Originally she was just passing through, but Róisín Russ ended up staying in the quiet German town Elvis Presley once called home during his military service.
Presley was stationed in Germany in 1958 and lived in the town of 30,000 people until 1960. Like Presley, Russ’s port of call was a US military base in Frankfurt city. “It was a good starting point as I didn’t have any German.
“I worked in procurement, liaising with German organisations shipping items to other American embassies around the world, while learning German along the way.”
During the 1980s, Germany was the land of milk and honey in comparison to Ireland, where unemployment was rife and opportunities were few and far between.
“Germany gave me what wasn’t possible for me in Ireland at that time: a well-paid job being one of them. It was in Germany that I learned to drive, bought my first car and found an affordable apartment.”
After starting a family, Russ completed a bachelor in psychology in DCU, via distance learning before Zoom was a thing. “I went on to complete an MSc in occupational psychology at the University of London.”
In 1996, she started her own company training in professional development in intercultural communication, stress management and applied health psychology.
“With a background in work as well as health psychology, my focus was and is on workplace health, conflict management and team work. I work as a trainer for German health authorities such as the AOK and give talks, workshops and coaching support on topics such as healthy leadership, stress management and resilience.”
Having mastered the German language, Russ’s work as a bilingual trainer brings her to international clients from diverse sectors.
In 2014, she started lecturing in applied sciences, organisational behaviours and intercultural competence at the Technische Hochschule in neighbouring Friedberg, Germany’s fourth biggest technical college.
“I also work as a secretary for the Irish Executive Board, and I’m a secretary for the Irish Business Network (IBN), a non-profit registered association which is managed by a voluntary executive board, executive steering committee and local committees.
Founded in 2006, IBN was initially managed by Enterprise Ireland. “We host regular social events from golf tournaments to an IBN ball, while also liaising with members of Irish associations on events.”
There are more than 30,000 Irish people living and working in Germany and, as Europe’s main business hub, Frankfurt has attracted permanent Irish residents as well as commuters from large bodies and organisations.
Russ says that since society opened up again, events, which went online for the last 18 months, will be taking place in person. Germany is on the cusp of a new era as Chancellor Angela Merkel retires.
“It will be very interesting to see who will take over after September 26th. This is the first time I’ll be voting in an election here, as I now have dual citizenship, so it’s exciting.”
Germany, she adds, offers opportunities for Irish people who get to avail of great public services and good healthcare. “A lot of effort goes into the promotion of health organisations.
“On a personal level, I’m grateful to the health system here. I had a chronic health issue in Ireland that wasn’t addressed, but when I came to Germany, I was operated on almost immediately. The specialists here were shocked they hadn’t operated in Ireland.
“There are no long waiting lists for operations and rehabilitation is covered by healthcare. This would generally be three to four weeks in a clinic as aftercare. A close relative is on a nine-month waiting list for a hip replacement in Ireland although her arthritis is quite advanced and she is in a lot of pain.
“Tax and healthcare costs are higher than in Ireland but I also see the advantages this brings. Education is free, third level too. But everyone can have a high quality of life here and it’s a very inclusive place, so I’m very lucky to be here, living in a small town at the foothills of the Taunus mountains, in the centre of Europe.
“But, I still miss Ireland and am very connected to it, having just bought a property in north Dublin. I have one child in Germany and one in Ireland and a third-generation Irish grandchild over here, so I’m very much of both nations.
“Ireland has changed too much since I left and it’s been so interesting to see it become what it has since the late 1980s. The people coming over to Germany now do so by choice, they have different opportunities to advance themselves academically here and avail of career opportunities.”
Russ says the past 18 months saw her adjust her business to online, but as things are opening up, she is looking forward to coming home again.