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.

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Dublin v. Paris…

I’ve lived in Paris for two months now and I’m settling in rather well. Though sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I do in fact actually live here.

Since this is my second expat experience, I can’t help but compare Paris with Dublin. I’m not talking about who has better museums or a more picturesque countryside. That’s a comparison of tourist attractions. I’m talking about how these two cities stack up against each other when it comes to LIVING in them.

Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:

  • People – You’d be hard-pressed to find a population nicer than the Irish. They exude friendliness and it was one of the things I knew I would miss most. But, surprisingly given their reputation, the Parisians I have encountered have been almost shockingly friendly to me. My french is, in a word, appalling, yet whenever I must apologize that I don’t understand something because I’m new in Paris, I don’t get eye rolls or corrections on my accent. Most often, they ask where I’m from and compliment me for at least trying to speak french. It was a surprise and it’s been nice.
  • Landlords – So, those friendly people I was talking about? Landlords are excluded from this category – in Dublin and in Paris. However, my situation in Dublin was especially dire and it was the greed of my landlords that ultimately had me decide to make the move to Paris. Parisian landlords aren’t much better but at least in Paris the laws favor the tenant, whereas in Dublin, tenants are pretty much shit out of luck.
  • Weather – No one moves to Dublin or Paris for the weather, and I’m one of the very few people who actually didn’t mind the weather in Dublin. This freak-show of a winter notwithstanding, it doesn’t get too cold and the summers don’t get too hot. Paris is much the same, though for me, I think the edge goes to Dublin because every year Paris has the canicules (heat waves) where the temperatures soar and everyone, especially the heat-averse moi, becomes pretty miserable.
  • Food – Everyone knows that Parisian food is ridiculously good. But, I’ve been struggling with the food in Paris this time around. Since I moved here I’ve adopted a reasonably strict LCHF (low carb, high fat) way of eating (and I’m down 20 pounds, yo!). In Dublin, I feel like there were more LCHF choices and that restaurants were more willing to make substitutions. In Paris, with the pastries and the bread and the frites and the… well, let’s just say eating low carb can be a challenge. And restaurants are less willing to sub out something like potatoes for a salad or some veggies. Thank goodness that wine and cheese are both gloriously low carb.
  • Ease of Travel – Ireland is an island. There’s no way around that. So, if you want to go somewhere you need to get on a plane. Paris is much better located as a travel hub and being able to take trains to places like London or Amsterdam is amazing. I feel like I have all of Europe within reach now that I am in Paris.
  • Amazon – I was addicted to ordering from Amazon when I lived in the States. Sadly, Dublin only has access to the UK Amazon and it’s therefore very limiting and very expensive. Now that I am in Paris, I am back to my old Amazon habits. I have my french Prime membership and order just about anything I need in the click of a button. Oh Amazon, how I missed you.
  • Time Zones – I know, I know, how can one time zone be better than another? Trust me, they SO can be. Paris is only one hour ahead of Dublin but I was shocked at how big a difference that hour made. I still work mostly with people in the GMT or EST time zones. I’m forever confusing my schedule because I don’t know if calls are set for GMT or CET. And being one hour later means I usually end up working an hour later. I’m a GMT gal all the way!
  • Transportation – Paris has this one down. Even in a spring that is set to be riddled with strikes, it is so easy to get around this city using public transportation. The metro is one of the best in the world. And I’ve recently overcome my bus phobia and now take the Paris busses BY MYSELF on a regular basis. Dublin, for a european capital, has always sadly lacked in the public transportation arena. Apparently the LUAS lines are now joined up – that only took about 15 years. I took a bus in Dublin once and feared for my life the entire time. Never. Again.
  • Coffee – Some might find this shocking but the coffee in Paris is average at best. For a coffee snob like myself that borders on the tragic. Dublin, though, had great coffee. How I wish I could walk to Nick’s in Ranelagh right now for an americano.

So there you have it – my initial take on little bits of living in each city. Two cities I love. Two cities that are “home”. So, who wins?

Me.

Walking on sunshine…

Today was a beautiful day in Dublin.  Quite possibly, the most lovely day weather-wise since my arrival in November. The bright blue sky was dotted with wispy white clouds. The breeze was gentle and refreshing. The sun shone so brightly that I actually had to put on sunglasses!

Irish and expats alike love to complain about the weather here in Dublin in much the same way Angelenos complain about traffic. I actually don’t mind the cool, wet weather here all that much. The winters are certainly nothing like what I grew up with in Buffalo. And, frankly, I grew to find “warm and sunny” in Los Angeles predictable and boring. But lately, even I have been bemoaning the rain and the cold.

And that made today that much sweeter.

When you can’t count on something regularly you are much less likely to take it for granted. Here in Dublin, we truly don’t know when the sun might next grace us with its presence. So, when it does pay us a visit it somehow means more. I think every resident of Dublin was outside today – sitting in the park behind my apartment watching the newly-hatched ducklings swim in the pond, watching the buskers on Grafton Street, enjoying outdoor seating at the cafes along Ranelagh’s main road…

Here in Dublin, we know to make a day like today count.  And that’s a good thing – because tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain.

The accent conundrum…

I’ve written a few posts on this blog concerning language and my experience with it as an expat, even though I live in an English-speaking country. Obviously, English is the predominant language in many countries, but in each of them it’s spoken just a bit differently.

There are, of course, different pronunciations: tomAHto vs. tomAYto, baaazel vs. BAYzel, fill-et vs. fill-lay.  But recently I have been thinking about a different language conundrum – that of the accent.  If I was living in a country where I’d also need to learn their language, part of that language learning would be spent in getting the accent correct.  When I am in Paris, I do my best to speak French with as close to a Parisian accent as possible – the fact that they switch to speaking English the second I start conversing leads me to believe I have a lot of work to do in this area, but I digress.

The point is, when we learn a new language, getting the accent correct is part of it.  But what am I supposed to do in Ireland?  Most of the American expats I’ve met still have their American accent no matter how long they’ve lived here.  And it doesn’t seem like people here are expecting me to learn how to speak with an Irish accent.  But why not?  Shouldn’t part of fitting into my new home be trying to sound like those around me?  Or is part of my identity so tied up in the accent with which I speak that I need to hang onto it with all my might?

Some American accents are nice, but mine is not one of them.  I speak very nasally with hard vowels – it’s not elegant, it’s not pretty.  And I love the Irish accent – I would be very happy to adopt it, or at least try to.  But I fear this would be met with derision and mockery by friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic.  Look at how people ridicule Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, and they’ve both lived in Britain for years now.

So, I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is that, even though I am living in Ireland, I’m supposed to keep sounding like an American.  And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

You say tomato, or is it trátaí?

As an expat in Dublin, I don’t have the added complication of living someplace where I don’t speak the language.  During the past four months, I have often thought about how much more isolating and difficult this transition would have been had I ended up in France or Italy.  This is one of the many reasons I am glad I landed in Dublin.

But while English is what is spoken here now, the native language is Irish.  Street signs are in English and Irish, announcements on the tram are in both languages, you can choose to speak to someone in Irish when calling a customer service number.

I’m rather fascinated by the Irish language.  Letter combinations don’t make the same sound they do in English – “rs” shounds like “sh”, “mh” sounds like a “v”.  And I can’t seem to wrap my brain or my mouth around how it all is supposed to work.

In a wine-filled discussion with some of my co-workers, they tried to explain (and diagram) the ins and outs of the language to me.  I came away with: The Finn McCool obstacle course mud run I did should have been spelled “Fionn MacCumhaill” and “an bhfuil cead agam dul go dti an leithreas” means “Can I go to the toilet?”  At least, I think it does.  As I said, there was wine involved.

It seems to me that there is a definite effort to keep the Irish language alive.  Even though I wonder if this effort may be in vain, I admire it.   My work friends tell me that Irish is a dead language, yet it seems to me they can all speak it at least on an elementary level, if not more.  And I think that’s pretty cool.

One of the things that really embarrasses me about America and our education system is it’s total lack of regard for any language other than English.  I have struggled for years to learn French and am now, at best, an intermediate speaker.  I have been close to tears in my Italian class as I try to learn the language of the country that granted me citizenship.  I truly regret not being taught a second and even a third language when I was young, when it would have been so much easier.

Irish may be a dying language.  It may no longer be necessary or relevant.  I won’t learn Irish simply by living in Dublin the way I might have learned French if I had moved to Paris.  But as long as I am living in this country, I will do my best to respect its native tongue – which probably means I should stop trying to write or speak it at all.

As the Irish say it…

While I am home for the holidays, people have, of course, had a lot of questions about life in Dublin.  Does it really rain all the time? (No, not ALL the time.)  Is the Guinness really better over there? (Yeah, pretty much.)  Do you go to the pub every night? (No, not EVERY night.)  What’s the food like? (Not all that different from America.  More curry, less mexican.)  Can you understand their accents?

That last question is an interesting one.  For the most part, I don’t have too hard a time understanding the Irish accent, though that can vary wildly from person to person.  And yes, they do speak English.  But it’s amazing how different the same language can be.

One of the things that has made my transition to Dublin a bit easier is the fact that English is Ireland’s predominantly spoken language.  Had I moved to France or Italy, I can imagine how much more isolated I would have felt, not being fluent in their language.  And I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be an expat in Japan or China, where even the alphabet is completely different.

But even though we supposedly speak the same language, some things do still get “lost in translation.”  Here are some of my favorite words that the Irish use:

Cheers – While we Americans use this word as a toast when clinking glasses, in Ireland it’s often used in place of “thank you.”

Grand – The Irish use this word the way I might use “okay” or “fine.”  “It’s grand” or “It’ll be grand” or just plain “grand” can be heard several times a day in my office.  I kind of love this and have started saying it myself.

Jumper – This is the Irish word for sweater.  Neither word makes all that much sense when you think about.  But a sweater sounds like something you sweat in, while a jumper sounds like something you jump in.  Which would you rather do?  This one goes to the Irish, I think.

Trainer – The Irish call sneakers trainers.  Makes more sense to me since one could actually train for something in them.  I suppose one could also sneak around in them, but again, this one goes to the Irish.

Touch wood – Americans say “knock on wood” for good luck.  The Irish say “touch wood.”  I’m sorry, I can’t help it but “touch wood” sounds vaguely sexual to me.

Hoover – The general catch-all word for vacuum cleaner.  Kind of like “kleenex” or “scotch tape.”

Fekkin’ – A more polite substitue for the actual f-bomb.  Quite possibly the best word ever.

I’m sure this list will grow as my time in Ireland does.  If you have any to add, please feel free to do so in the comments!