Where’s home for emigrants?
Irish people who have moved abroad explain their complicated relationship with homes old and new
EOGHAN McHUGH (above), who is 39 and originally from Dublin, works for a software company in Seattle
“Home is where I pay property tax and water charges. Home is where my city provides and maintains beautiful parks, playgrounds, tennis courts and ball fields. Home is where local teenagers actually use the parks, swim in the lakes, shoot hoops. Home is not where the few playgrounds that exist are vandalised and littered with the detritus of cider parties.
“I miss my family, but we always talk. The grannies can still dial a local number; it’s just ringing thousands of miles away. I miss my oldest friends, but we have lots of new ones. I miss Club Milks and batter burgers, but I will survive.
“Home is where you are from, and it’s also where you are. I love my home.”
ANNE REID, who is 26, has lived in five countries in six years. She is now based in the French city of Lyons, where she is a translator and interpreter
Home is somewhere that’s never too far from the sea. Home isn’t particularly cold, but you always have your scarf with you, just in case. Home is where you’ll always bump into someone you know.
“Home is where you meet someone for a coffee at three in the afternoon, and get home at three in the morning. Home is where you don’t need to explain your jokes and you can slag someone without them taking offence. Home is where you laugh and laugh and laugh.
“Home is where you feel guilty: guilty for being a bad daughter, guilty for not spending more time with elderly relatives, guilty for being an absent friend.
“Home is where you become aware of everything you’ve missed – the gigs, the nights out, the holidays with friends – and realise that they’re all getting on without you.
“Home is where you fall apart and save face in equal measure. You let on you live an enviable life abroad, but, in reality, coming home is when you can stop being strong all the time.
“Home is the place from which you tried to escape as a teenager, and want to escape to as an adult. Home is not a house or a building but an atmosphere created by the people you love and who love you back. Home for me is Dublin, with all its rain, ‘wrappin’ pay-par’ and strolls on the strand. And my mammy.”
BRIGID REILLY, who is 28, moved to Perth in Australia with her boyfriend two years ago. She is a sales engineer
“As I remove my Christmas pudding gingerly from the cooker, made according to my mother’s recipe that she typed carefully in an email, the smell is glorious, and I can’t help but feel proud. I have created a little part of home for Christmas, and that makes me question: where in the world is home?
“Right now home is Perth, but my previous home for nine years was Dublin. And then home-home is Meath, where every field has a name and every defect in the house has a story. It is the sound of birds in the long summer evenings and kicking the ball around until it gets dark. It is the feeling I get on the bus from Dublin as it zooms along the windy, hilly stretch between Slane and Collon and you know you are nearly there.”