5 things to know before you move to Ireland.

While there are thousands of Irish folks emigrating each year, it seems our fair isle still tempts many to move this direction and occasionally people ask me for my thoughts on moving to Ireland.  Whether it’s a life-long dream or a spontaneous whim, and regardless of how long you plan to stay, there are a few important things you should know.

I’ll tell it to you straight, based on my own experience, just as I would say it to a friend.

1.  Do not show up broke and unemployed.
This is a given, but in all seriousness, I worry about students just out of college who imagine they can show up with a backpack and barista skills and think they’ll be grand. It doesn’t work that way, believe me!!!!  If you plan to move to Ireland, you must have one or more of the following – a large chunk of savings, a job already promised (one where the employer has paid to sponsor you) and/or an Irish spouse.  If you do not have the latter two of these, it may be extremely difficult to find work and when you do, it will probably be cash-in-hand.  This means you can be deported for breaking employment law but it also means you won’t be earning any “stamps” or social welfare credits in the event you are injured, become unemployed, or even want maternity leave!

*Note – this mostly applies to people outside the E.U., like Americans.  If you’re an E.U. citizen or an Australian, the legalities are much simpler and you can work pretty much as soon as you hit the ground.

I ate a lot of cakes while waiting on that first job…

I came here in January 2008, before the worst had hit, and I had a reasonable amount of savings.  I had housing when I got here, so I didn’t have to pay the crazy rent (which can range from 300 – 1000 euro per month for 1 bedroom!).  Even living frugally, I blew through my money in a matter of two months or so, and went to sporadically using my American credit cards to get me by, believing that, with my excellent qualifications, I’d soon have a job as good as the one I left behind.

I was so so so wrong.  That’s my sidenote piece of advice to this section – do NOT move here with a lot of debt on your back, including college loan debt.  Even if your bank/credit cards are cool with you living abroad, as mine were, the fees for transferring funds to the USA are outrageous.  Say you pay $200 in monthly credit card bills in the States.  If you want to do a wire transfer from an Irish bank to your American bank, it will cost 15 euro each time to send, plus a receiving fee on the US end (my bank, Chase, charged $15).  Add to that miscellaneous fees in transit and currency exchange, and it ends up being between $40 – 50 in fees every month to send money.  The other way you can manage this is to have a monthly bank draft issued for the amount (which costs 4.40 euros) and send it to someone who can put money into your bank.  This is what I’ve done, with the help of my mom, but not everyone has this option and you still pay currency exchange fees.  The dollar is also low, as you know, so where I used to get about $140 for every 100 euro, now it’s nearly equal after the small charges and exchanges.  This is a killer!!! Add to that sometimes the banks here are not great at making these kinds of regular transfers and forget or send them late… I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to scrape together enough money to pay my bills and all the charges only to have it arrive late and have to pay multiple late fees on my credit cards as a result!!!  Ask Frank – I have cried bitter tears over this on more occasions than I’d like to count.

But back to the employment thing – I did not get gainful proper employment here until March 2009, and that was answering phones in a doctor’s office.  I had an “in” because I knew a friend of a friend.  Even still, my job was not waiting for me when I came back from my unpaid Maternity Leave in March 2010.  I worked for about a year then at Traders, and finally got another professional position at my current solicitor’s office last autumn.  I still remember when I’d been here just a few months, literally walking into every shop on every street in Drogheda, handing in my CV and mostly being told quite rudely to take a hike.  I had a few off-the-books positions (hope I wont’ get in trouble for saying so now) in local places and I was very thankful for them as they were all that kept me afloat until I got married and had a proper stamp of approval in my passport.

Through all this Frank was a huge support and did as much as he could to look after us both financially speaking, but his work comes in waves so it was never dependable, particularly when I still had bills to pay overseas.

That’s enough on the money thing. 🙂

2. The people really are lovely.
When you’re moving anywhere in the world, it’s hard to make new friends.  I’m a bit of an introvert, so I find it even more difficult sometimes and it can be quite lonely when I think back to people I miss in the States.  The good thing is that people here do tend to be quite talkative and always interested when they know you’re American.  I made a few good friends when I first moved here via Frank, but the large part of my acquaintances here come from the different places I’ve worked.  I always laughed before when Frank and I would walk down the street and he would say “hello” to nearly half of them.  I don’t laugh anymore though, because after 4 1/2 years, I probably know nearly as many as he does!

Girlfriends at my Hen Night in 2008

I don’t have as many good friends as I did back home, and there’s no replacing them anyway! But it’s nice to feel known nevertheless, and since Evelyn, I’ve found even more ways to chat to men and women in passing on our small town streets.  So my advice?  Be friendly, try not to be difficult or demanding when things don’t go your way, and above all, be genuine.  Integrating into Irish society takes work, and there are always a few “bad apples”… but there are many lovely folks well worth getting to know.  Generally speaking, the real Irish people I know are colourful, funny, brashly honest and incredibly giving.

3.  The weather can get you down, if you let it.
If you’re moving to Ireland from sunny Las Vegas, you’re in for a shock (in more ways than one, haha).  It really does rain a lot and is often overcast, especially this year, and the temperatures never rise much higher than mid-70s F.  I think I’ve finally acclimated to this enough that I rejoice when it hits 60 and I break out the skirts and flip-flops.  I don’t complain of the heat as much as the locals, in fact I remind myself that I used to live in humid Indiana where it often went into the 90s in summer!  The winters, as well, don’t drop too far below zero, but let me tell you, they are freezing!!!  I’m better equipped now and understand the importance of layers, hot tea and blazing fires, but the chill can go straight to your bones if you’re not used to it.  It’s mostly the constant grey and rain that depresses people, though.

Easiest solution is travel – even if you can’t get out of the country, for some reason I find that grey and rain 50 kilometers away isn’t as desperate as the grey and rain at home. 🙂  But ideally, it’s best to travel somewhere sunny as most people do – Spain, Italy, the south of France, Turkey, Bulgaria, Morocco and the USA!

The weather can be a bit of a drag, even in awesome surroundings like Monasterboice.

4. These things take time. 
When you move abroad, you can check everything you know as “normal” at the door.  You’re living somewhere else now, and you’ve gotta play by their rules.  Get used to it.  Someone once said to me that I should set up an American Club here in Drogheda so I could hang out with all the other Americans, but to be honest… I didn’t want to.  Some of the Americans I’ve met who are living here are perfectly respectable, nice people.  But others… others are snobbish and rude and can only complain about how much better things are in America.  Don’t get me wrong – I have my moments! But I feel a certain mix of pride in my new home and annoyance that my countrymen can’t be better guests in our host country.  If you can enter these gates with respect and a sense of humor, you will fare much better.

Some things here just take a lot longer.  I feel like I stand in a lot more queues for a lot more time.  Papers I have to fill out or letters I send go unanswered for a long, long time.  I may not get a response at all.  If you’re calling a public service office, you may not get to talk to anyone, and you may not get answers to your voicemail.  I’ve talked before about the health care here… great doctors and nurses, but long, long wait times for specialist appointments.

Frank and I finally signing the papers for our Marriage Certificate, October 7, 2008! (He looks a bit dazed and nervous, doesn’t he?)

If you’re getting married, you will have to declare your intent and then wait 3 months before you can make it legal.  If you’re getting divorced, there is a minimum 4 year waiting period before it even goes to Court.

To the Irish, all this waiting is sort of ingrained in their psyche.  You need to talk to someone in the social welfare office, take a number and wait.  Probably 45 minutes or more.  You need to get one of those international bank drafts I mentioned before, you go to the bank and wait in line.  Probably 30 minutes or more. You need to see an orthopaedic surgeon, you’ll have to ask your doctor for a letter.  Wait a few weeks for a letter with an appointment date, and wait a few months for the appointment.  On the day of the appointment, wait a few hours to be seen.

I find it very odd that more people don’t read or knit or something.  They just sit, quietly, hands folded, and wait.

5.  Get a car. 

This is not a must, but it certainly helps.  We can survive perfectly well living in a town the size of Drogheda with no car, but our quality of life does suffer.  The train and bus fares have both recently jumped in price, so our travels to Dublin and such are significantly curtailed at this stage.  Plus, in recent years the face of small Irish towns has changed and shops and amenities are moving further and further out of the town centre.  We have to rely quite heavily on Frank’s family and the bus system to go out to say, a garden centre or discount grocery store, and that has been a burden on us all.  When we do rent a car for short vacations, it’s amazing the sense of freedom we feel, just to go wherever we like and get a change of scenery.

A lawnmower is a good idea, too!

…………………………..

So there you are… just a few of the most important things I think people should know when they move here.  I really do love Ireland and all that she has to offer, and I wholeheartedly support people who want to give it a go and live here.  You will love it in so many ways and maybe you’ll never want to leave!  Just do your homework and come prepared and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration.

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31 thoughts on “5 things to know before you move to Ireland.

  1. Hi so enjoyed your post hope you are doing well- and hopefully we can meet up sometime and I can treat you to a cup of coffee or tea and thank you for your honest advice – our date to move is set and we are so ready!

  2. Hi I am a 30yo french-canadian moving to Drogheda with my hubby in about 3 weeks time. I really enjoyed your post too and it’s good to know that it is possible to make new friends even at our age! :o) Here is my email address if you want to meet up for a beer one day! am.faille@yahoo.ca
    Bye!
    Anne-Marie

  3. My son and I what to move to Ireland
    All my great grandparents came from Ireland
    So I am not a of direct decent
    But we want to live before we die
    Lived around the usa
    Now I am retired my son and I would love to experience a different reality
    Can you please help us understand what would be helpful to us

    • Hello George, Apologies for not replying sooner. Thank you for your comment. I think the best option would be for you and your son to take an extended vacation to Ireland and see what areas you like the most. I’m not sure what kind of a budget you might have at your disposal, as Ireland can be very expensive. There are short term apartments available, though, and nearly all rental properties come fully furnished. I’d definitely encourage you to see the sights and make a pilgrimage to wherever your ancestors came from. It’s well worth the trip and, should you still want to live abroad, you will have a much better idea from where to start and you can contact the local authorities in that particular area. I wish you all the best.

  4. Hi Maryann
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts about what is important to know before moving to Ireland. I’m sure you might agree that there is so much more to be ready for though. Your comment at the end is very true: “come prepared and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration”. I have moved back and forth between Ireland and the US a number of times now and each time I can never prepare enough. There’s always something that surprises me. My most recent move (back) to Ireland was in June, and after going through so much that I thought could be of use to others I set up an online community for movers to Ireland where people can help each other out. It’ll hopefully allow people to “come prepared”. I hope you’ll come check it out 🙂

    Best wishes
    Liam

    • Dear Liam,

      This is all very interesting for me. I just got my visa and I am moving to Ireland where my husband lives (in Cork). I would like to join the online community where I could exchange views with other people in similar situations. I need to know what to do before moving there, and the immediate things, like insurance, job, social number etc. Could you send me a link of your site please? I would be very very happy if I can join you guys.
      Thanks,
      Regards,
      Julia

  5. Hello and Happy New Year! I realize this post is several years old. Now that 2015 is here, is there any new insight you’d like to share? I’ve read several posts on various forums and websites and would love your current perspective on moving from the states. 🙂 Sláinte!

    • Hi Beth-Anne, Happy New Year to you as well. I can’t say that I have any additional thoughts to offer, really, things in Ireland don’t change too much from year to year. 🙂 I actually do not live there any longer myself, but I’d definitely still encourage you to check it out, even just for an extended vacation. If you stay in a good hostel, you can often get a lot of information from the folks who run them about how to live in that particular community, find work, meet people, etc. Best of luck to you!

  6. Hi we are a Scottish family who need to move from Scotland and Ireland is our dream but we don’t have more than a few thousand euros saved and my hubby would need to get a got asap when we arrive how likely is that is this a bad idea? We have a 1 year old daughter too

  7. How much do should I save for my daughter and I to move to Ireland and live on savings until we have lived there long enough to be able to get long term residency? also as self sufficient which visa should I apply for my daughter and II? (I’m a single american mom and my daughter has no father on her birth certificate) I am also going to be working on getting my in bachelors in nursing and would be a registered nurse. should I go for my masters? I’m thinking of becoming a pediatric nurse.

  8. The weather ireland/scotland in Summer is dreadful. Rain, wind, damp, cloud. Incredibly depressing.you can never plan to do anything because more often than not the weather will ruin your plans. It is just shocking. The weather in Paris is generally lovely and warm in Summer and quite good in London generally.

    You cannot do many outdoor activities here if you have young children. Schools are quite good as are the universities. Dublin is extremely expensive like Paris so be careful.
    If Ihad the choice I would go to France, Germany or Italy….weather infinitely better and food also (especially in France).
    Sorry but the weather is so appalling inIreland that the rate of suicide and depression is massive. So do your homework before coming!

  9. MaryannK,

    I am also very seriously wanting to retire in Ireland. I have visited and felt more at home in Ireland than I do in the USA. I am a married gay man with a retirement income from the USAF, and I currently work for Thomson Reuters. My boss is checking to see if I can keep my current job and work remotely from Ireland. All of us on my team currently work from home anyway, so other than the time difference and my hours changing it shouldn’t be a problem as long as I can get a good internet connection.

    Now to my questions: I have been looking at sites for long term rentals (I am very fond of County Clare) and would like to live near, but not in a town with amenities such as a Doctor/Health Clinic, restaurants, etc. What is the cost of Senior Health care and Insurance? Will I have a problem staying in the country (There is a chance I can get and Irish Passport because almost all my ancestors came from Ireland in the 1840’s – 1860’s. Is this feasible, living on my USAF retirement (About $1300.00) and Social Security when I turn about 67 – 70 in 3 to 6 years.

    This is not a spur of the moment decision, but after the election of Donald Trump, We feel that at least our marriage is in danger, and with the riots and KKK and Neo-Nazi parades, We could also be in physical danger.

    Please let me know what you think, and I will try to be “Irish” and wait patiently for an answer. LOL

    • Hi Maryann, I loved reading your story, I too would love to relocate to Ireland, possibly for a couple years, depends on what happens. No particular plan in mind happy to go where the road takes me.
      I was over there 18 months ago and fell in love with Kinvara and Dingle. I just felt so at home and the people, country and culture is amazing.
      I got invited to a wake whilst staying in Kinvara and remember talking to an old irish guy in the corner of the pub, who said to me you never see a hearse with a hitch, that had a profound impact on me.
      All these thing we collect and hoard and at the end of the day they mean nothing.
      I am going to travel back over and see how things go.
      I also have the ability to get an english passport as well. would you advise me to do that and what would be my first steps to set this plan in motion.
      PS I wont be broke or unemployed 🙂

      • Hi Tina, apologies for the extreme lateness of my reply. Are you still thinking of making a move? I will do my best to advise if you still have questions, but I think traveling more is definitely a good idea! I am not sure about the English passport though that is a good start I think if you want to stay long term. Not sure how difficult it would be to get one now though with Brexit and new US laws. If you read this comment please drop me another note with contact info (or I will try to figure out how to look it up on my user’s page!) and I will get back to you sooner. Thanks for reading.

    • Richard, you’re in luck! Trump isn’t going to do anything to threaten LGBTQ rights. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet 😀

    • Hello Richard and please accept my very very sincere apologies in answering your message. I meant to respond to you directly but could not find your email address. I am curious about how you are doing now and what you’ve decided? I think in general Ireland is very welcoming to the LGBT community and I certainly understand your reservations about staying in the USA after Trump was elected (perhaps even more so now!). If you get this, please drop me another comment with an update and I will do my best to respond in a more timely manner. Thanks for reading.

    • I can’t say much about moving to Ireland (Though that would be a dream of mine). But I have visited Athlone, and it is a very nice city.

  10. Trumps in. I’m out!! Heading back to Dublin with my son after living here for 20 years. Excited but also know the realities of living there. It can get depressing and old very quickly, but with family all over the country we are going to make it work.

  11. We are planning on moving to Ireland very soon from Madeira. I would like to take my small dog with and wanted to know if dogs are allowed in rentals? I also have a 5 year old boy.

    • Hi Charmaine, Have you moved yet? I believe, as in most places, landlords are choosy about whether they allow pets or not, especially as most rentals in Ireland come pre-furnished. You may have to ask on a case-by-case basis. I know here in the San Francisco Bay area, a lot of people make up a little “dog portfolio” with photos, vet’s records, etc. to prove that they have a well-behaved pet who will not destroy a rental. As for the 5 year-old… 🙂 Hope you have had some luck but feel free to contact me again if needed. Thanks for reading.

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