‘Relationships change when you emigrate. You’re the one who chose to leave’
‘Ireland and Me’: Sarah Kenny, Amsterdam
Sarah Kenny celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam, where she has been living for three years.
Relationships change when you move abroad. I struggled initially with conversations with friends at home, as they were always about when I am home next or upcoming occasions, and never to do with where I live and work and what friends I have here in Amsterdam. From their perspective, I am the one who chose to leave Ireland and go elsewhere. I understand and accept this now, but I’ve no doubt these friendships will pick up where they left off when I go back.
Leaving Ireland did not sadden me, as I always planned to return. I have been living in the Netherlands for a little over three years. Embracing a new life in a new society has actually strengthened my relationship with Ireland, and helped my appreciation of where I come from to grow.
I miss home, my family and friends, my culture, language and people, and being surrounded by Irishness. Things often taken for granted become more special when they are taken away. I miss Irish people, pubs and restaurants, the air of the west coast, the smells, RTÉ and the Sunday papers, seeing my nieces and nephews grow, cups of tea with Mum, home comforts like fruit scones and hot chicken rolls. While I do have a box of Barry’s Tea on my desk here, it’s not quite the same.
I am proud to embrace my Irishness abroad, hear and see how we are perceived by another culture, and experience a life I would not have at home.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city and the Dutch are positive and liberal, and enjoy a great lifestyle. I had to come all this way to meet my Irish boyfriend Ruairí, have made many new friends and have had some unexpected experiences. It is an enjoyable chapter of my life.
To me, emigration is a long-term word with a hint of sadness attached to it, a word that means a permanent move and leaving Ireland behind because it could not provide. I prefer to think of myself as an expat, as it leaves the possibility of returning to Ireland open in my future.
Last November, The Irish Times invited readers abroad to submit reflections on their relationship with the land they left. This story is one we received. To read more, click here. The Irish Times 'Ireland and Me' eBook is available for download here.