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New girls in town... three immigrants to Ireland tell their stories


Emine Etili photographed at Twitter's Dublin office by Kip Carroll

Emine Etili photographed at Twitter's Dublin office by Kip Carroll

Lesiele Juliet Hailame, who moved from Sydney to Dublin. Photo: Kip Carroll

Lesiele Juliet Hailame, who moved from Sydney to Dublin. Photo: Kip Carroll

Debie Lage Pinto McGill - Ireland has become her home. Photo: Kip Carroll

Debie Lage Pinto McGill - Ireland has become her home. Photo: Kip Carroll


Emine Etili photographed at Twitter's Dublin office by Kip Carroll

The Government has begun a drive to bring 70,000 of our emigrants back home, but they are not the only ones who see a future in Ireland. Here, we meet three women from around the globe who have recently moved here - and they share their real experiences of making a new life in the land of 1,000 welcomes…

Emine Etili

Emine Etili (40), is from Ankara, Turkey. She moved to Dublin with her young son eight months ago to work at Twitter's international headquarters.

"My main motivation for moving to Ireland was to work at the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) headquarters of Twitter. I felt that serving as the Public Policy Manager for Turkey would be an opportunity to build bridges and serve as a liaison between Turkey and the global conversation that is Twitter.

"I also had heard great things about Ireland. In fact, I was so sure that the move would be OK that my first visit ever to Ireland was after accepting the job offer. I'm now settled in Beggar's Bush with my son.

"It was definitely exciting to discover a new country but there is always an element of the bittersweet in any move. It is always hard to leave family and friends but I'm lucky in that my job allows me to visit Turkey regularly. They all supported the move, so much so that they all got in line to visit. Everyone who has come has enjoyed it here.

"Irish people really are friendly; not only that, but also incredibly welcoming. From offering childcare while I ran errands during the move to helping me figure out how to programme my boiler, at every step someone has offered to help. My son has been embraced at his school by the children, teachers and parents alike, and I haven't experienced any negativity in terms of discrimination. Everyone at work has been extremely supportive, professionally and personally.

"I haven't seen as much of Ireland as I would like yet, although I have been to Kilkenny and the Cliffs of Moher. Connemara is at the top of my list of places I'd like to go to next. I'm starting to learn about very unique Irish cultural phenomena such as the Rose of Tralee, and I've picked up the odd Irish phrase like 'beir bua' from my colleagues.

"My favourite thing about living in Dublin? Moving here from a mega metropolis, being able to walk everywhere is a huge luxury. And the book shop Hodges Figges is a close second favourite...I could spend hours there. My least favourite thing is, perhaps predictably, the weather!"

Lesiele Juliet Hailame

Lesiele Juliet Hailame (34), moved from Sydney, Australia, to Dublin last Christmas to be with her fiancé Stephen. She works as a freelance art director, food stylist and set designer.

"I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and moved to Sydney, Australia when I was nine. That's where I met Stephen Flynn, an Irish guy who had been living there for 12 years. He was ready to move home and I wanted to explore the world; plus, things seemed like they were picking up economically in Ireland and I can do my job anywhere. My mother was devastated when I first told her I was moving. Then she started to warm to the idea of having a European base, which was a huge draw for me too, because I love to travel.

"If it wasn't for Stephen, his family and friends, I probably would have packed up my bags during the first month and gone home. It was still tough even with his connections - I wasn't working right away and it was the depths of winter, so that was hard. I came from a huge family and lots of different circles of friends in Sydney to having no-one to have coffee or morning walks with or even talk to. The time difference has been tough, but I have it sussed now thanks to Skype and WhatsApp. Irish folks are super friendly especially when it comes to a pint in the pub… often a stranger can turn into your best pal that night! However, I have found that hospitality doesn't always extend to invitations to come over for dinner or catching up for coffee.

"I also think Ireland hasn't had a lot of integrated immigrants because Irish people tend to stick to the circle of friends they grew up with. When I do hear a Kiwi or Aussie accent I always try to find out their story and befriend them. I cop a bit of flack for my accent. People love imitating me with phrases like 'g'day mate' or 'throw another shrimp on the barbie'. It can be funny the first time, but after a while it gets annoying.

"I know my way around pretty well - I've been to Connemara and Lahinch, and I'm dying to go to Dingle. I'm always dashing around Dublin looking for props and shooting all over - work is going well here. I love my Irish comforts like Barry's Tea, Kerrygold butter and Ballymaloe relish. I don't like Tayto, though - I might get crucified for that!

"Negatives for me include the rental situation here - it really needs to be regulated, and we're finding it hard to save for our first house. But I am fiercely proud I was here when the same-sex marriage referendum was passed. It showed the rest of the world how this small nation is forward-thinking, and its people tolerant and open-minded."

Debie Lage Pinto McGill

Debie Lage Pinto McGill (31) from Brazil, met her Irish husband Philip online in 2008. She's been living in Finglas, Dublin, with him since March 2014.

"I've always been fascinated by Irish culture since I was a child. My favourite author is Juliet Marillier and all her stories are based in Ireland. I love everything about this country, the history, the landscape, the music, the lifestyle, the food and especially the people. And of course my Irish prince, my husband Philip.

"I was really excited about moving to Ireland to live with him. Having lived away from home before, I always knew I was cut out to live in a different country and Ireland ticks all the boxes for me. People who know me know that I 'have wings'. My loved ones understand and support my decision to live abroad. We have such a great connection that it doesn't matter where I am, I always carry them in my heart.

"The Irish are the friendliest bunch of people I have ever met and this is one of the reasons I love living here. There is such a great atmosphere and a welcoming feeling everywhere you go. I've only ever been treated fairly here. When I first came to Ireland I thought it was strange that every time I was at a party people kept asking me if I was alright. I used to wonder if I looked in pain, ill or uncomfortable. Of course now I understand this is the Irish way to make you feel welcome and to check if you're having a good time.

"A few things I still find odd is that shops don't sell alcohol before noon, that I can't get change from the bus driver, putting vinegar on fish and chips and putting milk in tea. I also think it's quite strange that people go to the pub after a funeral. But I'm adjusting!

"I absolutely love the countryside, especially the west coast and its rugged landscape. My husband had never seen any of the landmarks around Ireland until he met me, now we've seen almost all of them.

"I feel completely immersed in the culture. As a matter of fact, I feel like I've been here for 'donkey's years'! Some people even say I have a Dublin accent now.

"I have a lovely job in accounts here, and I'm training to become a qualified accountant. Even coming from a completely different background, Ireland has opened its doors to me and this country has become my home.

"The only bad thing about living here is not being able to share all of this with my family. You just can't have the best of both worlds."

Photographs by Kip Carroll

Weekend Magazine