The Croatian Diaspora

5 Things I Miss About Living in Ireland

By 11 November 2021
Cork Nikolina Demark

Less sentimental, more practical: a fitting description for things you'll miss about living in a foreign country, compared to those you like best about your homeland. A look at a few things that Ireland does just right

In recent weeks I’ve been writing a lot about my impressions of Ireland as a Croatian emigrant. Looking back to some of the previous pieces, I feel I’ve been a bit too critical for the most part: who can afford those rent prices? The weather is awful! Eesh. One would think I was dragged there against my will.

On the contrary - I find the country and its people wonderful and I really enjoyed the experience overall. Since I’ve already come up with a list of things I missed about Croatia, it’s only fair that I present a few counterarguments because there are quite a few things that Ireland does just right. Such as…

1. Pubs & pints

Surprise, anyone? I didn’t think so. Irish pubs serving Irish beer exist all over the world, including Croatia, but they just pale in comparison to the real thing. There’s something about the essence of a real Irish pub that can’t be put into words: it’s an institution, a place of gathering, a source of joy, a home away from home. And the pints? Good Lord. The Croatian craft scene has really taken off in recent years, but it’ll take quite some time before we see a dozen outstanding local beers on tap in an average neighbourhood bar.

Gonzalo Remy / Unsplash

And look, I get that people are homesick and want to hold on to something familiar. But seeing an occasional Croat ask where they can get Ozujsko or Karlovacko in Ireland just makes me sad. Get yourself to the nearest pub, you ingrate, and get a proper pint.


2. Never missing 'one more paper'

One of the things I liked most about living in Ireland was the absence of the Kafkaesque bureaucratic machinery that Croatia is notorious for. I brought along a folder chock-full of personal documents: birth certificate copies, translated degrees, tax reports. Domovnica? Sure, you never know, whispered the tiny voice in my head, battered and bruised by countless government office mazes, fees, duties and stamps.

The folder went unopened for the next three years. Most things are done online these days - I booked an appointment to obtain a PPSN (Personal Public Service Number, the Irish equivalent of OIB) before I even arrived in Ireland. Revenue, the much more positive-sounding counterpart of Porezna uprava, has a fantastic comprehensive website and an equally great online service where filing your annual tax return only takes a few clicks.

Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

Sure enough, Croatia’s making progress in this regard as well; e-porezna and e-citizen services come to mind. The main difference, however? The few times I was required to show up in person someplace, the clerks and officials in Ireland were friendly and helpful, and I never, ever heard the dreaded ‘you’re missing one more paper’.


3. Friendliness

Continuing from the previous point, the Irish are exceptionally friendly, welcoming people. Walk into a shop, a pub or an office and chances are, you’ll be met with a smile and a warm greeting that always feels genuine. The habit is delightfully contagious. I’m not particularly skilled in small talk and usually keep to myself, but found myself engaging in many a chat about the weather or current events with pleasure.

This kind of positivity is rare in Croatia; cashiers, bus drivers, waiters and clerks seem to be cranky most of the time. Instead of a friendly hello, you’re more likely to get a ‘what the hell do you want’ look. Okay, we all have bad days, but I wish we weren’t quite so bitter sometimes. I felt welcome wherever I went in Ireland, and I now find myself missing the chit-chat.


4. International cuisine

The other day, I saw an ad for a Thai restaurant opening in Rijeka and I positively squealed. International cuisine doesn’t really have a presence in my town and currently totals one Chinese restaurant, one Spanish restaurant, and two sushi places. Zagreb has it much better in this regard, but beyond the capital or perhaps the leading tourist destinations on the coast, you won’t have much chance of exploring other cultures’ gourmet specialties.

Cork was a different story. Owing to immigration from all parts of the world, Ireland is growing more diverse with time and so is its food scene. I had a great Syrian bistro across the street from my place, dozens of Chinese and Indian restaurants to try out, and my favourite find was a Nepalese restaurant which served phenomenal dumplings and curries so intense and flavourful, they made my head spin.

International grocery stores are scattered all over town. You won’t have any trouble sourcing various imported foods if you’re looking to switch up your weeknight cooking and practise making something new and delicious. Once you get accustomed to this, combing the aisles of Croatian supermarkets in search of a good oyster sauce can get pretty frustrating. Some ingredients are either extremely hard to find or ridiculously expensive in comparison to their prices in Ireland.

To be fair, this is not an exclusively Irish thing, but it just goes to show how much we love convenience - it's easy to get used to most things being easily accessible. 


5. The scenery


Sean Kuriyan / Unsplash

The Irish landscape is so spectacularly beautiful, it helps tolerate the unforgiving weather. It’s not like Croatia lacks in natural wonders, it’s just that Ireland looks different. The steep dark cliffs rising from the ocean, vast stretches of sandy beaches, lush green pastures dotted with cows… Absolutely stunning. Bad weather doesn’t diminish the beauty of this land; overcast skies or a bit of rain and fog only add a mystical, atmospheric quality to the environment.

While I did long for the unparalleled Adriatic views while I was away, I must say I grew quite fond of the Atlantic. I’ll miss the cliffside hikes and the unreal colours found on the Irish coast.



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