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‘You’re welcomed with open arms everywhere. That’s what I like about Irish people’

New to the Parish: Sabine Barry arrived from Germany in 2007

It was on a holiday in 2003 that Sabine Barry first fell in love with Ireland. Two years later, she felt the urge to visit the country again, undertaking a language trip to Galway.

Those trips, she says, are the reason why she established her own business organising holidays for Germans to Ireland.

“I wanted other German people to fall in love with the country that I [fell in] love [with]. It is a full circle. That’s what I felt I am meant to do,” she says.

Originally from Bavaria, an hour north of Munich, Barry moved to Ireland in 2007, driven primarily by her love of tourism. In her home country, she worked in the corporate world, but she never really felt the field suited her.


“I felt I needed an escape, I needed to change my life. A lot of people say I’m crazy, I’m mad, but my dream is to work in tourism and I could not work in Germany in tourism because I didn’t study tourism management,” she says.

“In Germany, you can only work in the industry in what you did. I studied business management so I could never get into tourism.”

Initially, Barry got a job working in a Limerick hotel, which she describes as the “worst job of her life”. However, then she decided to relocate to Killarney, where she began to work as a receptionist in a different hotel.

“I couldn’t go back [to Germany] because I knew a lot of people would tell me they were right, and they would all tell me that I was crazy. So I looked for a job in Galway and Killarney,” she says.

“I sent out like 30 or 40 applications but then I got fed up and started to just walk into the hotels and ask to talk to the HR manager. That got me to where I want to be. I had luck. I worked in Killarney for three years.”

Barry says she loved the work in the Killarney hotel, but she still felt the urge to do something different, which led to her setting up her own travel company – Irlandspezialistin, meaning “your Ireland specialist”, which is based in the RDI Hub in Killorglin.

“That was the best decision I ever made in my life because I was able to fulfil my passion to work in tourism and I’ve had that passion since I was 14. I got a lot of support through the enterprise support here, through colleagues in the hotels, but then it was like the people wanted more and more,” she says.

“I did a few courses and then I bought my own minibus and I drove people around the whole island until 2017 and 2018. I had a boy [her son] and I felt I couldn’t stay overnight every night in a different hotel. I changed the business a little bit. I’m still offering bespoke tours for German speakers but I’m not driving myself.

“I do office work. I would book really everything, flights, accommodation, some people want to stay in a lighthouse, candle-light dinner, really anything they want. It’s very niche.”

Barry loves her job, but it was difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic, she says, when she considered closing everything up.

I find in Germany, people are not as open, there’s not that great hospitality

“During Covid times, I was thinking I should give up the business but I couldn’t. Thank God I kept my passion. My heart lights up when I see anything new and related to tourism.”

Like many new arrivals in Ireland, the friendliness of Irish people is one of the things Barry speaks about the most. This was most keenly felt when she first arrived in the country and needed to find a garage for her car.

“I couldn’t find it so I asked a man who was cutting his lawn, using a lawnmower. He said it wasn’t too far, he tried to explain it to me. But at that time my English wasn’t great and he could tell that I looked very confused,” she says.

“So he said he’d get in the car and I could follow him. And he said it would just be a couple of minutes but it was driving for 20 minutes and I was just so impressed. That would never happen in Germany.”

There are differences between Irish and German people, she says, adding that those differences attract one to the other.

“The Germans love that the Irish are so relaxed and they’ll just go out, they don’t care if the car is clean. They both want something, there is an attraction from both sides,” she says.

Another common trait for those who move to another country is missing their friends and family in the country in which they grew up. That is something Barry relates to, describing her friendships with those she grew up with as “very close”. However, she has also made many friends in her new home.

“In Ireland, I have different kinds of friends. I have friends who have children who I can meet and I have friends who have their own businesses and have no children so I can talk about business. I have made friends for every area of my life,” she says.

“I have spiritual friends as well because I’m very interested in homeopathy. Then I have a friend who is interested in sea swimming so I go swimming with her.”

One of the first groups of friends she made in Ireland was when she lived in a house with a few Irish women when she first moved here.

“One girl was from Gorey and she said we could go and stay in her friend’s house. And the friend had never met me before, so I was like ‘are you sure?’ But she said absolutely, everyone was invited. We had a great evening and went out and had a party,” she adds.

“I find in Germany, people are not as open, there’s not that great hospitality. Whereas here, you’re welcomed with open arms really everywhere and that’s what I like about Irish people.”

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email or tweet @newtotheparish