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An immigrant fits in: 'I added 'sh' sounds to words and repeated the phrase 'Bono is a pox''

I knew very little about Ireland when I moved to Dublin almost 14 years ago, writes Laura Gerulyte Griffin.

Laura Gerulyte Griffin Immigrant and blogger

I KNEW VERY little about Ireland when I moved to Dublin almost 14 years ago. I could have described the country in three things: Guinness, U2 and the IRA.

My first impression of Dublin was as a tiny grey city, full of dark pubs surrounded by endless bleak suburbs. And the rain rarely stopped.

However, Dublin wasn’t just a dirty old town. Over time I discovered that the city had a lot to offer – beautiful beaches, spectacular Dublin hills and the majestic Phoenix Park. I wanted to make it work, to make Dublin and Ireland my home.

Integrating

I arrived with very little English, relying on friends to get me settled. After a while I realised I wasn’t living in Ireland, more like a small unofficial enclave of Lithuania and so I knew that to properly integrate I’d need to leave my comfort zone.

I left a house I shared with 15 other Lithuanians and moved in with two Irish strangers. I didn’t get lectures on Yeats, Lavery or Wilde but I learned that chocolate tastes better if it’s chilled in the fridge. I was taught how to make crisp sandwiches as hangover treats.

Salt and vinegar flavour was a revelation to me even though my first attempt was like swallowing acid coated razor blades. I even picked Lyons over Barry’s and religiously drank a milky cup of tea at least five times a day.

I purchased Donnie Darko and put it on the shelf in my bedroom, joining the ranks of Irish people who owned a copy. However at the end of my first year, I still felt lonely and isolated in my Swords apartment but my English was getting better each day and that gave me strength.

I tried harder

As the years passed I learned that making friends with Irish people wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

They were all good craic and full of promises to meet up again but most rarely bothered. In a way I understood them, they had their circle of friends, why should they bother with someone new. I was told that the Irish were the friendliest bunch in the world and yet I couldn’t make connections.

I tried harder. I listened to Marian Finucane and I rarely missed Prime Time. By then I knew that Pat Kenny was much better on the radio than TV and soon developed an intense dislike for Ryan Tubridy and Bono. “Bono is a pox.” I repeated the phrase without knowing what pox was.

After three years I was adding a ‘sh’ sounds at the end of words and putting a heavy emphasis on my “u” sounds.

I finally have a circle of friends

I tried to lose the hard Eastern European rolling Rrrr and sound more like posh D4-types and salt of the earth Dubliners at the same time. “Rightsh, butsh, D-UH-nnes Stores, always bettsher value, D-UH-blin b-UH-s.”

The result was a ridiculous mish-mash of an accent. My social network was still made up of five or six fellow foreigners and my original Lithuanian ex-pats.

Almost 14 years later I finally have a solid circle of friends. What happened? The answer is I don’t really know. Maybe Irish people need to feel that you are not going anywhere. Maybe I was just lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time. I guess I will never completely know why but I do hope that other people have an easier time.

Ireland may be the land of a thousand welcomes but there’s a difference between friendly and friendship. You still kind of need to stick your foot in the door to keep it open long enough so that people will eventually let you inside. 

Laura Gerulyte Griffin moved to Dublin 14 years ago from Klaipeda, Lithuania where she studied journalism. She has recently launched a personal creative blog thinkoutsidethefox.ie. She writes about her experiences in both Lithuanian and English.

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About the author:

Laura Gerulyte Griffin  / Immigrant and blogger

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