‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’

Brendan McGinn went from Blarney to a new life in Providence with his Puerto Rican wife and two daughters

My family and I emigrated to the US in 2013. My Puerto Rican wife had just finished her PhD and wanted to move closer to her family. She had lived in Ireland for the previous five years with me.

We had two girls aged four and nine months at the time, so it was a big step for us. I saw it as a new beginning.

I was working in a sales job that I didn’t enjoy and saw no long-term future in, so in the summer of 2013 we packed up everything from our house in Blarney, Co Cork, and went on holiday to Puerto Rico.

I had to return to Ireland while my visa was being processed and finally got notification in August 2013 that I could travel.

My first task was to fly to Florida and pick up a 15-year-old car which my father-in-law had kindly donated to us. I think the most I had driven at that time was for about four hours. The long/lonely drive from Jacksonville to Rhode Island took me about 22 hours.

We settled in Providence, Rhode Island, and have been here since.

Our life since then has been as normal as anyone else’s is with young kids. Mornings are spent getting ready for school and work, with weekends spent doing activities.

From a professional viewpoint we have both been very lucky.

My wife works a professor at a local university and I’m currently working in logistics for a Belgian company. It works out great as I have to travel to Belgium a few times a year, so I always stop off home for a few days on the way back.

The girls go to a school founded by an Irish nun, Catherine McAuley, and are heavily involved in dance and school shows. My youngest has recently taken up ice hockey, which is a lot of fun.

Being half-Irish, half-Puerto Rican is an interesting mix. My kids are bilingual and our two cultures are similar in lots of ways. We try not to make it a big deal about identifying as Irish/Puerto Rican, although our girls both proudly tell everyone they were born in Ireland!

The question I always get of course is would I move back home and honestly I have to say no.

The US absolutely has its issues – especially when your hear about the gun shootings at schools which, coming from Ireland, is completely shocking. And let’s not forget they elected Trump. But the country has been good for my family and I.

It still is the land of opportunity. I have met countless guys out here who left Ireland when they were 18 or 19 and are now in a position financially they never thought was possible at home.

Also, the weather! I know we like to go on a lot about it, but having an actual change in seasons is great. I really do not miss the rain.

Things I do miss about home is the food (I was a big breakfast-roll guy) and of course the sense of humour.

Heading out for a few pints to watch a match or sit and chat with friends and family is something I really miss, especially on those long easy-going summer days when it stays bright until after 10pm in Ireland. I can picture the scene as I type.

It hasn’t always been easy though. I was 32 when we came out here and had to reinvent myself to take on a new career. That meant starting at the bottom, which is not easy to do when you have a young family, but I was determined to make a go of this and just went into everything with a let’s get-on-with-it attitude.

My advice for people moving to the US? Absolutely have a plan before making the move. Especially around visas. The customs authorities do not mess around here, so even if you overstay your visa by a short amount of time it could come back to you.

Once you have that sorted, the world is your oyster.

Irish people are everywhere in the US and always willing to help each other.

Emigration is not the same today as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m away from Ireland.

I’m on several WhatsApp groups with family and friends at home. I read the Irish newspapers online most days and I can listen to the news at one in my car while I drive my kids to school through the RTE Radio 1 app.

You almost forget you’re in a different country.

Then I’ll roll my car window down and some guy will tell me to “have an awesome day, sir” and I know I’m home.

  • If you live overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.
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