I’d rather struggle in Germany than in Ireland

I’m broke and have a slim chance of landing a job, but now I have hope

The locals tell me there are Wildschweine – wild boars – in the woods around Pfohren, in southern Germany, but I don't know if I believe them any more. Maybe they're just having fun with the foreigner, you know, that famed German sense of humour? I want to believe them, though.

I am a two-time emigrant. My first excursion into the world beyond the recession brought me to Canada. While I was there I fell in love with a German girl, and that’s why I now live in a village between the Black Forest and the Swabian alps.

Pfohren is surrounded by rolling hillocks, small woods and farmland. It takes 30 seconds to pass through in a car. There are no shops, no pubs and no reasons to leave the house after 5pm except to take in the fantastic views of the night sky.

I think I prefer living in a rural area to living in a capital. There is fresh air, there are forests and fields that teem with wildlife, and at night there is peace and quiet instead of a Garda helicopter hovering over your Dublin housing estate.


I like where I live, and I love who I live with, but the problems for me begin when I walk out of the front door and cannot communicate with the people around me. To improve my chances I have, since October, been learning German as part of an integration course. It consists of 500 hours of language classes and 100 hours of lessons about German society. I hate it, but it is necessary. Attempting to learn German has been the most frustrating experience of my life.

My next challenge will be to find work. My girlfriend’s family own a restaurant, where I help out with tasks that don’t involve talking to customers, like cleaning or moving furniture, but it’s only occasional.

I have lined up temporary work for the summer, as an order picker in a warehouse. I will be happy to be earning my keep and taking some of the financial pressure off my girlfriend. We’re getting by, but it involves careful budgeting.

I don’t think we will stay in Pfohren for long. It is a nice part of the world, but my work options are limited. Jobs are available in the area, but most are in manufacturing and require a three-year apprenticeship on very low pay. That’s perfect for teenagers who live at home but not for grown men with bills to pay. Fortunately, Germany has many cities with better opportunities for social-science graduates like me.

So, if I’m broke and have a slim chance of landing a job, what is so different about being here in Pfohren rather than in Ireland? Well, I have hope here, hope that things will get better for me, especially once I have a better grasp of the language. I am making slow progress in Germany, but at least it feels like progress. I don’t feel like I’m standing still any more.

The promise of a sustainable future is a lot stronger here than the promised future back home. One day I hope to return to Ireland, but, right now, struggling in Germany seems more worthwhile in the long term than struggling in Ireland.

And besides, I still haven't seen a Wildschwein.