Financial Services Ireland

Arriving in Ireland: How do immigrants integrate over time?

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Arriving in Ireland: How do immigrants integrate over time?

Ramakrishnan Ramanathan was a senior manager with EY when he arrived in Dublin a decade ago. Today, he’s an Associate Partner and father to twin daughters. Here, he talks about the cultural differences he experienced and his thoughts on life as an immigrant.

Ten years ago, I arrived in Ireland with none of the usual social networks that comes from playing the GAA, Rugby or even Hockey, graduating from the local high school or marrying someone who did.

The first task was to learn the peculiarities of the host language, a serious undertaking even for one who thought he’d grown up speaking English.  The language of ‘craic’ and ‘muppet’ was a world away from my own, and a ‘tool’ in Ireland was different what I thought.

Even more complex and personal, was to judge my position in society.  In native surroundings, I was at the top of the social ladder, but found myself on one of the lower rungs of Irish society. This was very uncomfortable and provided an incredible motivation to do whatever it took to succeed.

“The first step in this long journey began with an attempt at understanding my host, its people, its history and identifying any points of commonality.”

Every immigrants experience with integration is multifaceted but in Ireland quite a few begin within the cozy confines of a pub.  Mine was no different as I spent some glorious hours within the embrace of the Barge and D-Two. I learnt how people interact socially while also hearing an enlightening conversation or two.

In India people are divided by region, religion and caste, with a preformed stereotype expected from each demographic. When I came to Ireland, Indians are Indians — as are people from other parts of South Asia and cowboy movies.  The then small immigrant community irrespective or race creed or culture formed a network and learned very quickly to put our differences aside. We began to understand that the key to our success in Ireland is to network, learn, and help each other.

“The secret of our success lay in learning and mastering the rules of engagement: networking and mentoring.”

As time passed, we made Ireland home and began a small family.  As the family grew, there was pressure both from my commitments at work and from equally demanding commitments at home, thus becoming a part of the ‘the pinched middle’.  While the concept of the pinched middle is common to young professionals across the word juggling a stressful job with young children, it came as a shock having to deal with it at a personal level.  Suddenly crèche runs had to be co-ordinated with as much precision and preparation as one would for an audit committee presentation.

We figured that there is no magic bullet to dealing with this.  There are challenges and with client facing management, there is an expectation that demands are accommodated under all circumstances.

“With my extended family over 5,000 miles away, calling mammy over when the girls had a bit of a cold or a tummy bug was not a real option; local solutions were needed. My solution lay in building more predictability around travel plans and workload as well as the support of colleagues.”

These challenges will be less of an issue for my children who will grow up in Ireland with Irish friends, wearing proudly the Irish Green and Dublin Jersey.  They will have to contend with a number of other challenges; however race, creed, culture and origin will, I believe, not be amongst them.  But they will as the next generation of young professionals need to do what I have done in building my network and this may well include bringing cricket, karaoke singing, salsa or Sufi music to a multicultural Ireland.

Ramakrishnan Ramanathan

Associate Partner
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