Ten things that living abroad has taught me about Ireland

I moved abroad to experience new cultures. It has given me a fresh perspective

Ireland: you truly appreciate its beauty when you are removed from it for a while. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Ireland: you truly appreciate its beauty when you are removed from it for a while. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

After close to a decade abroad, in Berlin and Melbourne, I’m back in Ireland, living and working in Cork. Time away can give a new lens to see our country through. Here are 10 things we tend to forget about Ireland and how we should try to think about it. 

Stop complaining and start shaping
Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world, with an excellent primary and secondary education system and huge potential in our higher-education sector. We should build on what we have.

Ambition is good
Bold, brave political ambition can inspire a vision. We need to stop fiddling around the edges and paint a bolder, braver, more articulate ambition for our nation.

We sell ourselves as green, but we don’t live it
I think you truly appreciate Ireland’s beauty when you are removed from it for a while. But you also notice when you return how much we take it for granted.

We are loved abroad, but we don’t love ourselves
Why are civic amenities vandalised? Why are our streets full of dog litter? Ending this is not a big ask: it’s about respecting each other.

It should not be this hard to buy a home
“I pay less for an apartment in Germany than for a room in a Dublin house,” as an Irish emigrant explained in this newspaper. We are making it harder and harder to obtain a home. That is not how we build a sustainable society.

Eoin Hahessy
Eoin Hahessy

Invest much, much, much more in public transport
We live on a small island. It cannot be that hard to connect us. Our health, our children, their children and our planet will thank us for it.

Give more power locally to save us nationally
If your neighbour makes a change, you might consider making it too. Real action to fight climate change can come at a local level. We have to give the power to our communities to inspire that change.

We need more colour
And colour not just on our screens, or on our streets, but also in our boardrooms. We need to open ourselves to different cultures and different experiences. We will be richer and stronger for it.

Vaping
Once every town in Ireland had an Xtra-vision store. Now they each have a vaping store. This is not good.

Learn from each other
Engineers, nurses, doctors, farmers and construction workers have all returned to Ireland in recent years. What can we learn from their experience? We speak of the diaspora in grandiose policy terms and at well-dressed forums, but where can we meet now we are back in Ireland to learn from each other?

Eoin Hahessy is head of media at University College Cork. He is writing in a personal capacity

If you live overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do

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