I’m Alexandra. An American girl living in Dublin, Ireland. I honestly document my adventures in travel, food, beauty, and expat life on a budget.

Four Years in Éireann

Four Years in Éireann

Candid Alexandra on a Fairy Fort in Ireland 

27 August is such a special day to me - it is the day I officially moved to Ireland. If you’re new around here I’ll give a quick recap on how I came to be living, and still living, in Ireland. And I totally know this isn't being posted on 27 August but that's how it is, okay? Okay!

I moved to Ireland to pursue my master’s degree on 27 August 2014. I only planned to stay the year that it was going to take for me to complete the degree. That clearly did not happen because I am currently typing this at a Starbucks right down the road from Stephen’s Green. Dublin has now been my home for four years and hopefully will continue to be so for many years to come. It is crazy to me how fast these four years have flown by. High school was four years but it seriously felt like it would never end. I look back at these last four years and it feels like I only moved here a few months ago. 

I’ve talked about why I ended up staying and how I stayed previously, but basically, I am still here due to my boyfriend (known as P around here) and a work permit. As you can imagine I have learned quite a bit in my four years living abroad/living in Ireland. I told P the other day, “four years here and I still don’t completely get the Irish!” but man, do I love them! 

Some of these are just silly little differences between home and here and some are bigger life lessons. I think it is good to take time and reflect on what I have done and what I have learned in these 4 years. I know I said I came for my degree and I learned so much doing it, but I have learned even more outside of the classroom! I brush off or underplay my achievements all the time. This is not meant to be bragging but when I look back I am so proud that I achieved my biggest goal I set for myself at home which was to move to Ireland and get my master’s degree. I did that and that is not easy, because if it were wouldn’t every one, do it? I know I’m not the only person to move far away, study at a higher level, etc. but I do know I need to take more pride in my achievements – big and small. I’ve done some reflecting on my 4 years here and these are my top 10 lessons/observations/realizations! 

Your Man

When I first moved to Dublin I was so confused as to who your man was. People would say “your man” in their stories but I had no clue who this man was. I shook my head and smiled in silence while pretending I knew what was going on. Here’s the thing, your man can be anyone, but you need to be paying attention in the story to get who it is. Or they may say “your one” aka yer wan. For example, if I am telling a story, say about a particularly bad experience at a restaurant, I might mention how horrible the waiter was. Later in the story I may start referring to the waiter as “your man” but you would have had to been paying attention to know! I was so dumbfounded by this as a concept four years ago but this is now a part of my every day vocabulary, lol. 

Fix Your Own Coffee

When I ordered a coffee at Starbucks for the first time in Ireland and requested two Equals in my drink I was promptly told I could fix my coffee myself with a stern point in the direction of the little table with all the milk and sugar. I was so embarrassed that I never made the mistake of asking for the barista to do anything extra to my drink for me again. I even remember the first time I went back to America after this happened and I ordered my coffee plain and went to fix it up myself. The barista said they would do it for me but I was not going to let them! I was still in shock from my encounter and always make my own adjustments to my coffee now.  Another thing on coffee – “iced coffee” here is a joke! 

Public Transportation

I think I took public transportation less than 5 times in my life before moving to Dublin. I use it nearly every single day now and it is not as bad as I had made public transportation out to be in my head. I will say that public transportation in Dublin is not as efficient or as affordable as some other countries in Europe but it gets the job done. I still haven’t gotten around to getting my provisional license and taking my 12 required driving lessons yet so it is public transport for me until then. I feel cheated having to pay for 12 lessons when I already have a license! 

The Weather

The weather isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I was led to believe it rained non-stop and that is just not the case. Something I don’t think that is spoken about enough is how windy it can be here! This past winter was particularly bad but we had the best summer I’ve ever experienced after. It was nearly too good, everyone was over the heat after a month of it! That said, the Irish (and myself included now) do love to complain about the weather. When it’s cold, everyone wants the heat. Once we get a bit of heat, everyone wants the cold again!

Grocery Stores

It seems like such a small thing but grocery stores here are not like they are back home. Grocery stores here are tiny compared to ones in America. I usually have to go to a couple of stores to get everything I need. That said, groceries here are so fresh and so much more affordable. I also love that the price it is marked is the price you pay, there is no tax added at the end!

Drink Culture

Yes, there is a lot of drinking in Ireland. I will not sit here and try to say that there isn’t, but I think the drink culture here is actually healthier than at home. Instead of waiting to have a drink on the weekend and binging, it is normal to go have a drink with friends during the week. The culture is social and with small homes, pubs became the meeting place. Pub is short for public house so, there’s a little lesson for yah!

You’re Gonna Lose Friends

I touched on this in Growing Up & Growing Apart, but I do think I would have lost friends even if I had stayed in America, but I think moving to Ireland sped the process up. I know moving here definitely has changed me (for the better) and others have changed too which ended some friendships. It hurts, but that’s part of life!

Ah sure, it’s grand

I got asked by an Irish person before, “What’s your least favorite thing about the Irish?” and my answer was that my least favorite and my favorite thing about the Irish is the same thing – how relaxed they are. Obviously not every Irish person is this way and it wouldn’t be fair of me to say that or for you to think that, but overall, Ireland is much more relaxed than home. It can sometimes drive me crazy, but overall I think a calmer approach to life and different situations is the better way to be. 

Work-Life Balance

I never had a salaried job with vacation days and all that jazz in America but I know for sure that taking time off here (or in my job at least) is encouraged much more than at home. It is something that Irish people even comment on, how Americans will work ourselves to sickness/death. I get 21 days off annually. That doesn’t include my bank holidays and other national holidays. My job also gives us time in lieu if we have to work an event on a weekend, so I sometimes end up with even more than the 21 days from my job and holidays. I take full advantage of my time off too. I know there are people who STILL work, even on their days off. No way! Time off is time off and you need that time to recharge to be the most productive and efficient as you can be when you are at work. I don’t think I could go back to a job in America purely because of the time off. All that said, salaries here are significantly lower than at home but my quality of life is higher so I don’t mind! 

Needs vs. Wants

It was really bothering me I only had 9 lessons/observations on here so this is going to be number 10 to even it all out! But it is also something I only really recently realized and I think my point about having a lower salary but a higher quality of life goes hand in hand with this next lesson. To get straight to it (so unlike me), I am much less materialistic now. I don’t think I was ever that materialistic anyway but I do like to buy nice things so they will last. I think what I was doing a lot before I left America was just buying so much shit I didn’t need simply because I could. There are so many more options in America in terms of shopping. Remember how I can’t drive here? Well I could in America which made it easier to drive to all the shopping options. Not driving also means I can’t carry as much as I would be able to if I were going to just throw my new purchases in the car. I don’t love a lot of stores here too which helps but I also just don’t care that much anymore. Maybe this is just growing up and not specifically because I am in Ireland, but buying new clothes and makeup, etc. all the time just doesn’t really matter as much to me as it once did.

Candid Alexandra at The Kerry Bog Village Museum

I thought I would also throw in some random bits that have been said to me that I always remember because they’re so weird:

Do you microwave your coffee? I know that’s a thing Americans do” - Is it? I’ve never known anyone, of any nationality, to do this. It sounds gross! 

Do you miss Tide detergent?” – How random and so specific! 

And my personal favorite, “I always forget you’re American because you look Canadian” Alrighty then.  

For this post, I went back and looked through the photos I took on my first visit. Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph, are some of them shocking – and not in a good way. I sprinkled in some okay ones for the post but trust me, there are some gnarly looking ones. A few takeaways from the photos:

  • My hair was disgustingly long. I must have realized this on the trip because the first photo on the card once I was back home in America was my hair cut to my shoulders.
  • I wore so much J. Crew and so many ill-fitting jeans. I was smaller in 2012 (like, who wasn’t though?) than I am now, but you can’t tell it from my clothes! I also think I only brought like 4 tops with me on the entire trip. 
  • My makeup skills were non-existent. Not saying I’m some makeup wizard now but holy hell, shout out to YouTube makeup tutorials that I watched like all of summer 2013 because what a difference they have made!
The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door in Sneem, County Kerry, Ireland 

I also look slightly scared in some of the photos. I think I was and I was experiencing so much newness at once! While I had a good laugh at the state of myself in the photos, I see a girl who took a chance and tried something new, something that would end up changing the course of my academic career and my personal life. So, while I may not be the cutest in the photos and I look a little nervous, that trip was the best thing I could have done for myself so thank you 19-year-old Alexandra for choosing to do it! 

As always, if you have any questions on anything mentioned or have a suggestion for a post, you can leave me a comment below, send an email, DM me on Instagram, message me on Facebook or send me a tweet on Twitter. Don’t forget to follow me on Bloglovin' and Pinterest too!

*all images (unfortunately) original to Candid Alexandra

Discovering Dublin: Pearse Museum

Discovering Dublin: Pearse Museum

First Time Facial at The Buff Day Spa

First Time Facial at The Buff Day Spa