Cork people abroad: "Longing for home, but I do adore Sydney too"

Over the coming weeks, TIMOTHY O’MAHONY will be interviewing Cork people who have moved abroad. Today he chats to Suzi O’Brien of Ballincollig, who moved to Australia more than 11 years ago
Cork people abroad: "Longing for home, but I do adore Sydney too"

Suzi O'Brien, Ballincollig, living in Syndey

SUZI O’Brien, who hails from Ballincollig, moved to Australia in September, 2011, following in the footsteps of her friends to experience new things and broaden her horizons. Here’s her story...

“CORK was all doom and gloom at the time as it was still recovering from a recession and I needed to get away and see what else the world had to offer.

Suzi O'Brien.
Suzi O'Brien.

“Life in Sydney is very social. It’s a really positive environment where people love to see you succeed.

“The weather has a big part to play in people’s mood and attitude. Waking up to sunshine every day makes all the difference.

“People are really healthy and fit, but don’t get me wrong, you work extremely hard in Australia and it’s not all beaches and BBQs!”

Suzi O'Brien in Sydney Harbour.
Suzi O'Brien in Sydney Harbour.

A MULTICULTURAL MIX

“There are many different cultures across Sydney. In the eastern suburbs towards the beaches, you find more Irish and English and a lot of Brazilians. Towards the west you find a lot of Lebanese, Indian and Asian people.

“The food is amazing and I’ve found myself eating things I’ve never heard of in my life!

Beach life.
Beach life.

“Being amongst so many nationalities of people, for my kids especially, I find really special. My sons don’t see race or colour, they only see another child the exact same as them and that to me is a gift.

“Experiencing lots of cultures has made me so much more open-minded and understanding and definitely makes you question the blueprint of all I’ve been taught over the years.

“I go to the gym and meditate to unwind. I train in the UFC fighter Robert Whitaker’s gym. It’s very close to where I live. So that’s been lots of fun learning new skills there.”

Suzi O’Brien’s men’s hair and skin studio called ‘Gents & Rascals’.
Suzi O’Brien’s men’s hair and skin studio called ‘Gents & Rascals’.

MY OWN BUSINESS

“I own and manage a men’s hair and skin studio in Maroubra, called Gents & Rascals. We’ve been open for six years and it is my second shop I’ve opened in that time. I started in a smaller space and moved into this larger one last year. The shop is amazing and is very busy, thank god.

“I employ four Irish people, Jordan from Louth, Finty from Derry and Sophie and myself from Cork. We have have one Brazilian with a better Cork accent than me, Mauricio, and our one token Aussie Steph, who calls everyone ‘Yer Man’.”

WHAT I MISS MOST...

“I miss the banter and sarcasm that you would have in Cork. I think Cork people are a rare breed and if someone comes in to me for a haircut with a thick Cork accent, my heart literally skips a beat.

I recently returned to Cork for a visit in June and it had been five years since I had been back home. Introducing my four-year-old son Tyler to my family for the first time was extremely special.

If I could bring my family over to Sydney, that would be a game-changer. Imagine all the babysitters I’d have.”

WHAT I’D DO IF I WAS HOME...

“If I was in Cork for a day I would visit my mother first and see my friend Ringers in Ballincollig, then maybe go for a walk in the Regional Park with all the lads I grew up with. Up to see the in-laws in Friars Walk for a chat and head to the Northside to see my uncle, Jimmy Boy. I’d head to West Cork to see my nephews and get a coffee with my sister and dad in the toy shop on the Bandon bypass (best coffee near Innishannon!).

Then back into town, collect Lorraine from Bladez and meet the girls for a chicken curry in the Pearl River. We’d go for a drink down Oliver Plunket Street until the early hours. Obviously, have to get a Hillybillys on the way home and into the leaba, job done!”

Suzi’s two boys, Theo, aged seven, and Tyler, aged four.
Suzi’s two boys, Theo, aged seven, and Tyler, aged four.

HIGHLIGHTS OF LIFE ABROAD

“Starting my family, building a home and a successful business have to be the highlights from my time in Australia so far.

A massive memory now that I think of it was when my 83-year-old grand-aunt Maureen, from Parklands, surprised me by flying over to visit me! I nearly died when I saw her come out of the airport doors. I had her up in helicopters and cruises around Sydney harbour and city. Paddling at Bondi Beach, eating fish and chips by the ocean down the south coast.

Suzi O’Brien’s grand-aunt, Maureen O’Brien, from Parklands, aged 83, who paid a surprise visit to Suzi in Sydney - Suzi was so glad to be able to show her the life they have there.
Suzi O’Brien’s grand-aunt, Maureen O’Brien, from Parklands, aged 83, who paid a surprise visit to Suzi in Sydney - Suzi was so glad to be able to show her the life they have there.

“That trip was extremely special to me as she got to see my life and why I loved Sydney so much. She completely understood that the opportunities I was able to give my children here outweighed my longing for home.”

LOOKING AHEAD

“Sydney is coming into summer time so I’m looking forward to getting in the ocean for a swim after work, BBQs every day of the week and the kids coming in from school jumping straight in the pool to cool off.

“We hope to camp by the beach with the family and explore all Australia has to offer.”

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