I’m homesick for friends who have all moved back to Ireland
FRIENDSHIP WEEK: As my husband and I sign contracts for our new house abroad, our friends are signing contracts for new jobs at home
Mary Johnson: ‘If you’re lucky enough to find close friendship away from home, you genuinely don’t know how long it’s going to last.’
Irish expats love to flock together. Whether it’s Paddy’s Day celebrations, Six Nations matches or (more often than not) every Saturday night, we like nothing more than a few scoops with the people who understand the term “to have a few scoops”. Having lived in various European countries over the last 12 years, I’ve been lucky to have met a lot of really cool Irish expats from all over the country.
I’m lucky to have never been struck down by homesickness. There was that time in Germany when I nearly fainted as I was shouted at for crossing the street on red, and that other time in Switzerland when I went red with fever as I was told I had stored my paper for the rubbish incorrectly. Even in Amsterdam where I live now, the “you’ve put on a few pounds” comments can get to you. Their oh-so-directness can be nauseating to the Irish stomach. But these occasions come and go like the common cold.
I suffer from a passive form of homesickness - the constant flux of friends coming and going. In the last year, we lost five couples who we often socialised with to homesickess. With the turn-around in the Irish economy, while my husband and I signed the contracts for the house we bought abroad, our friends signed contracts for new jobs back home. Having invested time and love into friendships over the past four years, our weekends are now quieter, and with fewer scoops.
I am so proud, and maybe even a little jealous, of those who have moved back. But we’re happy here. My husband and I both have secure, well-paying jobs with great colleagues. We know the best way to get from A to B and we know which restaurants to take our visiting friends and family. I feel we’re a part of this city. The prospect of moving back home is scary for me; stuffy bus commutes, an expensive and competitive housing market, and (yes, I’m calling it) immersion heaters.
In saying that, I realise I am sacrificing my breezy cycle to work and hot power showers for the stability of friendship. I look at my friends back in Dublin who arrange carefree walks in the park; they’ll pop into each other for a cuppa; they’ll go for coffee in that place they always have. It may seem mundane, but there’s a security and an easiness to it that is difficult to come by as an expat, and if you’re lucky enough to find such a friendship, you genuinely don’t know how long it’s going to last.
As the Six Nations gets underway, we’ll look around as we watch the matches and think about who was cheering with us at the table last year, and who’ll be there next year. We’ll hear that so’n’so is moving back home, and we’ll congratulate them on it, and happily raise a scoop to them, but in our minds, we’re crossing them off our list. While I love the freedom of the globalised world we live in, on a personal level, it’s a fickle one.
Homesickness for me is simple: I’m sick of people moving home.
Friendship Week: From best mates to bromances, all week in The Irish Times, we take a closer look at friendship. See irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/friendship