Home, Sweet… maybe not.

There’s an online article that’s been getting lot a lot of attention here. In a study published last week, Dublin has been ranked the worst city in the world to find a place to live for expats. Dead last. IN THE WORLD. Let that sink for a moment.

The thing is though, Dublin’s got a serious housing crisis going on for everyone, not just expats. Rents have gotten stupidly high and it’s nearly impossible to buy a place – trust me, I’ve been trying to do so for the past several months.

After a couple missteps, I thought I’d finally found a place last week. I made an offer. It was accepted. Yay! I’d actually decided on a one-bedroom. Sure, it was small but it was in Ranelagh and it had really nice high-end features, the likes of which I couldn’t afford in a two bedroom. I emailed my mortgage person at the bank to let them know and I got an email back saying that it’s bank policy to only finance one-bedrooms at 80% rather than the 90% I was supposed to be able to finance as a first-time buyer. That meant I’d have to put down 20% of the sale price which would be… wait for it… €77,000!!!

It’s no secret that Dublin’s lending practices were one of the main causes for its economic collapse a decade ago, but the measures that are in place now as a response to what happened back then often defy logic. If you want a mortgage, you need to have a 20% down payment, unless you are a first-time buyer in which case you only need to put 10% down. But even a 10% down payment is prohibitively expensive in a city where the average income is less than €40,000 and the average house price is €383,000. It isn’t hard to see that that math just doesn’t work for most people.

It just doesn’t seem fair to me. The Dublin housing market seems open to only the rich and well-established. Young people just starting out can’t afford to buy. Single people (like me) who might be just fine with a one-bedroom are being discriminated against because they can actually live with less than two bedrooms. Oh, and Ireland will only mortgage you to the age of 70, so it’s also ageist. If you are over 40 the cost of your monthly mortgage payments will be significantly higher than one might be planning because you won’t be able to get a 30-year mortgage.

I finally live somewhere where I actually want to buy a place. Someplace that I want to make my “forever” home. And I’m being met with obstacle after obstacle. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. And it’s left me feeling rather lost. I’m not sure what to do next. I’m taking a break from my search over the holidays but I’m not hopeful that things will go any better in 2020.

 

Citizenship Not Denied …

In my last post, I wrote about the court ruling here in Ireland that said the continuous residency requirement for those applying for Irish citizenship meant that the applicant could not leave the country at all for the year previous to their application. This threw things into chaos for many people whose qualification for citizenship was now being called into question. Thankfully, earlier this month that finding was overturned. In the ruling, the original judgement was called “unworkable, overly literal, unduly rigid and gives rise to an absurdity“. Citizenship ceremonies that had been postponed until this appeal ruling are now back on and more personally, I am now back on track with my dream of getting Irish citizenship.

It’s still a bit unclear how the continuous residency requirement will be interpreted but most feel it will go back to applicants being allowed to be out of the country for up to six weeks in the twelve months before their application. For most people this probably doesn’t sound like a difficult requirement but when I sat down to “do the math”, I realized that it’s going to be harder than I thought. I think that being an expat, and specifically an expat in Europe, where travel is so easy, means those six weeks can add up very quickly.

Since my return to Dublin in April I have traveled to Denmark to celebrate my birthday with a friend, to Normandy for a wedding, to Annecy for work, to Sheffield for work, to London to see a West End show, to the States to visit family, to Toulouse for work, to Paris for work, and then I leave in a couple weeks for my annual Christmas trip back to the States. So, I am well over the six week mark – and this was a year that I didn’t really take a “real vacation”. Haha!

I love that the expat life I live involves so much travel that I don’t even consider a weekend in London or Denmark “real” travel. I love that the industry I work in involves traveling. I love the ease of traveling throughout Europe because I am already privileged to possess an EU passport. But I’m willing to sacrifice some of my travel in the coming year in order to earn my Irish citizenship. It could be tricky though. There is some travel I already have planned – I’ve got a “real vacation” booked that will take me to Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, there’s my annual work trip to Annecy and I need to visit my family in the States in the summer and at Christmas. That brings me to 38 days of travel, out of an allowable 42. I’ll probably need to skip some work trips next year. There’ll be no quick jaunts to London to take in a show. No visits to Paris to see my friends there. My trip home for Christmas will need to be shorter than I would like. But all of that is okay.

I am so very lucky that this life I live involves so much travel. I realize what a privilege that is. But it’s also a great privilege to become a citizen of this country that I’ve grown to love. So, I’ll keep the travel to less than six weeks in order to make yet another dream come true.

 

 

Citizenship denied?

I’ve been back in Dublin for three months now and it’s been pretty great. Work is crazy and exciting and I love it. Though I miss my Paris friends, I love being back with my Dublin tribe. I love the apartment I’m renting and am now even looking for a place to buy. So, obviously, there’s a lot to love, and I’m confident that I made the right decision in returning.

I feel like Ireland is home and because it’s now home, I want to be an Irish citizen. Getting my Irish citizenship has always been part of my plan, even though I technically don’t need it. I have Italian citizenship and since Ireland and Italy are both part of the European Union, I can live and work here without a visa. So, Irish citizenship is more of a want for me than a need.

But this past week there was a crazy court ruling stating that an individual has to be physically in Ireland continuously for the entire year previous to submitting their application. That means one can’t venture outside Ireland for even ONE DAY or they risk their citizenship being denied. That’s insane. Such a stipulation had always been part of the citizenship criteria but applicants could be outside Ireland for up to six weeks in that last year. This interpretation of the law is almost laughably literal.

Except that for many, it isn’t the least bit funny. People, including myself, have to travel for work. There are at least three work trips I need to take each year, often many, many more. I literally cannot do my job if I am not allowed to travel outside the country. And this also means there’s no visiting family or friends who live outside Ireland. You couldn’t leave to attend a wedding, no Christmas visits and god forbid there’s a funeral. And then there’s travel just for travel’s sake. My citizenship is going to be denied because there are other places in this world I want to explore?! I honestly get claustrophobic just thinking about not being able to travel anywhere for an entire year.

So, I just won’t get my Irish citizenship. As I said, I don’t need it. But there are a lot of people who do and this strict interpretation is going to seriously impact their lives. Many people need their Irish citizenship to stay in the country, never mind that they’ve earned it. So, it’s either rearrange your life for the next year, if you can – or don’t become an Irish citizen. For many, that’s an impossible choice.

It’s widely assumed that this ruling is going to be overturned on appeal but after Trump and Brexit, I’ve learned that one cannot assume such things. Trump and Brexit have also let loose a staggering amount of anti-immigrant rhetoric and downright racism. The new wildly racist, Trump-coined catchphrase making its way across America is “Send her back!”. Isn’t that just lovely, in a skin-crawling, rage-inducing kind of way? I like to think that Ireland is above this, but I also thought that there was no way Trump would get elected or that the UK would vote to leave the EU.

So, until and if this ruling is overturned my dream of Irish citizenship is on hold. I can deal with it but I am truly concerned for those who can’t.

There’s a petition making the rounds here. Please consider signing it if you are so inclined.

How Lucky I Am…

Today is my last day in Paris.

It’s hard to believe that my little Parisian adventure is coming to an end, and yet, here I am. I’m feeling a bit wobbly about it all. I’ve cried more than a few times this week as I thought about leaving. The horrific fire at Notre Dame on Monday certainly stirred up my feelings of love for this city but I’d been having a hard time even before that. Honestly, it’s not unlike how I was feeling about Dublin when I was getting ready to move to Paris. So, this is kind of just what I do. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m still excited to be moving back to Dublin. Professionally, it’s an absolute no-brainer that Dublin is where I belong and where this next part of my career will thrive. I’m returning to my beloved Dublin neighborhood of Ranelagh, and actually, in a funny twist, I’ll be living in the apartment complex I lived in during my first year in Dublin. Personally, it’s a mixed bag – I have wonderful friends in Dublin that I’m so happy to get back to, but I’m leaving behind some equally wonderful friends in Paris. They actually surprised me with an early birthday celebration on Friday, so they aren’t making leaving any easier that’s for sure.

But as I reflect on this past year, what I truly feel is grateful. Living in Paris has been a dream of mine for such a long time and I actually made that dream come true. How many people can say that? Living here certainly came with challenges – French bureaucracy’s reputation is well-earned and my struggles with the language never got any easier. But everyday I was astounded and humbled by the beauty of this city. The French people were, for the most part, very kind and very welcoming. And don’t even get me started on the wine and the cheese.

So tomorrow as I lock up the apartment I have loved living in this past year, as I leave the city I have called home, I am sure I will shed more than a few tears. But that means to me that this time in Paris had meaning, that this time in Paris had an impact on me, that this time in Paris was very, very special.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 -A.A.  Milne

 

My Paris, in pictures…

I’m heading to Dublin tomorrow (pretty apropos for St. Paddy’s Day, huh?!) for the next phase of my move. I have so much going on right now that most of the time I’m not sure if I’m coming or going. Amidst all the chaos of moving, I’m trying to find time to reflect on this past year in Paris and to enjoy the time I have left here – easier said than done when your to-do list has a to-do list. There are so many things that I am going to miss once I leave, things that are more about living here. So, I’ve started to take pictures of them…

 

This is the view from my window. This Indian restaurant is the closest thing I’ve got to a local in Paris. I order from here far too often, but it’s so good. They know my regular order, they wave to me when they see me in my window, they always include a little something free in my order, and when I opt to eat in the restaurant, there is always a free liquer to finish off the meal. I shall miss my Taj Mahal.

 

The beauty of this picture may be lost on my American readers but those in Europe will understand the absolute luxury it has been to have a separate washer and dryer, and brand new to boot! I have an older combo washer/dryer in my new Dublin apartment and it’ll do the trick but I’m fully aware that my clothes will now be “dry” rather than actually dry.

 

This little nook is my favorite spot in my Paris apartment. It’s just so cute, and French. It fills me with joy on a daily basis.

 

This is my neighborhood bodega – the new yorker in me doesn’t know what else to call it. It’s right across the street from my place and is great for those quick items when I don’t want to go all the way (meaning, to the end of my block) to the grocery store. I can literally run down to buy a quick snack (or bottle of wine) during a commercial break on the telly. And the two men who work there are so sweet. I love little shops like this.

 

There are no less than three boulangeries within a one block radius of my apartment but this one is by far the best. The line to get a baguette is often out the door. Baguettes are a way of life in Paris – not a great thing for someone like me who tries to eat low carb, but I shall miss them nonetheless.

 

The waiters here are dicks in the way only french waiters can be but the food is really good and I’ve had so many meals here with friends from all over the world, as well as on my own. Lots of wonderful memories here, just not of the waiters. It’s also got the best terrace on Rue Cler.

And speaking of Rue Cler…

My absolutely favorite street in Paris. End of.

 

Also on Rue Cler, the waiters at Cafe Roussillon are definitely not dicks. This restaurant is also where I randomly met someone (okay I was being nosy and honed in on her conversation with her husband) who has become a dear friend, so I’ve got a special fondness for this place because of that synchronous meeting. (Fun fact, when he is not in the Elysees Palace, Macron lives just a couple doors down from here.)

 

The produce in the actual grocery stores is pretty lackluster but I love my fruit and veggie shop on Rue Cler.

 

I always like to have fresh cut flowers in my home, preferably tulips if they are in season. I’m in my flower shop on Rue Cler nearly every week. They always ask if the flowers are a gift and I always answer that they are un cadeau pour moi – a gift for me, which they certainly are.


My fromagerie on Rue Cler. It’s not just cheese, it’s art.

 

This sweet little cafe is where me and the friend I met at Roussillon have spent many an hour chatting about nearly everything. It’s teeny tiny and super cosy and they have really good, cheap food.

 

The wine selection at my local grocery store. Yes, I can buy wine at grocery stores in Dublin, but…

… I certainly won’t be getting any bottle of Côtes du Rhône for €4. Let’s face it, I won’t be getting a bottle of any wine for €4 in Dublin. My palette has become much more selective regarding wine after a year in Paris and I fear that once I’m back in Dublin, my wallet will feel the greatest impact.

 

And then there’s this beauty who still takes my breath away every time I see her. It’s been a dream come true to live so close to her this past year.

I will miss her, however, this is not au revoir, but rather, a bientôt.

Time To Go…

Do you follow Quinn Cummings on twitter? If not, you should. Some may remember her as a child actor nominated for an Oscar for The Goodbye Girl but now she’s a writer – a good one. She writes threads on twitter she calls “small stories” and recently she posted one about about how there are two types of people: Stays and Gos.

The Stays do exactly that, they stay. Stays will “arrange to spend their lives within forty-five minutes of the house in which they grew up. If forced to leave for reasons beyond their control, they will spend their lives trying to get back.” That’s not a bad thing. The author herself is an undeniable Stay and happy with that. And then there are the Gos, the people who live their lives with wanderlust blueballs.

I was a Go even before I became an expat. I never tire of traveling and there are few places in the world I don’t have a desire to visit. I’ve been moving around, chasing various dreams, since college. If I spend too long in one place, I get itchy.

Exactly one year ago today, this Go moved to Paris. It’s been an amazing year, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s something I absolutely needed to do, a dream that needed fulfilling. But I had always said that I was only committing to Paris for one year and as the end of this year approached, I was really struggling to understand where I belong. But I think I’ve figured it out.

I belong in Dublin.

That’s right, I’m moving back. There are a bunch of reasons, both professional and personal, as to why this makes this makes sense for me. None of the reasons are because I’ve fallen out of love with Paris. Quite the contrary. I love this city more than ever. It’s been such a privilege to live here. The thought of leaving my apartment, my neighborhood and of course, my friends, literally brings me to tears. But I have struggled to feel a sense of belonging this past year and this whole time it’s like Dublin has been tapping me on my shoulder, reminding me it’s still around, ready for me whenever I’m ready.

Well, I’m ready. And hard as it is going to be to leave Paris, the thought of returning to Dublin fills me with such joy and excitement.

So, for this Go, it’s time to go again. Who knows? Maybe once I’m back in Dublin I’ll turn into a Stay.

Yeah. Probably not.

 

The Beauty Of Our Dreams…

It’s a New Year. And whether we like it or not, it’s a time to reflect on the year that has past and the one that looms ahead.

On a macro level, 2018 was pretty much a shit show. I worked myself up into more than one tizzy because of the bloated orange asshole in the White House. I’ve had to stop letting it slide when I come face-to-face with one of his supporters. We are two years in now and, I’m sorry, but if you still support him then you are a racist, and also an idiot. The grace period is over on that one, as far as I’m concerned. And then there’s Brexit, too many natural disasters to count, way too many mass shootings, climate change, North Korea, the war in Syria, the genocide in Yemen… it’s a lot. And it all sucks.

But on a micro level, for me personally, 2018 was kind of cool. I realized a long-held dream to live in Paris. I traveled to Japan, the place that’d been number one on my travel bucket list for quite a while. I was nominated for an Emmy and, at the last minute, decided to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles. I finally got to see “Hamilton” (three times!) and “Dear Evan Hansen”.

Lots of my dreams were fulfilled in 2018. Mostly because I made them happen. I’ve never been one to sit around and wait for my dreams to come true – I’m a bit more action-oriented than that. But still, to have actualized so many of my dreams in 2018 was pretty cool.

I’m already at work on making things happen, dream-wise, in 2019. And I hope you are too. The world is a dumpster fire right now. When there is so much to feel hopeless about, our dreams are more important than ever. If we don’t have our dreams, if we don’t work to make them a reality, then what’s the point really?

Eleanor Roosevelt managed to say it far more eloquently that I could ever hope to:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

It’s a New Year. Your dreams are beautiful. Believe in them. Make them happen.