Ciara Kenny

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

Au revoir France

After eleven years in France we’re moving back to Ireland, much to the disbelief of everyone we know who think we’ve lost our marbles, writes Karen O’Reilly

Karen O'Reilly with her husband and children Dylan and Alannah enjoying the last of the French sunshine before their return to Ireland. Photograph: Geraldine Adams

Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 12:30


Karen O’Reilly

They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, after death and divorce. We made the decision early this year to leave our beloved France with our two children and head back “home” to Ireland, a country where we haven’t actually lived in for over 16 years.

The decision was a difficult one as France has been good to us and we have no regrets. Where we are living is probably one of the most beautiful places in Europe, with the Med and the mountains within spitting distance.

Yet, at the end of the day, it’s just not home. We have a close network of expat friends whom we get on very well with, but most will eventually leave here. We are constantly saying goodbye to good friends. We swear we will stay in contact, but rarely do.

Our French friends are equally lovely, but they never really let you in. We’ve had hundreds of nights out with them, perfectly staged dinner parties with exquisite food and wines to match, but at the end of the evening we’d often realise we had had little craic.

Our decision to leave was made in the depths of a very bad French winter. Personally and professionally we both felt held back and unfulfilled. Trying to run a business here in France is like beating your head against a brick wall while the French bureaucrats watch, mocking and deriding you. It really is that bad.

You realise pretty quickly that France only plays lip service to Europe and in reality does it’s own thing which reeks of protectionism and cronyism. On one occasion as we tried to get a business off the ground, our Irish MEP, Brian Crowley, took our case to the Minister of Justice because he felt we were being discriminated against as they were refusing to recognise my accountancy qualifications. France’s answer to the problem was to change the law, so I had to have a French baccalaureat (equivalent of Leaving Cert) to work in my chosen field.

All that aside, life in France has been mostly good and we have been extremely happy here. Now, as the mercury begins to rise, the doubts about our decision, in direct correlation, are too. I’ve had sleepless nights wondering are we doing the right thing for the children, now aged six and eight, who are now completely and naturally bilingual. Will they fit into the Irish culture? How will they cope with the drinking culture in Ireland when they reach their teenage years, and will my daughter want to start dressing like a pop star once she hits Irish shores? Will we be able to handle the terrible weather?

Our beautiful house with it’s happy memories of all the people who have visited us and the fun we have had, has gone under the hammer and we must leave in a couple of weeks.

We will miss the sunshine, the wine, the food, and our circle of lovely friends, but for all that, Ireland still beckons. It takes time living away from Ireland to fully appreciate how warm, lovely, helpful and genuine Irish people are. “There are plenty of assholes in Ireland too,” my father warned me when I broke the news of our return, and we know that we’re not going to have 320 days of sunshine. Yet, we want our children to be Irish, to have that Irish sense of humour, to have a healthy working mentality and to be surrounded by our extended family. We want to be there for the good times and the bad. In a morbid way, I want to be there for funerals, for sicknesses and the tough times as well as the celebrations and the good times.

It’s au revoir France for now. Yikes!

Karen will be blogging about the move at