Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back in the US of A

Every now and then I get a hankerin' for the Land of my birth and head back home. Right now, I'm writing from my father's apartment in Sun City, Florida. It's gorgeous outside: blue skies, temps in the mid-70s, strange species of Florida birds flitting from one sun-lit tree to another ... what a paradise!

Dad lives in Freedom Plaza, a retirement community just east of Tampa. Here, the average age seems to be north of 70. And when Dad introduces me to his co-residents, he usually starts the introduction with the obvious: 'And this is my son, Tom. Tom lives in Ireland.'

To which the response is usually a glazed look, followed by a moment of dis-belief, and then the inevitable: 'You live in Ireland?' 'Yes Ma'am,' I'll reply. 'And how long have you been there?' '27 years,' I'll state.

Invariably, I will then receive a look of absolute shock. 'You mean you don't live in America anymore?' 'No Ma'am.' 'Don't you want to come home?' 'No Ma'am. Well, sometimes maybe.'

This will be followed by a look of confusion tinged with a wee bit of suspicion. 'Don't you like your own country, young man?' And I know that no matter how much I might explain, my absense from America will always generate a certain level of mis-understanding and mis-trust among my fellow Americans.

If You Live Abroad, Many Americans Will Never Understand
If you plan on uprooting your existence to move to Ireland or anywhere else in the world, be prepared for a shock: many Americans that you know will never appreciate your decision. Be prepared for a certain level of mis-trust and skepticism. Be prepared for all sorts of accusations being leveled in your general direction, including my all-time favourite, that leaving America simply isn't patriotic.

Be prepared for silly, sometimes outrageous, thinking from others on why you've chosen to leave the country of your birth. Oh, you might tell people the honest truth: that you simply want to see how the rest of the world lives. Or you might acknowledge that you're interested in new cultures and a different way of thinking. But whatever reasons you might state, those reasons can be twisted by some, and a minority will invariably start a whispering campaign whose sole focus is to get to the bottom of your true reasons for leaving America:

'That Tom just never fit in. He's had to run away with his tail between his legs.'

'What's wrong with that fellow? Doesn't he realise that America is the best country on earth?'

'Good thing he left! He obviously hates America. The country is better off without him.'

And no matter what you say, or how you try to explain, a small minority will always view you with a certain level of derision, suspicion, and whispered dis-like. But take heart! You'll be living thousands of miles away. So you won't have to listen to it. Not all the time anyway.

But enough of the lesson. This morning, I accompanied Dad to Mass at the local Catholic Church. I was astounded to find that Mass here takes over an hour! In Ireland, Sunday Mass lasts only 30 minutes or so. I pointed this out to Dad, and had a handy explanation for the difference:

'I'm worried about you guys, Dad. Mass here takes twice as long as in Ireland. Must be due to the fact,' I said, with a twinkle in my eye, 'that the Irish are just that much holier than you folks here. They only need to pray half as long for the same result.'
Dad is pondering on this view, and I know I'll hear his counter-argument shortly.

For more stories on living in Ireland, you might like to try my book, A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland.

No comments:

Post a Comment