As part of my career change, I also changed countries: specifically, I've moved from Redmond, Washington, I've moved to Dublin, Ireland.
Although I was born and raised near Belfast, I'm still a stranger here. Belfast is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and therefore a completely different country from Dublin, which is in the Republic of Ireland. If it helps, think of how Canada and the US are joined and yet very different, with their own governments, currencies and culture.
So it is with Dublin. I've had to get used to new accents (everything is always 'grand, so it is!') using the Euro currency, and sign up for an Irish social security number and all the usual things that come with moving country. At least as an EU citizen I've not had to worry about work permits or visas. With all this moving, I currently feel like I'm tri-national: I have family in the UK, a career in Ireland, and a large part of my life still in the US. Passports and borders are so last millenium!
I'm slowly finding my way around Dublin (having only visited it a few times previously). It's by no means a large city, but it's a nice one. There are parks, and galleries and museums, and a light rail / tram system called the LUAS (pronouced 'lewis') that I use to travel from where I live (and work) about six miles south of the city, right into the heart of Dublin. There's also a giant spike in the middle of O'Connell Street outside the General Post Office (historially, an important place) for no readily apparent reason.
I've managed to survive without a car for the time being, as I can cycle to work - not a bad thing given the price of petrol/gasoline over here!
Microsoft Dublin is spread over three modern office buildings in a region called Sandyford. There isn't the same campus feel as Redmond, but the buildings are airy, bright and I've no complaints.There is even a Company Store and a Gym, and I can see green hills through the window from where I'm sitting, and the exciting Irish weather happening. Pretty nice, huh?
Some immediate and not-partcularly-well-thought-out comparisions between Redmond and Ireland:
- Open plan offices - I'm getting used to doing without my own office. It's actually an interesting change, and promotes a team atmosphere.
- No free Coke - not that I drank much soda, but unlike Redmond, the cans are in a vending machine rather than an open fridge. Thankfully there's plenty of tea and coffee to be had. There's also a Starbucks for that early morning / mid-afternoon jolt.
- The cost of living is definitely a lot higher here that the US, unfortunately.
- So cosmopolitan! Unlike N. Ireland, there seems to be people here from all over the world! There is a fantastic array of accents, and restaurants and shops.
- Smoking is everywhere. The clean air of Redmond is something I miss when I'm walking down the streets. Smoking is of course banned in public places, but you can seen dozens of people huddled outside offices trying to get their fix, creating noxious clouds.
So far I'm enjoying myself. My new team is great, my job is shaping up to be interesting and challenging, and it will take me a while longer to explore Dublin. And once I've done that, there's the rest of Ireland to discover and of course, the rest of Europe is a short plane journey or ferry ride away.