That’s right. We are moving back to Ireland. When we announced this to our Irish family and friends, even though they were happy to see us back, we got a good few negative reactions. “Are yis mad?”, “You’ll never find a job” and “You’ll never be able to buy a house”. First lesson learned – Not letting any of this get to us.
-Ireland, the first time around-
I met the Irish boy in 2007 on my last night in Sydney, Australia. Apparently we’d met the May before but my recollection of this is very vague. I blame the Irish pub we were in. I moved back to Belgium, he moved to Ireland and somehow we made “us” work. After flying back and forth for a year, I moved to Ireland in the midst of the recession in 2008. Being picky with jobs, the first years, my career was non-existent. A few temping jobs here and there and staying home were the standard. We managed through, with him working a full-time job and never had to give up any of life’s little luxuries. But, the atmosphere in Ireland was dire at times. Companies kept going bankrupt, friends kept losing their jobs and struggling to pay their mortgages. At the end of 2011, we looked into emigrating again.
So, as you do, you go for the Golden Land: Australia. A job offer and a few grand paid to an emigration agency later, we found ourselves at the brink of leaving. I always enjoyed living in Ireland, but my other half was not enjoying living in his home country as much any more. Then Australia didn’t go through: the potential employer got scared by all the paperwork and administration, so he cancelled it. The fee we paid the emigration agency was, off course, non-refundable, so a few quid lighter we looked at the next option: Belgium, my home country.
A job was found, so was the apartment, so in November 2011 we moved. 15 months later we leave again and are chuffed to move to Ireland. Don’t get me wrong: we really enjoyed our time here. I’m under the impression that leaving is considered ‘failing’ in some people’s view. What we know now, is that we can look back with no regrets, no need for “What if’s” and that we got to spend well over a year close to my family and friends. Himself learned Dutch, which is the first other language he ever learned and which was an experience he really enjoyed. But, from the start, it felt like something wasn’t right, here for us. Flemish people are friendly but reserved. A tad coolish even. Administration is a nightmare. Road aggression a standard. What got to us most, is the lack of open space… Every village just runs into the next one, passes through a city, to go into another village. For open nature, a feeling of freedom, it takes a 3 hour drive. Built-up is the new living. Then came a wedding in Ireland, in October. Warm people, great craic, driving on tiny ieny roads. It made us wonder. And so, it came, would we go back? Once the suggestion was spoken out loud, the decision was irreversible. There was no turning back.
-The happy return-
As I’m writing this, I’m living my last week in Belgium. Himself has been over since the start of February, and is happily working away. I look forward to leaving. Things in Belgium have scared me: as a nation, the country has become very short-sighted and intolerant. Driving to work is a challenge every day with traffic jams and road aggression. Mind, Ireland has its downsides as well but, all in all, Ireland “wins” for us. Irish people find it hard to believe, but we had a much higher quality of life and money lasts a lot longer. The wages are higher then they are in Belgium, but your average shopping cart costs the same. Women staying at home with the kids in Belgium is financially impossible. Yes, Belgian wages are taxed more heavily, but you do get a lot more in return, which brings me to the only 2 reasons why I’m *not* happy to move back to Ireland: healthcare and education. It lacks behind, by a long way. But, considering the rest, I’ll happily overlook this, trying not to get sick too often and just teach the kids some languages at home. It will all turn out grand I reckon. In return we’ll get unspoilt landscapes, great craic, warm and friendly people.
So, here’s an opposite story. Instead of fleeing Ireland, we return. And we’re fecking delighted too.