American Expat Living in Ireland - Interview with Colleen

Published: 19 Dec at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Ireland
Colleen just realized that this past Thanksgiving was her 11th one spent outside the United States. She has been living in Ireland since 2005. She married a Kerryman in 2007, has two children and currently lives on the Dingle Peninsula. Her family plan to move back to Maine in 2015 and are excited and nervous about a new adventure. Colleen's expat blog is called A Mainer in the Maharees (see listing here)

Lads inspecting the fields
Lads inspecting the fields

Here's the interview with Colleen...

Where are you originally from?
I was born outside Boston but grew up in Maine in Cape Elizabeth. It's a beautiful small town on the ocean.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am about 2 hours from the closet city! I live in Kilshannig, Castlegregory, Co. Kerry in the south west of Ireland.

How long have you lived in Ireland and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved out here from Tralee, which is about 20 km away, over three years ago. We are planning on moving back to the US next year but will keep the house so we can come back at some point.

View of the Maharees from the Connor Pass
View of the Maharees from the Connor Pass
Why did you move to Ireland and what do you do?
My husband grew up out here. It is a beautiful sandy spit surrounded by sand dunes and ocean. There are seven small islands off the coast called the Maharees and so the area is known as the 'Maharees'. I worked for the local government based in Tralee, running a community regeneration programme but left after having my second child. I now hang out on the beach with my two children and manage a small holiday property.

Did you bring family with you?
I was single when I first left the US and lived in New Zealand. I moved to Ireland by myself as well.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I had spent my junior year studying at Trinity College in Dublin and this is a great way to experience living in a foreign country in a relatively easy way. It made me want to travel and live abroad again once I graduated.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I traveled to New Zealand with a boyfriend and that probably made it a little more difficult to meet people as we were together all the time. Hostels and backpackers are a great way for some people to make friends but I found them a little bit intimidating. Work has always been the easiest way for me to meet people.

Kilshannig in the distance
Kilshannig in the distance
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is plenty of tourist information online about the Dingle Peninsula and traveling around Ireland is very easy. We are in a remote spot and water sports are very popular as well as hiking.

What do you enjoy most about living in Ireland?
I love the peace and quiet and relaxed lifestyle. It's not that different from Maine in some ways but the beaches are completely empty most of the time and the coast line is much more accessible because no one can restrict access to the beach.

How does the cost of living in Ireland compare to home?
It's cheaper to live here but Ireland on the whole is an expensive place to live and there is certainly not a lot of earning potential in rural Kerry.

Beatiful beach west of Dingle
Beatiful beach west of Dingle
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Ireland?
The basic public services are not great and the healthcare system (while very affordable) is a bit dodgy.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Ireland, what would it be?
Irish people are very friendly but it can take a while to really get to know them and they are not as forthcoming as Americans so try not to take it personally if it takes a while to be accepted into a small community.My advice is to take your time with people and have a sense of humor!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest part has been having two children and being really on my own with no family or close friends with young children. It's very difficult working and taking care of babies with no network to help you along the way.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think it will be a big readjustment. There are little things in the culture and attitude that I think will be hard to get used to again. It feels at times like people compete to see who's busier in the States and everyone is so focused on labeling people by profession or class. No one here ever asks "What do you do?" straight after meeting you and you could spend all night talking to someone in the pub without it ever being asked.

Horses coming to visit
Horses coming to visit
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Try not to have too many expectations for your expat experience. Plans made from another country over the computer just don't work out very well.
  2. It is tiring and stressful getting used to living in a new country and if a new language is thrown in, I am sure it's that much harder so cut yourself some slack and don't try to do everything at once.
  3. Studying in a country is a great way to get acclimated and make your qualifications more relevant for the job market if you want to move somewhere and can't get hired from abroad.
  4. Bring the originals and copies of certain documents with you as well as scanning them online - birth certificate, college transcripts, trade qualifications, letters of reference, baptismal certificates, etc all come in very handy.
  5. I would try and make connections with people from the local area through work, hobbies, etc rather than socialize completely with expats. Expats are a great support and wealth of information but you won't have the same experience and it will be harder to integrate if the locals see you as only interested in other expats.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I have been writing stories on and off for years and decided (again) to try and get in the habit of writing regularly and it made sense to write about living in Ireland.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted through my blog 'A Mainer in the Maharees' by anyone looking for information or advice about living in Ireland.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingColleen is an American expat living in Ireland. Blog description: A Maine girl writing from West Kerry, Ireland
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