Irishman in Manhattan: ‘Cheering can be heard every evening at 7pm’
Q&A: Colm Greene has lived in the US for two years and works in the financial sector
Colm Greene is originally from Donegal, but now lives in Manhattan in New York
When did you leave Ireland and why?
I left Ireland in March last year. I first visited New York eight years ago while I was studying chemical engineering on exchange at the University of Connecticut. I was in awe at the pace, excitement and beat of the city. I then returned to Dublin, finished my undergraduate degree in University College Dublin (UCD) and started a career in financial services consulting. I enjoyed living in Dublin, but I was itching for a change and yearned to get back to the US, in particular the Big Apple. Luckily for me, I had colleagues who supported my transfer. Fast forward two years later and I'm now living in the heart of the city near Columbus Circle on the west side of Manhattan working with some of largest financial services organisations in the world.
How has Covid-19 affected you in Manhattan?
Daily life is very different. I mostly stay indoors and don’t venture too far. The city is extremely quiet with less footfall and traffic. Before Covid-19, my day would involve a lot of travel in and out of the city on the subway for work, meetings and socialising. The city has now come to a grinding halt and New Yorkers are adapting to life indoors. Unfortunately, a lot of people in Manhattan have lost their jobs with the hospitality and tourism sectors taking the biggest hit. However, a state and federal support has been announced for Americans.
Are you scared?
For the most part, no. I felt a little scared when the flight ban to Europe was announced and when a close friend decided to leave New York to return to the UK. However, I'm on alert, and conscious of keeping safe and healthy. I’m more concerned for loved ones who are at higher risk such as my parents and older relatives. I want them to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Keeping up to speed with news also helps keeps fear at bay. I, like a lot of New Yorkers, listen to governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings, and get comfort from his supportive words and guidance.
What does your day look like at the moment?
I’m working from my apartment each day. I’m a creature of habit so I try and stick to a daily routine. I begin my day with a cup of tea and start work by 9am. The transition to remote working has been quite smooth for my colleagues and clients. I've had lots of calls and virtual meetings each day, and when I’m not in a meeting, I'm working on deliverables, speaking with my team or prepping for upcoming sessions. In the evenings, I like to go for a walk or run, depending on my energy levels. I live beside Central Park, so I usually run there.
Throughout the past few weeks, the comradery and sense of city community is palpable
We’ve received recommendations to exercise in the park at off-peak periods (for me that’s the late evening) and to cover our mouths if possible. I’m also cooking a lot more than usual. Before the lockdown, I would have cooked in bulk on a Sunday and ate out one or two nights a week. Now I’m carving out time each day to prepare a meal and try out some new recipes. In the evenings I'm catching up on Netflix. Broadchurch is my current series of choice, I think Olivia Coleman is phenomenal.
What is the food situation there?
There are supermarkets close to me. They practise strict social distancing and hygiene measures. Most supermarkets now only allow entry if you have a mask or scarf covering your mouth. I try to do one shop for the week and get all my groceries in bulk. When the lockdown started, the supplies in the store were scarce, but over the past few weeks there has been plenty of stock. Similar to in Ireland, restaurants are closed but offering take away and delivery services.
How are people in Manhattan coping?
New Yorkers are tough and resilient. For the most part, New Yorkers have adapted quickly to the change. People are staying indoors, and if venturing outside, are wearing masks and keeping their distance. Throughout the past few weeks the comradery and sense of city community is palpable. Every evening at 7pm, the cheers, music, and clapping can be heard throughout Manhattan giving thanks to the essential workers and medical staff.
How can Irish people access healthcare in the US if they need to?
The healthcare system in the US is quite different to Ireland. Health insurance is essential in the US. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs recently issued guidelines advising workers in temporary employment, who were at high risk of losing their jobs and access to healthcare, to come home. The Irish who have remained in New York, can consult with their Primary Care Physician (PCP) if unwell and seek further instruction from them.
Is there anything you miss about Ireland at the moment?
I do miss my family a lot. I’m from a large close-knit Donegal family. I miss my father’s turf fires and the potatoes from his garden. I miss cups of tea with my mother listening to the radio on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I also miss a pint of Guinness in Ranelagh, Dublin on a Thursday evening with my mates after work. I do have a few home comforts in the form of Barry’s tea and digestive biscuits, which keep the homesickness at bay.
If you would like to share your experience of how Covid-19 is affecting you there, email Irish Times Abroad at firstname.lastname@example.org