This past week I was in Dublin to meet up with the rest of the WordPress.com legal team. We were spending some time catching up with people in person, working on our latest transparency report, and of course… drinking our fair share of the black stuff.
I really like Ireland. Whether it’s simply down to the welcoming attitude of the people, or something deeper related to our shared Celtic cousinhood, it’s somewhere that I instantly feel comfortable. More than once I half joked that I felt more at home in Dublin than I do in Edinburgh… but to be honest, it’s not really a joke at all. It’s completely true.
We had an apartment in the Liberties area of the city – not too far from where the Guinness Storehouse is located. The best bit, without a doubt, was the obscenely large outdoor rooftop balcony thing that we had.
When you can work anywhere, why not do so outside, on a roof?
We finished more than one evening out here, overlooking what was going on below – drinking some fine local craft beers… and ahem, some Buckfast.
Whenever people heard that we were staying in the Liberties, the reply tended to mention how it was meant to be pretty rough. In all honesty, it didn’t seem that bad to me at all. In fact, I liked it a lot. It seemed to be like a more presentable version of the Gallowgate.
We spent some time meeting up with different counsel that we work with on a regular basis, and had a great time eating some amazing food (the best steak, by far, that I have ever tasted), and having a few drinks. It was nice to be part of such a smart, friendly group of people.
Ireland, and Dublin in particular, has become a real thriving hub for the tech industry – the adopted European home away from home for Silicone Valley giants and minnows alike. I always knew that the likes of Dell, Apple, Google, Amazon et al were based (or at least had a considerable presence) there, but didn’t quite grasp the scale of things until this past week. There were startups looking for office space everywhere, and there was a real inspired and upbeat feeling about the place. If you want a tech job in Europe, this is clearly the place to be.
One of the interesting things is that the Irish don’t seem to mind about the influx of Americans, or big business in the slightest. Whilst it’s understandable that the investment would be welcomed, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the same sort of thing could play out back home at such a large scale without it breeding resentment amongst people. Even in San Francisco the local communities have turned on the tech sector in lots of ways. That said, I think there’s something distinctly different in the way Irish and Scottish people feel about their identities, even despite all of our similarities. A post for another day… but if there was any ill feeling, there didn’t seem to be a trace of it from anybody, the whole time we were there.
I’ve been on meetups before where there’s been 8-10 people, and the hassle of trying to co-ordinate what to do and when can reduce the enjoyment of the time you actually get to spend together. With just a few of us though, it wasn’t like that. We worked hard during the day from wherever suited us at the time – be it the park or a local cafe; we met and ate well with people we had to spend time with, not having to worry about whether or not the restaurants could fit in a large group at short notice; we stayed up into the wee hours talking and working together over some drinks; and then the next day we got up at a time that meant we would be relatively fresh to tackle it all over again.
I remember sitting on the balcony late one night chatting, when something came in that we needed to reply to. It felt great to be able to just flip open the laptop there and then and sort it out together, rather than having to wait until the next morning, or for when our timezones overlapped. There’s a lot that’s said about keeping life and work separate, and very little said about the ways in which that blurring of the line can actually be a really positive thing.
Once the meetup was over, Grace flew over to meet me, and we took the opportunity to spend a few extra days together exploring the city – particularly because she had never been to Ireland before.
Of course, sod’s law dictates that despite having great weather up till now, it then proceeded to pish it down for the next few days. It was so bad that even I ended up resorting to buying a waterproof jacket – just my second in about 15 years. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to get in our way though, particularly given the national past time.
People always seem to talk about how expensive Dublin is, when they are visiting from Scotland. When I’ve been beforehand I would probably have agreed, but after being here for a bit longer I don’t actually think it plays out quite like that in practice. If you spend your time around the touristy areas, then you’ll inevitably end up paying over the odds for drinks – at prices comparable to London. If you get away from Temple Bar then you’ll be paying around 5 Euros or less for a beer – which is about £3.50. There are plenty of pubs in Glasgow that charge more than that. Spirits are more expensive than back home, coming in at around £4.50-5 a go. But again… the huge disparity in price is again illusory when you consider that UK standard measures are 25m, whereas in the Republic of Ireland they come in at 35.5ml. In the same vein, rent appears much more expensive than back home, but it also doesn’t include council tax.
One of the things I really like about Dublin is the personality of the architecture. Many of the old buildings are very flat and functional, but with ornate decorations around the doorways – which are beautifully coloured.
Grace read somewhere that apparently they had to paint the doors different colours so that drunk Irish folk stumbling home would be able to tell which place was theirs on a street. I really hope that’s true. We could learn a lot from them, to be sure.
These neighbours in particular looked fantastic. Bonus points awarded for the rainbow flag lurking in the top left corner.
Other siigns from the ‘Yes’ campaign to legalise equal marriage were still prominently displayed around the city – which was nice to see.
Dublin is definitely a place that is filled with colour and character. It makes me wonder how much of that comes from an ability to find and express a national identity that isn’t tied to a single, more conservative union. Answers on a postcard.
When Grace arrived we relocated to the Docklands area – just West of the main City Centre that the majority of people stay in. I couldn’t quite believe the difference really. Once renowned as the roughest part of Dublin, where U2 recorded a number of their albums, and pirates were hung in public without trial to deter other would-be criminals, the place is now almost completely gentrified – home to the massive European headquarters of Google and Facebook.
There were nice bars, and restaurants, and some really interesting old remnants of what used to dominate the skyline in years gone by.
If you’re looking for the infamous U2 graffiti wall, don’t bother. It’s all boarded up at present, to ‘protect the graffiti’ from construction work that’s going on behind.
At night, the whole area was lit up with red and green. Why they didn’t pick orange, I’ll never understand.
One of the difficult things we’ve had to navigate as a couple is finding a place that in future we may both want to settle. Finding somewhere that has decent long term job prospects, as well as a culture that we both like, and that is a neutral place is a real challenge. Before now I’d never really considered Dublin as an option, but after spending more time there it could well be. Who knows. It seems like it could be a great place to live.