Archive for February, 2010
1. The post office does a lot more than send the mail. Need to collect your social welfare payment? Want to pay your utility bill? Grab some money out of your bank account? Apply for a passport? You can take care of all of that at the post.
2. Debit cards are called Laser cards, and they’re way more secure. Instead of swiping your card through the machine and getting a receipt back right away at the store; the clerk takes your card, puts it into this card reader that is bolted to the counter, pushes a button, then swivels the card reader toward you. It asks for your PIN. The clerk typically asks if you want cash back. Since it takes a little longer to complete the transaction, you can use the grocery store as an ATM, purchasing a pack of gum and €40 cash.
3. Unless you actually share a room, it’s not roommate, it’s flatmate.
4. If you stay in the same job, you don’t have to do taxes every year. My understanding of this is still a little sketchy, but here’s how I’ve come to understand income taxes here: When you quit your job, you get a P-45. It’s sort of like the American W-2, but instead of sending it to the IRS, you give it to your next employer. They use that form to figure out how much money you made in your last job and tax you the appropriate amount. No more annual income tax forms.
5. The days get brighter here way faster than they do back in Minnesota.
6. Everything about cell phones is better here. Most people aren’t locked into a two-year contract here. They exist, but most people go for the pay-as-you-go option. Within an hour of arriving in Galway last November, I walked down Shop Street, walked into the Meteor store, told the guy I wanted the cheapest phone and a €20 top-up, and I was using my phone in ten minutes. “Topping up” is what it’s called when you add credit to your phone. You buy a code, then you call a number on your phone, enter that code and the credit is instantly added. You can seemingly do it everywhere. At the ATM? They’ve got an option to withdraw cash or to top up. Buying groceries? Tell the cashier you want to top up. They even have top-up vending machines all over. To encourage customers to keep topping up, most carriers incentivize topping up by €20. For Meteor, when I top up by €20 I get free calls and texts to other Meteor customers for a month. How do you know who other Meteor customers are? It’s right there in the area code. All Meteor customers have phone numbers that start with 085. O2 customers’ phone numbers start with 086, and Vodaphone numbers start with 087.
7. Gender roles are much more institutionalized here. My evidence of this is only anecdotal, but you can even look in the Irish constitution to find evidence of sexism. Here’s what I’ve found: While job hunting, more than one store manager told me, “Oh, we only hire women here.” I work in the stock room at my current job, so lifting heavy things comes with the territory. But I can’t tell you how many times a (male) supervisor will approach me to ask if I can bring these ten boxes of pillows upstairs for his (female) employees. “I don’t want the girls to have to lift those [5 pound] boxes,” he’ll explain to me. I have no problem doing it, but that attitude is new to me.
8. When they want to get something done, Irish people walk really, really fast.
9. McDonald’s are way classier over here. They’ve also got way better apple pies. Instead of having the slits in the apple pie and a cinnamon dusting, these babies are just one solid mass that’s been deep fried and put under a heat lamp so the outside is reasonably warm but the inside holds a scalding hot, molten apple mixture that tastes so good you can’t help but burn your mouth to eat it.
10. They don’t have stick deodorant for men. Only that spray on stuff. They don’t call it Axe over here though. It’s called Lynx. So much do I miss the stick deodorant, I asked my coworker who is currently on holiday in Boston to pick me up two sticks to bring back with her. I can’t wait until she gets back. Then I won’t have to feel like I’m getting ready for the junior high dance every morning when I get ready.
Moving to Ireland has fundamentally challenged the way I think about my spirituality. Although I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic college, I have had trouble acknowledging any influence on my life by some higher power. But its become hard to deny that along every step of the way, I’ve felt guided to move to Ireland. A voice kept popping up in my head. “Keep fighting,” it said.
This month last year I lost my job. I endured a month of unemployment. What was already by design a difficult time became almost unbearable as I watched the majority of my “move to Ireland” savings deplete while I paid my relatively large college loan payment, my rent and my utility bills. I was crushed and started seriously doubting this pipe dream of mine would actually happen. Around the same time I was filing my taxes for the first time as an independent — my parents had been claiming me as a dependent until I graduated. By some fantastic timing, the week I realized the state of my finances wouldn’t allow me to move to Ireland was the same week I saw that my first big tax return would bring my savings back its original level (and then some). “You can still do this,” The Universe seemed to say to me.
Still I had to wait for my Irish citizenship to arrive, so I applied for jobs at a local staffing agency. I was expecting the sort of soul-crushing data-entry type job to tide me over until I could move abroad. Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned an opportunity to work for the state’s largest media outlet. While I was working at the newspaper I had the opportunity to work with real life journalists (they’re an endangered species nowadays, you know). I got paid to use Facebook and Twitter on behalf of my employer. They even let me produce some videos. I know it’s a cliché to say this, but it really was a dream come true. It was a little too good, though. I started to imagine myself there long term, moving from contractor to full-timer. When an employee left the company for another job, I started to fantasize about filling the newly vacant position. Thoughts of Ireland started to fade out. Then, like a rude awakening, the company announced layoffs. The open position would not be filled. I wouldn’t be anything more than a contractor for the foreseeable future. “Move to Ireland,” The Universe seemed to be saying to me. “Not just someday, right now. Need some incentive? Here’s a free plane ticket.” Of course, that last part wasn’t The Universe, but my friend Angela, who gave me a ticket voucher that expired in two weeks. I turned in my notice and moved.
Upon arriving, I had my doubts. Here’s something I haven’t confessed anyone yet, but on my first night here I laid awake in bed, jet-lagged and emotional, thinking “What the hell have I done?” I was paralyzed by fear. That fear brought me awfully close to the precipice of failure. In fact, I was starting to look at plane tickets back home when my parents offered to pay my December loan payments as my Christmas gift. “One last push,” The Universe seemed to be saying to me. It was right: I started my next round of résumé drops the next day and got a job right away.
Fast forward to the last week. Two and a half months in retail was not exactly what I envisioned when I moved here, much less when I got my college degree. It’s okay though, because my new best friend The Universe had a plan for me. By an equally fantastic coincidence, I got an “in” at a dream job in Dublin. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the Dublin office of a major multinational tech company interviewing for a job. I took a bus out to Dublin a night early so I would be well rested. Walking around the city, I realized that this was where The Universe was sending me next. Dublin is in the midst of recruiting some major corporations to set up their EU headquarters in Ireland, and they’ve succeeded. Google, Facebook, eBay/PayPal, Citi and a plethora of other companies have set up offices in this really neat tech sector of Dublin. It’s sort of like the silicon valley of Europe. The Universe was sending me to here, and I was pretty happy about it. It didn’t just feel like a good decision, it felt like it was what I was meant to do. But then a funny thing happened. I didn’t get the job.
I fumbled in the interview. It wasn’t a disaster, just not the stellar interview I expected of myself. Now I have these conflicting issues pulling at me. On one hand, I’ve made it to Galway and I’m employed in a secure job. No easy feat, considering this country is in the midst of its worst economic recession in a generation. But I can’t deny that the same voice that told me to move to Ireland is telling me to go to Dublin. And who am I to question The Universe? Now I’ve just got to figure out a new way to get there.