BRAZILIANS have beome a familiar sight all around Dublin, bringing a little Latin flavour to our busy city. Reader Rachel Duarte Larentis tells us all about her life-changing move …
EVEN after being in Ireland for almost two years, it was necessary to leave the country to understand how important Irish culture is.
I was not born in Ireland, and I also have no roots within Irish culture. However, since I arrived at the Emerald Island – in May of 2015 – I have been living as a native’s wife!
Despite the fact of being a typical Brazilian woman, with brown eyes and black hair, my marriage has given me some experience of ‘how to be Irish’.
This is because my husband looks like an Irishman! He is also Brazilian, with an Italian background, but his eyes are green, his skin is very white, and he has a ginger beard, which makes him easily look like an Irishman!
So, it has been always very easy to us start a conversation with a neighbour or a native Irish person at the supermarket, bus stop, public service or anywhere in Ireland. The people just react, and everything happens so naturally.
I have told you this to help describe the next scenes that I’m going to tell you about.
First of all, it is necessary to say that we decided to come to Ireland for the same reasons that bring thousands of Brazilians here every single year: to learn English, and to try a new life.
I also must tell you how grateful I am for this decision. We were greeted with open arms by an island which never asked for a DNA test to offer us a job, a house or any other opportunity.
With a full-time job, and a good effort to save money for 12 months, it was possible to start to travel around Ireland.
After being in all the counties of this gorgeous island, we decided to go further and travel all over Europe. The decision was not easy.
We had already left our family in Brazil, and our jobs and friends to come to Ireland, and to do a journey around the continent would be to leave everything behind again. But, we did it, and it was the best decision of our lives.
We have travelled around 27 countries in Europe – with our Irish car – and this experience showed us more than beautiful landscapes and good food. We travelled for 72 days, crossing more than 18,000km!
It was a great journey, and gave us an amazing collection of pictures and memories of people that we will never forget.
Furthermore, we found out how huge is to wear ‘Irish’ shoes around the European community!
I think that the Irish spirit got into our souls; ‘let’s live the friendly life’, something as simple as that.
And everybody could see this during our travels. I don’t know if it was our Irish car, my husband’s profile, or our souls that felt so Irish during this road trip – but even as we avoided pretending to be actually Irish, everybody received us with a big smile.
Some of the positive things we heard about Ireland on our trip included: “Oh, you are from Ireland. Really good people!”; “Amazing country”; or “Where were you, there?”
It was impossible not to correct this ‘Irish misunderstanding’ on our travel! We had fun driving our car with the steering wheel on the different side, and a leprechaun at the front screen.
We found out that the love for Irish people is something even bigger than anything we could have expected.
From France to Kosovo, people in every single country that we have been to opened their arms to us.
We have met people who dream about going to Ireland, and others who have relatives or good friends on the island of Ireland, and others who have a natural love for the country.
In Serbia, a local very proudly told us that the Serbs and Irish have similar Celtic genes. In Scotland, people invited us to say which whiskey is best: Scotch or Irish. Of course, we assumed that it was ‘our’ Irish whiskey!
And, when we were in Amsterdam, we asked locals to forgive us because, as ‘good Irish people’, we voted for black Guinness instead of their Heineken.
Our lucky leprechaun protected us and collected smiles wherever we were. Children from Portugal, and a police officer at the UK border, made some jokes about it.
In Germany, we felt the yearning of a father whose daughter lives in Kilkenny. After recognising us as coming from the country where his daughter is, he remained for a long time watching us and our Irish car. It was a bittersweet moment.
Finally, we have never felt so happy at not being ‘Brazilian’ when travelling out of Brazil. Let me explain: we are always, always very proud of being friendly people from Brazil, in South America – but to be a friendly person in Europe means you must come from Ireland!
Being very honest, during our three months on the road, we missed Ireland more than Brazil. When we arrived in Ireland, it was like coming home again.
From our experiences, we proved how much the island of Ireland is loved, and we found a second meaning for the expression, Cead mile failte.
After all, it’s the traditional Irish way to say ‘Welcome’ to people coming to the country, but it could also describe the friendly way that Irish people behave when they’re out of it.
Before coming here, we has one big question on our minds: Why so much love for Ireland, and the Irish? But now, we know!