Hiking in Glendalough: Cliff Walk

Glendalough Cliff Walk White Route

Have you ever visited a place so surreally beautiful and eerie that it felt like you're in a fantasy novel? Well, I have now. That place goes by the name Glendalough, co. Wicklow. I recently came across a photo of the Glendalough Valley while googling "hiking routes in Wicklow", and well, the rest is history. To conquer the cliffs I had seen in the photo (similar to the one I took above) we would have to select the White Route, also known as the Glendalough Spinc and Glenealo Valley walk, the most difficult and challenging hiking route described as 'strenuous' in the trail map. 'Navigational experience needed', it said. 'Extreme caution'. Sounds perfect.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the Sugarloaf Mountain, I only recently discovered how surprisingly easy it is to reach so many seemingly remote places by bus in Ireland. For some reason I thought that Dublin's public transportation system was somehow representative of the rest of the bus routes on the isle, but I was wrong. Glendalough is basically a few buildings and an ancient monastery alongside one road, but you can get there with St. Kevins Bus Service.  It's actually really handy since they have buses two times a day on weekends, one at 11:30 and the other at 18, so you can either choose to do a day trip by catching the earlier bus and then return to Dublin at six, or take the later bus, sleep overnight in Glendalough and then return the next day.

We decided to go for the latter option since we wanted to make sure we wouldn't have to panic about missing the only bus back to Dublin in the evening. Little did we know how adventurous it'd make our arrival to Glendalough...

... Now, see, as I said it's just a bunch of lone buildings alongside a tiny road, and it was late October. We boarded the bus in front of St. Stephen's Green at 18 with several other people, but during the 1,5h bus ride most of them hopped off one by one in villages that just seemed to keep getting smaller and smaller on each stop. Eventually we were driving a tiny, muddy one-way road in the dimming night, passing lonely farmhouses and several sheep just white enough to be spotted from the darkness. So as we arrived to Glendalough, it was just us and another young couple left. It was pitch black outside the bus windows when we came to a sudden stop. After a few seconds of confused stillness the bus driver impatiently exclaimed 'It's the final stop folks!', and we all, kind of reluctantly, exited the bus. The last glimpse of light we saw before being surrounded by the intense darkness of the rural Irish countryside nights was the rear lights of our bus as it drove away. Uh-oh.

I couldn't see Alex, let alone the other couple who seemed to be struggling even more than us as they had not checked the location of their hotel beforehand, apparently trusting that we'd still be within range for mobile operators and 3G. Sorry folks, this is rural Ireland. Welcome back to the 70s (this isn't a joke, in Kerry we once visited a village that didn't have electricity before the 70s). Alex turned on the torch app on his phone, I had a screencap of the map from the bus stop to the hostel, and off we went.

Never have I been as happy about the reflectors on my hiking shoes. We passed the fancy hotel where assumed the other couple was heading, crossed a tiny bridge (only knew there was a bridge from the sound of the water!) and headed uphill on this road so tiny we would definitely get instantly killed by a passing car if it wasn't for our phone torch and my shiny shoes. Eventually we reached the hostel, a bit further on the side from the rest of the civilisation in Glendalough, and prepared for what was coming the following day.

Village of Glendalough

It was funny to see the landscape for the first time the next morning, knowing we had walked this exact same road the night before but just unable to see any of it. The white route starts from the Glendalough visitor centre along with the other more moderate hiking trails, except that ours was 9 kilometres and would supposedly take 3 to 4 hours.

Road to hiking trails

Waterfall in Glendalough trails

The beginning of the trail, shared with a few other trails, was slight uphill all the way. The shit got real only when we reached the beginning of the white route, where we encountered a woman with her dog. "You're doing the white route? You're gonna love it. Is it your first time? It's such a wonderful trail, one of the best I've tried. Just be careful. And keep an eye for the deers, you might be able to spot a few!"

The woman headed back down the road and we were left on the feet of a wooden staircase for which we couldn't see the end. What exactly had I gotten myself into?

The staircase lasted forever. We did 5 stops, I was panting like a dying animal and stripped down at least three layers of clothing on the way. But then we reached the top of the cliff range, and it was all worth it:

View from Glendalough cliffs

Hiking in Glendalough valley

The walk followed the edge of the cliff. The morning mist still somewhat covered parts of the landscape since we left around 9 in the morning, but there were only a few other hikers behind us on the trail (spot the guy with the orange jacket!) and everything was just so peaceful. It's moments like these I hike for - it's just you alone in the nature, feeling small in front of the vast landscape.

Misty weather in Glendalough valley

Cliff edge on Glendalough cliffs

We couldn't see back in the Glendalough village from this point. My fear of heights wanted to take over when peeking over the edge:

Glendalough valley seem from the top

Autumn colours in Glendalough

Alex wanted to upload the Skyrim theme song on his iPod so we could listen to it and feel like a real dovahkiin while roaming this landscape. At this point I almost got disappointed he forgot about it.

Eventually the fog swallowed us. We had reached the highest point of the cliffs and could only see twenty metres in front of us. There had been a sign moments before warning about the holes in the wood on our trail. We kept going.

Fog on Glendalough cliffs

Glendalough valley

The wooden planks changed into a stone pavement as we started descending from the cliffs towards the tip of the valley. Alex sprained his ankle while going down the steps, falling on the side of the road with a shriek you could probably hear all the way back to Glendalough. Luckily 10 minutes of rest was enough for him to recover, and onwards we went.

Milk thistle in Glendalough

We had been hearing this weird, occasional bass call from somewhere on the hills for a while, unable to identify the source. That's where we spotted the deer. There were a few of them amongst the sheep (because yes, there were sheep roaming on the cliffs), cohabiting the space seemingly peacefully. We met a dove with her two fawns(?), crossing the road just a few meters in front of us:

Deer sighting in Glendalough

Deer in Glendalough

Deer in Glendalough hiking trail

Ruins on the white route

At the peak of the valley lies the Glenealo river, which we crossed by a narrow bridge. A group of staff from the national park had come up here with a few telescopes pointed to the source of the weird noise that kept following us since descending from the cliff range - the dominant alpha buck of the valley. He was lying on the grass just tens of meters away from us, and the group was kind enough to let us take a peek through their telescope to get a detailed look of the animal. Such a cool and random little encounter in the middle of nowhere.

Glenealo river

Glenealo river

The rest of the trail was at the bottom of the valley, passing the ruins of an old miner village. This is where the rain finally caught us (we're in Ireland, after all) and I was more than happy to have made it this far away from the cliffs before the downpour.

View of the Glendalough valley

At the bottom of the Glendalough valley

The miner village ruins were an unexpected but cool extra on the trail. Apparently mining on the area dates all the way back to the 1790, mostly concentrating on lead, zinc and silver, and continued its operations all the way until 1957. Several other of the trails would meet ways around the descended peak of the valley, so we started to meet more people heading the other way and finally disappear into the fog.

... Now if this doesn't make you feel like you're in Skyrim, I don't know what does...

Miner ruins in Glendalough

The Glendalough White Route is easily one of the best hikes of my life. It also felt much easier than what the instructions in the trail map had braced us for, but surely it's good to use caution when you hike just a few metres away from the edge of a cliff in thick fog. We already decided to return later and try some of the other routes further from the valley.

Oh, and just a tip. Don't be like us city idiots who just assumed there would be a grocery store in Glendalough. The closest one is in Laragh, a solid 40-minute walk from the village. Bring snacks or you'll end up like us, who dined like three times in the only restaurant of the entire Glendalough - that being in the only hotel in Glendalough apart from the youth hostel we stayed at. Needless to say, we were hungry quite a bit on this trip.

Have you been to the Glendalough? Are there other hiking trails worth trying in Ireland? Share your tips in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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Climbing the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow

Climbing the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow

When you think of 'Sugarloaf mountain', you might be thinking of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, but there happens to be a sugarloaf mountain in Wicklow, Ireland too. I only learned this 3 days ago when I was trying to distract myself from falling asleep on my lunch break by planning a day trip to Greystones for the weekend. Now I'm sure Greystones is wonderful and all, but there was this funny-looking mountain poking out from the landscape in the pictures I was googling, and I knew it needed to be climbed. A fun little Saturday activity.

So 3 days later I'm panting for my life on the steepest, rockiest trail I've ever put my feet on, wondering who the hell decided to call this hike 'beginner-level' and 'suitable for families'. Nevertheless, it was amazing.

The sugarloaf mountain in Glenview, Wicklow is 501 metres in height and is accessible through a 1 to 2-hour walk (more like hike, as it turned out) to the top. It's a very cool thing to do if you have an extra day to spare while visiting Dublin since it's fairly close and surprisingly easy to reach. For the first year of living in Dublin I kept telling myself it's impossible to get anywhere without a car but it turns out you just have to do a bit of digging and you can get to great many places around by public transport.

Alex and I hopped into Bus Éireann route 133 from the city centre, but alternatively you can take the dart to Bray and take Dublin Bus 184 from there instead. Both options take you to Glenview, which is basically a junction in the middle of a motorway, consisting of a hotel and a garden centre. The bus trip is an hour-long, so bring snacks for your hike. The best way to plan your journey is to use the TFI (Transport For Ireland) Journey Planner. In case you need more tips about transport in Dublin, read through my helpful guide.

So we hopped off at this random bus stop in the middle of nowhere by the motorway after panicking about it for 10 seconds in the bus ('Is this the stop?? I think it is - wait no - no yes, yes it is!!') and started navigating our way through the farmlands. The walk from the motorway to the mountain takes half an hour and is slight uphill all the way to the start of the trail. So here's what we would be working with:

Sugarloaf Mountain Walk

I had checked the trail to the top of this mountain in advance and wondered if it could really be as straight up to the top as the maps indicated. Seeing this mountain appear from behind the bushes for the first time made my hip-injured, back-injured and knee-injured ex-dancer body squirm uncomfortably for a bit. 

There's no pedestrian walk on the road through the farms, being in the middle of rural Ireland as we are, so be prepared to dodge a few cars on the way. The landscape is absolutely picturesque though, so you won't get bored.

The Rural Road to the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

You can even make a few friends on the way!

Irish Sheep on the way

The start of the trail makes it look like child's play. The mountain is just a pimple on the face of the earth and everything's just good craic. The weather was good for Ireland too (to quote Alex, 'Any percentage chance of rain in the forecast means 100% chance of rain, and 0% chance means 50%') so the odds were in our favour for this hike.

Honestly though: it says family friendly, but please don't show up in a skirt - and I'm not kidding, someone really did.

The start of the Sugarloaf Mountain walk

Climbing the mountain

Halfway through the ascension the trail starts to get rocky. The top seems to be just a few good leaps away...

A rocky trail to the top

But then it get's more rocky...

Even more rocky trail to the top


Serious rock climbing to the top

... Until this is what you'll be dealing with for the last dozen metres. Be ready to use your hands, maybe take a pair of gloves with you in case the idea of fondling wet rocks isn't your cup of tea. The final part of the trail is very steep - watch your step.

The view from the top is well worth the effort:

View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

A happy blogger on top of the Sugarloaf Mountain

View towards Dublin from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

We were able to see past Greystones all the way to BRAY from the mountain peak, and a glimpse of Dublin too. The patchwork quilt pattern in million shades of green dominating the Irish landscape never ceases to astonish me. To be completely honest, I found the views in Ireland to be quite depressing at first when I had gotten used to being pampered with the Canadian snow-top mountain ranges, but after living in Ireland for 1,5 years I have finally found my peace with it. There's something so very tranquil in the lush, mellow shades of green and brown, the mist lingering above the fields and the silence of the rural landscape. And well, the sheep are just the best.

A view towards the Irish sea from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

A happy boyfriend at the top

On the top we also met a man playing With or Without You by U2 with an acoustic guitar. The man had moved to Ireland years ago and told us that the Sugarloaf was the first mountain he saw upon arriving in the country. He had promised himself that one day he would climb on top, but since then life had happened and he never quite found the time - until today. So as we reached the top, he sat there playing guitar and drinking a can of Guinness he had brought along. Oh, Ireland.

Descending from the Sugarloaf turned out to be trickier than the climb up, and my butt made some pretty close contact with the rocks quite a few times as I tried to drag myself down the crazy steep hillside. The rain caught us halfway through our way down so that's +1 in difficulty...

As mentioned, the climb is described as 'suitable for beginners' and 'good for families', and I guess it applies in the sense that the climb is indeed quite short and in no way comparable to our 6-hour mud hike in Vallée du Bras du Nord a few years ago, but be prepared to do some moderate rock climbing to reach the peak. And make sure to install the TFI Journey Planner app on your phone so you don't have to be like us and try to install this thing under a bridge on a motorway while it's raining cats and dogs, your fingers are cold and your shoes are soaking wet, you have no idea when the next 133 is going to pass, and Lycamobile's internet speed is equivalent to trying to install an app to a rock.

Descending from the mountain

Have you been to the Great Sugarloaf? Are there other mountains worth climbing in Ireland? Share your tips in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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How to Survive Public Transport in Dublin

How to survive public transport in Dublin

If you have never been to Dublin you might be wondering what's the point of such a blog post. After living in here for over a year, however, I have first-handedly experienced all of the shortcomings and difficulties of using the public transport in this quirky capital of Ireland. Are you planning on visiting sometime soon? If so, keep reading and save yourself from the confusion you'll surely start facing the moment you exit the terminal and try to find your way from the airport to the city centre.

Now, most European capitals have an easy-to-navigate public transportation system that you get a hang of after the first 30 minutes of staring at the tube map. Dublin is like playing that same game on hard-mode: the same rules don't apply, the obstacles are more frequent, and the boss-fight of attempting to cross the city with one single vehicle is nearly impossible. I have been stopped by countless of tourists while roaming around the city streets with my workplace lanyard swinging from one side to another - because yes, that gives you instant street cred and makes you look like you actually know where you're going in this lovable mess of a city. 90% of the time their questions are related to the public transport, such as "From which side of the road does the tram to place X leave?" (left-side traffic can be confusing the first time you try it out!) or "Where can I buy a bus ticket?" I collected questions that you might end up asking yourself (or the white collar worker with her lanyard around her neck running by, trying to catch her bus) while roaming around Dublin. Let's go!

How do I travel around Dublin? What kind of public transport is available?
Dublin's public transport is three-fold. First, you have Dublin Bus, the yellow double-decked buses that might just take you where you want to go if you're lucky. Then you have the LUAS, a two-line tram system that takes you around in the shape of a cross - vertically and horisontally around the city. Funny enough, these two lines have not crossed each other until now: the cross-city LUAS works that have been ongoing since 2013 are finally coming to an end, and in November 2017 we are finally promised to have the two tramlines meet. Thirdly, you have the DART, Dublin's suburban train, and the commuter trains to further locations.

What kind of ticket do I need? Where can I buy tickets?
This is where Dublin gets tricky. See, this holy trinity of Dublin's transportation system does not work together - they're all their own individual entities with their own ticket systems. Meaning, if you want to start your journey on the LUAS and then switch to a bus, the same ticket isn't working on both.

You can buy single tickets for all three: LUAS and the Dart have ticket machines on each station and the fare will depend on your destination (zone-style). For Dublin Bus you can buy a single ticket from the driver with a flat fare of 2,70€. You need to have that exact amount of money in cash, as you get no change.

You also have day-ticket options in Dublin. You can get yourself a Leap card, the Irish equivalent of an Oyster card if you've ever been to London. The Leap card has a deposit on it, and you can top it up with either money or time. You can get yourself one from any ticket machine on Luas or Dart stations, and mind you, this thing is valid in all three means of transport. Leap card fares are usually 20% cheaper compared to the flat fares, so if you're planning on travelling often, I recommend you get one. If you're only staying for a few days and are prepared to roam around a lot, get yourself the Leap Visitor Card.

How do I top up my Leap card?
You can do this on every ticket machine on Luas and Dart stations. If you're always late and/or a more frequent commuter like myself, you can also download the Leap Card App which allows you to top up your card on the go with your mobile. 

How do I use my ticket/Leap card? Do I have to validate it when boarding a bus/tram/train?
Yes. Once you have your single/day ticket or a Leap card, the validation process is pretty much the same on each type of transport:
  • When you want to enter a Luas, simply tap your Leap card on the ticket validation machine standing on each end of the stop. This deducts the maximum amount of money from your Leap card, and can go on minus. But worry not! Once you get off the Luas on your destination stop, simply tap off the same way and the deduction will be returned back on your card depending on the distance between your start and end points. This does not apply to single tickets, which you need to buy according to the zones. Simply hop on and remember to leave the tram before crossing the next zone!
  • The Dart works almost the same. However, both tickets and Leap cards need to be validated at the gates before entering the station. Leap cards are tapped and single/day tickets are swiped through a slot. When you exit at your destination, repeat, and the gates will open to let you out.
  • Now, Dublin Bus. Where do I even start... Take notes, love. If you want to travel under 13 stops by bus, you need to know the stop number or the name of your destination stop. When you enter a bus, place your card on the machine in front of the driver on the left and tell them where you're going. They will do the magic and the right amount of money depending on the distance to your destination is again deducted from your Leap card. If you travel over 13 stops, the Leap card validation machine will be on your right attached to a bar. Place your Leap card on the machine, and a flat fare of 2,60€ will be deducted. You don't have to tap off when you exit a bus in either case.

Wait... What? How am I supposed to know the bus stop name or number?
Just breathe, it's going to be alright. The stop number is mentioned on each stop. If you have never been to the stop before, you can use cheats like the Dublin Bus App which gives you real-time information, bus routes and stop locations. If you're unsure, you can also just mention the vague location, say, "Annesley Bridge" even if the official stop name is Waterloo Avenue. You can also just mention the number of stops you'll be taking, like "5 stops". I have heard people use all these strategies to go about the Dublin Bus.

If you have a day ticket, you don't need to worry about any of this. Simply tap on on the machine on the right and enjoy the ride.

Can I transfer from one bus to another with the same validation?
Unfortunately, no. There is no transfer system in place in Dublin. Once you board a bus, you board that bus, and that bus only, and if you need to make a transfer to another bus, you need to pay again. This is why it's important for you to know where you're going, so you don't end up always paying the flat fare. There is a price cap, though. After you've travelled around with fares worth of 10€, the rest of your day will be free of charge. I've succeeded in this only once when I spent my Saturday travelling around Dublin to interview my research participants for my Master's thesis.

Can I transfer from one Luas to another without tapping off in-between?
Oh, my sweet summer child... Let me share an instructional poster about the Luas system:

Fucking walk it yerself

See, technically I believe you could. But there's a solid 15 to 20-minute walk between the two lines as of now, so there isn't much point. Everything will change when the cross-city works are done - or so they keep telling us...

Are there ticket inspections in public transport in Dublin?
Yes. Some people keep telling me they have never seen one, but as someone who takes both the Luas and the bus every single day, I live through them at least four times a week. They're very common in the Luas, but I have also experienced them in the Dart and even in the bus, so buy your tickets or pay the penalty fare of 100€.

How do I get to/from the airport in Dublin?
You have multiple options. If you want to save money and are in no hurry (emphasis on no hurry at all), you can take Dublin Bus number 16. It will take you through the lovely suburbs of Dublin, avoiding the M50 highway, and takes about an hour if you're lucky. I tried this once - it's almost like the bus is pulled by a very stubborn and old mule, but hey, it's only 2,60€!

What I usually take, however, are buses 747 and 730 between Dublin Airport and Heuston Station. These buses are called the Dublin Airlink: they're dark green, and have slightly separate fees compared to the normal Dublin Bus. A single fare is 7€ and a return 10€. This bus is supposed to be an express bus and takes the M50 highway through the tunnel, but spends quite some time in the city centre driving by all possible hostels and collecting travellers. The journey time is between half an hour and 50 minutes, depending on the time of the day.

You can also take the Aircoach, which is a separate bus company with fancy, comfy blue buses. 7€ for a single ticket and 12€ for return. I have never tried this bus, but you can buy their tickets either online on their website or by cash in the bus.

Seems manageable, why does it feel like you're not too keen on the public transport in Dublin?
Let me demonstrate with a screenshot from Google Maps what happens when I try to go to work. I live in the north, and work in the north. For some reason, however, this happens:

Why is Dublin public transport so diffiult

The bus map is very inconvenient. It's almost impossible to cross the city without transfer, and the journey times are really long. I live 2 kilometres away from my workplace. I would cycle there in 20 minutes, but by public transport, this jolly little journey takes an hour. Speaking of bikes...

Are there city bikes in Dublin?
Yes! And they're the best thing if you happen to be conveniently located close to the bike stations. They accept Leap cards, 3-day tickets and annual cards. Read more about the bikes from their website.

I wish you courage and luck, traveller. When you grow old and weary, remember that Dublin is also a very walkable city. If you don't intend to stray away from the city centre during your stay in Dublin, you might be able to avoid all this and just blissfully stroll back and forth the banks of the Liffey river. 

Have you ever struggled with public transport during your travels? Which city has the best one in your opinion? Share your stories in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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Multicultural Couple Problems: Google Translated Recipes

Multicultural Relationship Problems: Google Translated Recipes

Sharing your life with someone who comes from a whole different world to yours gets adventurous at times. Mundane tasks like washing the dishes, booking appointments or cooking a meal can turn into a self-exploratory tour into your own weird habits and shortcomings.

Time teaches you to ignore these things. When you date someone from another culture for a few years you fall into this weird familiarity where cultural differences are taken for granted and not given much thought. That is, until they cause a catastrophe.

As I'm currently working full time AND trying to finish my postgraduate thesis simultaneously, my caring boyfriend, a French-speaking lifesaver from Québec, Canada, has stepped into this insanity and attempts to make my life more bearable. That comes in the form of cooking our dinners. When I drag myself home from the LUAS (the tram system in Dublin), I can freely fall on the couch, take a few deep breaths and then continue my data transcription project while Alex works his way around the kitchen.

The problem is, I used to be the one to plan the meals - as a former professional restaurant cook it was more than natural for me to come up with a few improvised meals worth eating. Not anymore. The ball has been tossed to Alex.

I've shared a few Finnish recipe sites with him to use as an inspiration.

The emphasis here is on the word FINNISH.

I don't know how Google Translate works around your native language, but I can tell you Finnish and automatic translation softwares are not friends. It hasn't been that many years since my private Finnish Facebook update about trying to find a new apartment in Helsinki turned into yours truly attempting to sell her black roommate and depressed fridge.

That probably should've worked as an indicator for me to NOT let Alex use these softwares to translate Finnish recipes. Halfway through the cooking process of chicken-cauliflower curry I heard Alex shouting from downstairs:

"You know what, I'm really starting to have doubts about this meal."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Well I mean, I fried the chicken, I fried the cauliflower, and now they have been in the oven for like 5 minutes - but what's the point of putting them into the oven for just 5 minutes?"

"Wait - you what? Why is the curry in the oven?"

"Well the recipe says to fry the ingredients on a frying pan and then put them into the oven --"

"Oh my god! No! No it doesn't!"

"Yes it does! It says to put them into the oven for a few minutes, take them out and add the curry-flavoured yoghurt --"

"... WHAT? What did you do to the yoghurt?!"

"Well half of it is in the oven now and the rest is here on the side mixed with the curry paste, since we obviously don't have curry-flavoured yoghurt..."

"You were supposed to fry the ingredients, then add the yoghurt and curry paste on the pan and let it simmer for a few minutes!"

"Well that's obviously not what's happening in the French version of your recipe. It clearly states to add the curry-flavoured yoghurt into the mixture in the oven."

"Oh my f--"

Summa summarum: the dinner was delicious despite our linguistic shortcomings. Note to self: don't trust translation softwares.

Have you ever tried to translate things and failed massively? Do this kind of things happen in your multicultural relationship? Share your stories in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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Interview in ExpatFinder.com | New Job and Other Updates

'We have discussed this with my Canadian half and came to the conclusion that Ireland might not be the place to be for us...'

I'm not dead!
Not yet at least - turns out attempting to write your postgraduate thesis full-time while working full-time leaves you on the brink of insanity. Take my advice: sleeping four hours a night is not, repeat, NOT enough rest in the long run.

Yes, you heard it right. I got a job. It was a series of weird events and unplanned job interviews but in the end I actually landed a pretty decent position here in Dublin, nevermind the hardships immigrants occasionally face to get employed to a position that matches their level of education.

More stories of that in a bit - before that, I wanted to share this interview I did for ExpatFinder.com, a website providing information, technology and support services for a global network of expats. Their questions really concentrated more on the everyday aspect of my life in Ireland, so in case you're interested in learning how the daily ramblings of a Finnish migrant in Dublin have worked out for me, read the interview here:

So as mentioned, life has been a rollercoaster during the last month. My last semester in Trinity College Dublin is finished, which brought along the insane project of writing my postgraduate dissertation. For the past five weeks I've been running back and forth Ireland - and even flew to Scotland for a weekend - interviewing people and transcribing the data. My research concentrates on the role of cultural heritage in the creation of a sense of belonging amongst children of Russian-speaking immigrants in Ireland - in other words, how children of Russian-speaking migrants from the former USSR navigate their way with this kind of hyphenated identity, belonging to multiple places and nowhere at once. I'm head over heels with this project, and hearing people's stories and thoughts about growing up in a country different to their parents has been a truly eye-opening experience. I've also had a chance to brush up on my rusty Russian and drink a glass or two of kombucha.

As for the employment situation: for this entire time living in Dublin I've felt like I'm somehow in-between: not Irish enough to get an actual good job, my CV having written IMMIGRANT with large red letters all over it, and too educated and experienced for more casual, lower-level positions at the same time. I didn't even get a call back from a cafe despite having a vocational qualification and work experience as a restaurant cook. At the same time, whilst applying for higher-level jobs, interviewers seemed to have been genuinely surprised about my level of English - this I find a little odd. I mean, look at my CV for god's sake! I studied in a British university for a semester, lived in Canada for a year and now I'm about to finish a postgraduate degree in an Irish university - you'd expect someone like that to be pretty decent at speaking English, right? No. A quote from a recruiter: "But I mean... Your English is perfect! I really didn't expect that!"

The stigma of an immigrant in the employment market wears me out sometimes: I wish it was possible for me to attach a video recording of myself speaking English to my job applications, giving me the chance to prove I can handle this language pretty damn well. Being from Finland has turned out to be a weird paradox of expectations and prejudices - whilst majority of people have the conception that "all Scandinavians speak perfect English", there's that small portion of people who are not even sure if Finland is considered part of Europe ("Well it's not part of the EU at least, is it?"), asking me for work permits and visas. However, turns out speaking Finnish in the Dublin job market is a true blessing: the companies needing someone for their Nordic market are ready to fight for you. Once I submitted to the inevitable and decided to enter the localisation game, I accidentally created a salary bidding war between two employers who needed a Finnish-speaker with quality assurance and IT experience. I still wish it was possible for me to be useful to someone for my professional skills, not just for my Finnish language.

New blog posts about actual topics are on their way, but in the meanwhile, bear with me and my sleepless life! If you have any suggestions about topics for blog posts, hit me up!

Have you ever worked in a confidential job you're not allowed to talk about? Have you found it hard to find employment while living abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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BELFAST VLOG | Giant's Causeway, Rope Bridge, Game of Thrones Location!

Belfast Vlog: Giant's Causeway, Game of Thrones, Rope Bridge

Hi lovelies!
Alex and I took a weekend off from being productive postgraduates and headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland. The second day of our adventure we spent touring around the north coast of the island of Ireland, enjoying the breathtaking scenery and historical locations.

Northern Ireland is officially part of the United Kingdom, but the landscape of course is very similar to the rest of the Irish island. We had a chance to check out places like...
Carrickfergus Castle: an amazing old castle in County Antrim, dating back to 1177...
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: a 20-meter long rope bridge 30 meters above the sea, linking the tiny island of Carrickarede to the mainland...
Giant's Causeway: a UNESCO world heritage site of approx. 40,000 basalt columns caused by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago...
The Dark Hedges: a tunnel-like path framed with trees, most known for its appearance in the Game of Thrones TV series as the King's Road.

A proper blogpost with guides and tips of our tour will follow, but for now, enjoy this little vlog to give you a sneak peek!

Have you been to Northern Ireland? Would you like to go? Would you enjoy more vlogs like this?Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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10 Finnish Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing

10 Finnish Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing

I've lived abroad for long enough to have answered the classic "Where are you from?" at least a hundred times. Well, we all have at some point of our lives, so we all know what comes next: wherever you come from, whatever your answer might be, the person asking the question tries to make sense of you and break the ice by telling you that one thing they've heard about your home country.

When you come from a country like mine - a puny, irrelevant Finland somewhere between Russia and western Europe - there are only so many things people know. Are we like Swedes? Do we hate everyone? Funny or not, believe me, after hearing the same things over and over again throughout the years there's a point where even a calm, silent Finn has had enough of your bullcr...

...What I'm trying to say here is: here are 10 Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing! Clinically tested by yours truly!

1. "But you're from Finland? How can you feel cold?"

How? How about by not dressing properly?

My Finnish skin doesn't make me immune to cold temperatures. Yes, there indeed is a chance I'm more used to cold than someone from a more southern hemisphere - in other words, I'm not necessarily wearing a coat in +15C - but there is a limit. That limit is very easily reached in a place like Ireland, where the humidity gets into your bones and freezes you from the inside no matter how many layers of scarves you're wearing. The Atlantic wind is ruthless, folks.

2. "Your education system is so flawless. Why would you move abroad to study?"

Probably because I wanted to study somewhere else than Finland.

Yes, education is great. Yes, it's free. Yes, we rank incredibly well internationally every year. But also no, we do get homework, we do have exams and our teachers are not rich. Thank you for verifying that.

If you're interested in finding out why I left Finland, check out this blogpost: WHY I MOVED ABROAD. It will reveal the secrets of Finnish emigration on my part.

3. "Finland? You speak Swedish/Russian/English there, right?"

Well, you're not entirely wrong there. Finland is a bilingual country: Swedish is the first language of roughly 5% of Finns. And well, at school we indeed learn English and even Russian sometimes.

But the answer to your question here is NO. The logic to my first language is pretty simple: Finland - Finnish. Finnish is my first language. No, it's not anything like Swedish of Norwegian.  No, it doesn't sound like Russian either. It's the odd-one-out orphan separated from her brothers and sisters at birth, and while Estonians and Hungarians took a southern turn, we got stuck here in the North.

How does it sound like? Ask me to demonstrate one more time ("Just say anything!") and you can be sure the example I'll give you is something sort of hääyöaie or tunturikyyhky (for some reason deemed incredibly hard by my quebecois friends).

4. "What do you know about problems, you're from Finland..."

As a postgraduate in conflict studies and international politics I've noticed not everyone is aware of the complexity of Finnish history. On our last Independence Day I posted a short message on Facebook congratulating my tiny little homeland, took the bus to the campus and walked to my seminar. One of my colleagues had noted my status and wished me happy independence day. Everyone in the room fell silent and looked slightly confused until someone finally asked: "Wait... Independent... from who?"

Finland is your fairytale come true - a Cinderella rising from poverty, war and famine to the promised land of Angry Birds it is today, and it's true we're doing incredibly well nowadays. It doesn't mean we haven't had issues. It doesn't mean we don't have any issues. The fact that you mostly hear Finns complain about the lack of proficient heating in their apartment abroad doesn't mean it's the biggest problem their delicate Finnish skin has ever heard of.

5. "Finland? Hey, I have a friend from Sweden called ____! Do you know him?"

Yes, Björn Persson, of course I know him. He's a cousin from my mother's side.

No, I don't know your Scandinavian friends. We're quite a few million people in there, with a few borders and language barriers in between.

Finnish Food

6. "Norway, Sweden, Finland... What's the difference?"

Say that one more time and I'll show you why Finns are always depicted with a knife in their hand.

... Just kidding. There's a point in there though - you wouldn't say "Germany, France, Spain - what's the difference?" to a guy from Madrid. Despite us all being from northern Europe, our cultures have their own really distinctive features, the languages vary and the history of each country is very different. We don't even eat the same things: Finns have their mämmi, Swedes have their surströmming and Norwegians have... whatever it is that they eat. Don't even get me started with Danes. They can't even understand each other sometimes.

7. "You must really enjoy this summery weather seeing you don't have summer that up in the north."

Why yes thank you, see, in Finland we live in eternal darkness and this is the first time I've laid my eyes upon something so bright.

... Come on. Even Iceland has its summer! Stop with the polar bears and penguins. Finland might be in the northern Europe, but that doesn't mean we're still living in the Ice Age. Our summers are usually between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (sometimes even 30!) so thank you for being concerned about my vitamin D intake, but believe me, I'm doing just fine.

8. "Can you introduce me to one of your Finnish friends? All Finnish girls are so blond and beautiful."

I refuse to introduce any of my lovely Finnish gals to anyone who doesn't know a thing about Finland. How would you know to appreciate their incredible stubbornness and blatantly straightforward way of stating their opinion?

Yes, some of us are blond, but I'd like to remind you we're not talking about that weirdly culturally stereotyping adult film about Swedish sluts having fun in the sauna you probably inspired yourself from - we're talking about 5,5 million people. We come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

9. "I'm not gonna hug you, I know how jealous of your personal space you Finns are."

Thank you for leaving me without love and affection to protect my national pride.

More seriously though, we're all different. It's true we're most likely not going to jump to your warm embrace of kisses and back rubs unless we've lived in such a culture for some time. We might even need some guidance with such gestures at first. But as someone who's been bootcamped with this stuff for three years now I can assure you I'm almost prepared to reach out for the hug now. Almost.

10. "You must be so amazed by all this freedom since you come from a communist country." 

I don't even know what to say to you.

I admit, I have been amazed by the variety of brands in Canada in the past. It's true we don't have that many international chain stores and restaurants in Finland. It's true I've probably looked really confused while listening to you blabbering about Lucky Charms because I have no idea what the hell that is.

But last time I checked, it was referred to as "nordic welfare system", not communism. Sorry if our high taxation rate insulted your freedom.

What kind of weird stereotypes of your home country have you heard of? Do you ever wish you didn't have to reveal where you're from all the time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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