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Post-Move Struggles

When preparing for the big move to Ireland from Toronto last month (was it really just last month?) I didn’t think I’d have any problems. I mean, this is not my first rodeo. Patrick and I met while we were both living and working in South Korea as ESL teachers – I had moved right after graduating from university.

It was my first time leaving Canada (I had never even been to the USA at that point, or further west than Toronto in my own country) and while it was, at first, a major shock to the system, I quickly adapted in the way young twenty-somethings tend to do: by finding a bar, partying with other foreigners on weekends and getting settled into the wonderful, crazy world of teaching kindergarten. Meeting Patrick six months after I arrived, Korea (and that bar I liked to frequent) quickly became my adopted home. We stayed for nearly three years.

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One of my favourite Korean students, Toby, in my classroom in Suwon, South Korea.

Moving back to Canada was a lesson in reverse-culture shock. I had never lived in a city like Toronto. Its multiculturalism is, in my opinion, unparalleled to any other city in North America. Being a white girl whose family came to Canada hundreds of years prior, I was in the minority. This was OK, since I was also a very visible minority living in Korea and was well used to it. What was not OK were my constant accidental slurs – asking strangers on the street if they spoke English before asking them for directions, speaking extremely slowly and my frequent lapses into “Konglish” – which made me sometimes look like a racist fool. This lasted several weeks while I grew accustomed once more to life in Canada.

Toronto City Hall, where I taught Patrick how to ice skate

Toronto City Hall, where I taught Patrick how to ice skate

Moving to Ireland would be easy by comparison, I thought. And in many ways, it has been. Immigrating to Ireland is a great deal easier than immigrating to Canada, particularly if your spouse is Irish. I had virtually no problem getting my passport stamped and my PPS number, which enables me to work in the country. Having moved internationally already, I knew how to research shipping companies, how to move my cat and how to move house quickly and efficiently.

The weirdo cat we picked up in Korea and shipped all over the world, Ha Jin

The weirdo cat we picked up in Korea and shipped all over the world, Ha Jin

What has not been easy for me are the grocery stores. And the ovens. And I’m heartbroken without my Kitchenaid appliances, which came to Ireland with me but will not respond to the electrical voltage here. In Canada, I knew where to get the best kitchen supplies, how to make the perfect cake and where to get those hard-to-find ingredients.

Here, I find myself clumsily pushing buttons in my kitchen until things start working – the dishwasher, the washing machine, the oven. I can’t find flour in a bag larger than 2kgs and yesterday I almost broke down in the middle of Dunnes Stores when I asked a clerk where the curry powder was and he couldn’t find any (I eventually found it on my third trip down the international foods aisle). As a professional cook, these problems make me feel a bit inadequate. I’m developing a complex.

Have I mentioned I’m six months pregnant? Gotta love those hormones.

I was initially repulsed by Korean food. This was my first bar snack: squid jerky!

I was initially repulsed by Korean food. This was my first bar snack: squid jerky!

It takes time to adjust to a new country. This is something I’ve experienced before as well, but always seem to forget about once I get settled in. For now, I’ll keep bumping my way around the kitchen. Soon enough, I’ll get it.

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