Hello New York. Those scorching days of summer are slowly drawing to a close.
The kids of St. Barnabas, PS 19, and Yonkers Montessori Academy are getting ready to go back to school. You moms over there are welcoming the routine no doubt.
Tibbetts Park will be getting quieter, the J-1 students will be bidding adieu to their summer of fun, and the Halloween decorations will soon be on display in Walmart and Target.
It’s the same here. In fact a lot of kids, both in primary and secondary, are back to school this week in Ireland. The roads are already busier at 8:30 a.m.
A new season is approaching and life is taking a turn like it does every September, and that’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way, isn’t it?
We are back in Ireland now a little over three months. By we, I mean my husband John (a Limerick man), our son Colum (21-months) our daughter Sadie (six-months) and I (from Kerry). We moved back to Limerick in May after nine wonderful years in New York.
I think I can safely say we are finally settled, emotionally and physically.
It probably took longer physically than emotionally. What I mean by that is in our hearts we always knew Ireland was the place we want to be, the place we want to raise our kids and the place we want to grow old together, so the emotional transition (aside from the sadness of leaving our great friends behind in New York) has been easier.
Physically it was difficult as one can imagine. Finding a house, furnishing it (with our furniture from the U.S.), purchasing, insuring and taxing cars. Setting up phones, bank accounts, televisions, all that stuff.
There are still unpacked boxes scattered throughout the house, and if I’m being honest, because where we live at the moment is a rental I’m thinking of shutting the door on the boxes and leaving them be until we finally buy a home in a year or two.
I think it’s only in the last week or two that we’ve had a chance to breathe. In between working, creating a normal environment for the kids and getting organized it’s been a little hectic to say the least.
People ask me all the time what are the differences between life in America and life in Ireland. There isn’t any drastic difference, but there are some minor ones.
I suppose the top four are as follows -- the cost of living, our social lives, a family support network, and the kids.
I think I could write a whole article on the cost of living. When we came home three years ago to get married everything was a lot more expensive.
People turned their noses up at discount supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl (German owned supermarkets which are a lot cheaper than Dunnes and Tescos). People went out for expensive meals and drank fine wine that they couldn’t pronounce the name of. They drove brand new cars, outdid each other with birthday parties and vacationed in Europe twice a year.
If we moved home to this Ireland three years ago, living expenses would have been a lot higher and our lives wouldn’t be as comfortable as they are now.
I do 90 percent of my shopping in the Aldi down the road. Several of their products are Irish sourced and packaged too. I only go to Tescos for baby formula simply because Aldi doesn’t carry any.
I even use the German diapers (or nappies as they are called here). They are almost 60 percent cheaper than Pampers and Huggies. Their quality is equal to that of the big brand names we’ve become slaves to over the past few years.
The same size packet of pasta in Dunnes (Dunnes own brand) is €1.59. It is 69 cent in Aldi. My total weekly shop (and remember I’ve two kids) is less than €90 ($70) and that feeds us for the week.
In New York I would easily spend double that in Stop n Shop and I would buy the kids diapers, formula, toilet paper, baby wipes and water in bulk at BJs on a monthly basis. (Our BJ’s bill always hit over the $400 mark).
If we go out for a meal here in Limerick we can enjoy a few glasses of wine, a nice dinner and a taxi home for about €80. If we avail of the early bird (dinner between 5-7 p.m.) we can even do it a little cheaper. And having family around to babysit helps with the cost of a sitter.
In New York (in our single days before the kids) we would easily spent $200 on a night out and a guaranteed $300 if we went all out with a sitter in the past two years.
It’s rare now to see a 2012 car parked in any front yard here. Car sales are down enormously, much to our advantage when we got home.
However, the cost of a car is still a lot cheaper in the U.S. and currently the gas prices in Ireland are about to hit a record high this year, thus making traveling a lot more expensive. People are now foregoing the Sunday afternoon dinners with family a few towns over for a lazy day on the couch because of the rising fuel prices.
I’m on the road a lot with work so I spend about €150 ($110) a week on diesel. John, who works 15 minutes from the house, spends about €100 every two weeks. He also has a diesel car.