Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Confessions of an ‘emigration junkie’

Will I ever be able to kick this obsession with reading stories about emigrants like me, wonders Niall McArdle

Wed, Jul 3, 2013, 00:01


Niall McArdle

I should never have gone back home to Dublin for a visit. No, I should, of course. I had to. I wanted to. But the stay was too short and the emotions it stirred too deep. I returned to Canada after that trip, buried myself in work and tried to shake off the fresh bout of homesickness, but it was hard.

I took part in an emigrant voices sound-art project, talked and wrote an article about living Over Here and how I felt about Back There, and I thought that it would be enough. I thought it would get all the rose-tinted nostalgia out of my system.

It didn’t work. It only made the longing for home worse. So now I slake that thirst with tales from other Irish emigrants, in DubaiNew Zealand, South America, Nepal…  We’re everywhere! I trawl the web for stories about emigration the way old biddies scour the obituaries looking to see which of their friends has died.

I’ve become an Emigration Junkie. I’m addicted to Generation Emigration and WorldIrish , and like a junkie I need my daily fix. Survey about the emigrant experience?  Sign me up. Ways You Know You’re Irish. Hit me. Proper Irish rain?  Fantastic.

In the ten years I’ve been away, I’ve tried to keep up with the news from Ireland, the good and the bad. I fire off the odd letter to the editor and follow all sorts of Irishness on Twitter. But it’s not enough, apparently. I love where I live now – even if people don’t always know how to say my name – and for the first few years I didn’t miss Guinness or the 46A or the begrudgery at all.

I live in a truly wonderful place: a multicultural society that is open in a way Ireland never could be, with more opportunities than Ireland could ever offer. The people are friendly. The scenery is breathtaking.

And it’s cool. It’s the home of the first man to tweet as Gaeilge from outer space. It’s given the world Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, which more than adequately compensates for giving us Celine Dion and Nickelback.

As amazing as Canada is, and as much I love it here, the tug across the ocean is strong. I don’t think of myself as an immigrant in Canada. I still think of myself as an emigrant out of Ireland. I swore I wouldn’t do this. I swore I wouldn’t become one of those expats who whine about how they can’t get decent tea. At this point more people must complain about not being able to get Barry’s than actually drink it.

Does this feeling ever go away? I have a life and friends here, but will I ever feel the way Patrick McKenna does when he says he no longer feels lost in Montreal? As I look for my next fix I wonder: Will I ever be able to kick this habit?