, a lot of people still are depending on charity. There is not much education for adults for those who are not born with topsoil in their pocket. Projects for those are financed exclusively with EU money. I have seen with my own eyes, how much it means to many of these people to get a little recognition, that they at least know something. I look up to the leaders of these courses. We take so much for granted in Sweden – experiencing Ireland, I felt gratitude for the Swedish way. Nonetheless the Catholic communities here still show real compassion and warmth. Their are e.g. groups visiting the lonely in hospitals and homes for elderly. I do not share their beliefs and I find it frightening how many Catholic couples live in separation and cannot divorce, but there are always two sides to every medal. On the other hand, the catholic church also is secularized and a lot of younger women dress themselves provocative every day, even mothers.
I have to admit, that I did not enjoy Ireland very much, but I would like to return for holidays. Of course, I can not give a whole picture of Ireland, because I did not get to know many Irish people. There are white spots on the map of Ireland and especially regarding to the inhabitants. What I wrote has always been a question of my most personal impressions. I therefore advise everyone to visit the Republic of Ireland themselves and make their own image from this barren, but green country. I can at least promise you a variety of experiences and images, that will stick to your retinas – and about the weather, remember that there is no bad weather just the wrong attire.
23rd of July 2009 I said good-bye to my colleagues and my superiors, but I was not really happy about it. I drove with my Irish car to Hamburg, Germany and have had an interesting trip. If you are interested in it, visit the page: From Halfway to America to the Gate of the World.