Ciara Kenny

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

In America, there’s no red card for self-belief

Being your own champion is critical to get ahead in the US, writes Eoin Cooper-Marsh

Sat, Jul 27, 2013, 18:15


Eoin Cooper-Marsh

I barely knew anyone when I arrived in the US in January, having left behind a job in Dublin. As tricky as that was to begin with, I saw it as an opportunity to put myself out there. I wanted to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds, and being in San Francisco, a truly diverse place, has made that possible.

I’ve met some great Irish people but for me this experience has been about truly immersing myself in the American way of doing things. I would say that the most striking feature of America is the sense of initiative that is so prevalent. People here have an unwavering confidence in themselves, knowing that to be one’s own champion is critical to get ahead.

This determination and positivity is summarised in the words of a colleague, who has done business both sides of the Atlantic: “In Ireland, if a venture doesn’t work out, people will say ‘Ah that was destined to fail.’ In America, they will ask ‘Well what’s your next project?’”

Over the past six months, reporting part-time for a magazine in San Francisco, I have been forced outside my comfort zone and rubbed shoulders with some people I would previously have thought totally out of reach. I questioned the Taoiseach during his St Patrick’s week visit to the US, and suffered the infamous glare of former Spice Girl Melanie Brown for delving too deep into her personal escapades.

But an encounter which stands out in my mind was finally getting to meet my beloved Norwich City team, as they recently embarked on a summer pre-season tour of the US.

Having been beaten 1-0 by the San José Earthquakes, I doubt they shared my unshakable enthusiasm at 10.30pm after the game. Nonetheless it was a moment for me to “fanboy”, as they say in these parts.

The current Norwich manager, Chris Hughton, told me how pleased he was to be managing a new generation of Irish players, including Wes Hoolahan, who has racked up five Irish caps since last November, and Anthony Pilkington, who is in line to make his international debut for Ireland in the August fixture against Wales.

“I’m delighted for Anthony because he’s deserved it over a period of time. But more so with Wes – he’s older and its long overdue. He’s played very very well for this football club,” said the 53-time capped Hughton.

“In the periods of play that [Wes] has had he’s made an impact and I expect him to be very much a part of [Trapattoni's] plans for the future.”

I couldn’t leave without asking about the “Canaries” themselves. Would it be worth my while getting up the odd Saturday for a televised fixture at 4.45am?

“We’ve had two seasons of 12th place and 11th place, which for a club of our size is a big achievement. Its very difficult to keep doing it season after season, but thats what the drive is and thats what the challenge is.”

Despite my delight in having met the team, I carried out interviews with them as if on autopilot. Life in America teaches you not to be overawed in any situation, whether its a business introduction or while witnessing antisocial behavior in the city streets.

It can be a daunting thing sometimes, living so far from home, but the opportunity for unexpected experiences like this was why I grasped the chance of living abroad. My stint here is just for a year, though of course, you never can know for sure.