New to the Parish: ‘I wasn’t expecting Ireland to be so colourful’

Beatriz Ageno says the Irish sense of humour is just like the Chilean, and it was the charm of a Finglas man that enticed her to move here

Beatriz Ageno, an American-Chilean from San Francisco, met her Irish fiancé while working in Italy. The pair moved to Dublin in 2014 to start a business. “We kept hearing about this dynamic energy happening in Ireland … we had fear of missing out.”

 

Beatriz Ageno: arrived from Florence, 2014

Chilean and Irish people have more in common than they realise, says Beatriz Ageno. The American-Chilean says the Irish sense of humour is a warm reminder of her South American roots. “You must have a thick skin in Chile and an ironic sense of humour. I love it here because it’s really similar to Chilean humour.”

Ageno also draws parallels between her hometown of San Francisco and Dublin, which she says is becoming a dynamic place to live. “[Dublin] reminds me a lot of San Francisco in the 1980s,” she says. “There were parts of San Francisco that were dangerous or rundown, and you wouldn’t go there. Then all of a sudden the tech boom happened and now San Francisco is a super-rich and wealthy city. I feel like Dublin is experiencing that.”

Ageno was born in California to Chilean emigrants and grew up speaking Spanish and English. Her parents worked long hours in the hotel industry to ensure Ageno, her identical twin sister and their younger brother were given every opportunity in life. While studying at the University of California, Davis, Ageno spent a semester in Italy, where she became “addicted” to travel.

Luck was on her side: soon after graduating she was offered a job working for the travel company Backroads.

“I got paid to travel the world and ride my bike. I was very nomadic and lived out of a suitcase. When I was in Italy we lived in a crash pad, like what they have for flight attendants.”

After four years in Florence, Ageno met Keith Beggs, a fellow biking enthusiast who would eventually introduce her to life in Ireland.

“I fell in love with him right away. He was really charming and funny and I have to admit, his accent completely did it for me. He’s also really cute.”

Ageno says her boyfriend, who is from Finglas in Dublin, warned her on her first visit to Ireland to expect a grey country. She was pleasantly surprised. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so colourful: all the beautiful Georgian doors and the lights in the city.”

Italian grandfather

After the couple got engaged, they decided it was time to lay down some roots. They briefly considered moving to California, but, given that Ageno was already entitled to a European passport because of her Italian grandfather, the couple instead headed to Ireland in March 2014.

Despite the struggles of finding work and an affordable home, Ageno quickly settled into life in a city that she says is brimming with enthusiasm.

“I’m really impressed by young people in Ireland; they’re different from older generations, their parents and grandparents. They’re going abroad, coming back to Ireland and becoming entrepreneurs. They’re opening up interesting places to eat. They’re bringing all these new ethnicities here and it’s becoming very diverse. They’re really taking this country forward.”

Ageno says the energetic Yes campaign for May’s same-sex marriage referendum revealed Irish people’s determination to create positive change for the nation.

“The younger generation is doing something here in Dublin. It’s not changing it completely to the point where it’s losing itself, but it’s making people happy and excited and confident for the future.”

Ageno works for a HR company and keeps busy in her spare time by helping Beggs to develop the Adventure Rooms escape game, which he launched in Dublin earlier this year. The game, created by a science teacher in Switzerland, involves being locked into a room and using logic, creativity and general knowledge to find a way out. Ageno is looking forward to getting married next year.

She misses her parents and siblings. “I try not to let sad thoughts creep into my head too much, and I’m really grateful that modern technology like Facetime, Facebook and Skype make it so easy to connect. It’s hard missing parties and birthdays. I’d be lying if I said I was immune to those emotions. Anyone who lives far from home knows what I’m talking about.”

Ageno recognises how lucky she is to be marrying a man who is also an identical twin, and who thus can relate to the pain of being so far away from the person who has known you “from the very first second of your life”.

“Even though I have my days where I feel very homesick or miss my family, I just have to shake that off and think, You know what, I’m stupidly lucky and I have lived an incredible life.”

  • We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past five years. To get involved, email newtotheparish@irishtimes.com
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