By Martin D’Souza Opening Doorz Editorial | January 18, 2020

Opening Doorz to Wilburg Fernandes, his story of moving to Ireland and his perspective on migration. Anyone planning to make a move out of India can take something out of Wilburg’s story and #StoriesFromOutOfIndia.

We at Opening Doorz are making an effort to help you in making an informed decision (through stories like these), if you, dear reader, are one of those who are looking to making that move.

Wilburg has been living in Ireland with his wife two sons in Dublin, Ireland, since 2003. “My family and I are naturalised Irish Citizens of Indian origin,” says the Lift Engineer with Otis, who actually wanted to move to Canada. But then sometimes, God has a special calling!

Over to Wilburg…

When did you decide you wanted to move out of India?
Me and my wife were preparing to migrate to Canada or New Zealand, a long time ago. I guess as early as the year 2000.

So how did you land up in Ireland?
Ireland was never on the agenda. Working as a Lift Engineer, my job is popular and in demand the world over. While my immigration was being processed and nearly approaching its last stages for Canada, Otis, the company I work for, offered me a job in Ireland. On accepting the offer, my employer had to get me over here by applying for a Work Permit which needed to be renewed on a yearly basis. This would mean I was to leave my wife and two sons behind to move to Ireland on my own, for the start. The Work Permit Scheme did not permit my family to join me till my position in the job was secure and my Permit was renewed the following year.

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“My employer was very helpful right throughout the process,” says Wilburg Fernandes

Was it a difficult decision to make, leaving your wife and kids back home considering, migrating to Canada was just a few formalities away?
It was a tough decision to make. Looking back, I’m glad I took that decision. I was lucky to have another colleague from work who also travelled at the same time with me. It was only after a year that my wife and kids were allowed to join me, likewise my colleague’s family too. The application process was very cumbersome. My employer was very helpful right throughout the process. Finally my family could join me as dependents of Non-EU Work Permit holder. Their stay here was dependent on my employer renewing my work permit yearly.

How were the initial first years?
During the early years on their arrival here, my spouse was unable to seek employment, as the law would not allow her to do so as a dependent. Ireland doesn’t have an Immigration Policy/ Scheme for Non-EU/ EEA citizens, to attract talent from overseas like Australia/ Canada and New Zealand have. Yes, it was tough, but it was comforting to have my family around.

Did you find the place welcoming?
Ireland is as friendly as it can get with warm people who have a great sense of humour. It makes your living here very eventful, despite the weather which is almost grey. We love and relish the bright sunny days that are far and few, but we don’t let it pass without making the best of it. I guess the old phrase, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ originated from here.

How old were the kids when you moved? Did they miss India?
When migrating with family, the experience is completely new. One has to bear in mind that the children can also be affected by migration. This varies in different stages of life, place of origin, new place, new culture, appearance, language barrier etc. This could vary depending on the age of the kids. The older they are, they will experience an inferiority complex with kids in school, till they get the lingo right and adapt to the culture. The younger they are, they are able to cope fairly easily. Wren was eight years old, while my younger son Ashur was five when they joined me with my wife in 2003. Funny enough, my younger son took a lot more time to adapt, though they both loved coming over to Ireland and enjoyed life and schooling here.

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“Migrating abroad cannot just be a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” says Wilburg Fernandes

How have your boys adjusted?
Our boys have their friends here and all they know now is Ireland as their home. As they’ve grown, it’s difficult to even get them to travel with us on a holiday together. Yes my wife and I do miss India, but only want to travel for a holiday and catch-up with family and friends, not to retire there.

Initially, did you miss India and its chaos?
When we migrate, we adults keep our accent, get the lingo and lose the passport for a EU one. The children get the accent, lingo and the passport, all they know is the place they’ve grow up in. Yes, I do miss India a lot. Fortunately, there is internet/Social Media that bring us closer in times when we try and fill the void of our distance apart.

Obviously it’s not easy to move into foreign land as a family and feel at home immediately; there are also jobs to find…
My wife had a good job with a multinational back home before arriving here. It was difficult for her to stay at home being unemployable. In her early years, she did a lot of voluntary work in the school centre and helped with the IT support there. This kept her occupied and also got her Irish working experience. This later helped her find a permanent job at the school office. All this did help us a lot to slowly integrate with the local community. I did my Soccer Training with FAI (Football Association of Ireland) and acquired my badges to enable train kids with our local soccer club from the grass root. I managed teams for nine years taking my teams to Barcelona/Germany for tournaments overseas. During our early days, due to our status as Non EU citizens, we needed a visa to travel within Europe. Hence, to avoid the hassles and cost, during our vacation we travelled all the different counties here in Ireland. This gave us an opportunity to get to know Ireland better. We have great memories driving around the country together.

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“Ireland is as friendly as it can get with warm people who have a great sense of humour,” says Wilburg Fernandes

How is the quality of life in Ireland?
Here, we work a five-day week and there is a lot of time for family and friends unlike our busy schedule back home. Yes as we enjoy the good quality of life here, but we do miss our dear family and friends from time to time. Especially during winter where the daylight is short and during occasions and Christmas time. My visiting friend once said: “You’re so lucky. You’ve done so well for yourself. Your mum and dad would be so proud.” My eyes started welling up thinking of India and Mumbai, the city I grew up in. Whenever you move, you leave a part of yourself behind. Efforts to reclaim that which has been lost result in something more than nostalgia. The events keep coming—funerals, christenings, communion parties, anniversaries, graduations and weddings… you can’t make it to all celebrations because your life is elsewhere!

How would you rate the education that they received in Ireland as opposed to India?
I must say my education in Don Bosco, Matunga, Mumbai, India was brilliant and very well rounded to cope with life. Although the Indian education system does put a lot of pressure on kids from a very young age, as its result driven—thanks to Indian parents wanting their child to do better than someone else’s children. It’s OK for those who can cope, but could be detrimental to those who are not as bright or are challenged. Yes, in India we produce a lot of qualified professional but it’s still a small number in comparison to the numbers that don’t even have the opportunity to education. We Indians are busy producing Doctors, Engineers, IT professionals; we need to focus and encourage youngsters to take up trades (Electricians, Mechanics, Plumbing, Machinists, Carpentry etc.) these are in big demand. The world is largely lacking this new generation of skilled work force in all walks of life.

Education here for the young kids, is very much a one-to-one assessment, where they help and provide additional support to those that are challenged and have difficulty to cope with the rest of the class. They are all encouraged to playing sport from a very young age. Eating healthy and staying healthy is also a focus on kids in school. Hence, no child feels less important than any other child in the class. Every child finds a course at the end of their education. Can’t say which is better as they both have an influence on the people we become. Although Success is when you achieve the bar you set for yourself.

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Wilburg with his wife Andrea and the kids in the early years in Ireland

Would you recommend a shift to Europe or any other foreign land for people who are toying with the idea; if yes what should they keep in mind before making the shift?
Everyone has a dream. But every dream you dream is yours, maybe not your family’s dream. Hence my question to those who are looking to relocate to a foreign land is this:

  • Why do you want to relocate and what do you intend to achieve that you can’t do now?
  • Discuss, research and agree first with family.
  • Assess one’s financial/family situation.
  • Assess your line of work; will you and your spouse find work there.
  • Age of kids and will they cope with the change.
  • Cost and location of housing/driving and acquiring Irish/European standard of living.
  • Will your jobs support the needs of your family/Health Care for the family.
  • Do you and your spouse have the patience to weather the storm in the early days of settling down…
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Weigh out your Pros & Cons. Every family that has migrated here in Ireland or elsewhere will have their own experience and story to tell. Some are pleasant, some are not. Like I said, it may not be the same for everyone.

Migrating abroad cannot just be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Migrants, almost by definition, move with the future in mind. But your journey inevitably involves leaving part of your past behind. Do not migrate just by seeing someone who has successfully settled abroad, as you don’t know about their initial struggle, their circumstances and their ability as a family to cope with change. So don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire as settling abroad is not for everyone.

Also Read: I never imagined I would be in North America!

2 Comments »

  1. Great to know this short biography of yours. I can imagine the trouble and pain you have taken during initial setup. But I know you were always a challenging guy so it doesn’t matter to you whether India or any other country . Migrating in another country and setting the family accordingly is also a great achievement. We your friends always wish that you climb more and more ladders of success which will give us opportunities to be proud and boasting about your achievements. Yes sometimes I get some nervousness because some best friends like you are not around me to whom I could have open my heart and share my feelings with lovely people like you.
    Dear take care of your family be happy and be in touch
    Regards from me and family

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