What to Expect When Moving to Ireland
For ten years my husband and I had enjoyed the sunshine and comfortable lifestyle of living in Australia. But ever the keen travellers, we daydreamt about the idea of living overseas and enjoying an expat life. You see, living ‘down under’ has its advantages, but having an overseas holiday meant expensive airfares and long, long (and I mean long) flights. So when the opportunity to relocate to Dublin, Ireland came up, we gave it some serious consideration. We had never been to Ireland. It was on our ‘must see’ list, but due to our overseas travel being limited to annual trips we had not yet gotten a chance to visit. Now you may think that we were crazy to even consider moving to a country on the other side of the globe that we had never even visited, and you’re probably right. But ever the adventurous souls we decided to go for it.
We did have some idea of what moving countries involved. Originally New Zealanders’ we had taken the opportunity to move to Australia after completing University. However, moving to Ireland required much more preparation. We were no longer students with a few measly possessions, this time we owned a house and ten years worth of personal belongings. So for the next six months we were crazy busy with preparations. When we found out how much it was going to cost to ship our items, we decided to get rid of virtually everything except for five boxes of essentials like clothing (my goodness, how did we end up with so many clothes but never anything to wear?), our favourite kitchenware (we love to cook) and our most treasured possessions. It really is surprising how much stuff you gather over time, especially considering there had been many spring cleans and a few moves over the years to keep it to a “minimum”.
For me, the most stressful part of the move was getting rid of our personal belongings. There seemed to be endless hours of advertising furniture, books, camping gear etc… and dealing with buyers. The second most stressful part was preparing our home to be rented out. I love my house and garden and wasn’t keen on having strangers live in it, but I just had to come to terms with the fact that the house was not going to look the same if we ever decided to return and live in it again. We were also lucky to find a good rental agency to manage it for us.
Those final six months before we moved were a whirlwind. In that time we also did a farewell tour of New Zealand, visiting family and friends. We didn’t know how many years it would be before we saw them all again. In our concern about money, we both worked right up until we departed. Something I would not recommend to anyone because when we finally arrived in Ireland we were totally exhausted.
When we arrived in Dublin, it initially felt a bit like our usual annual overseas holiday. It was a lovely summer and I immediately fell in love with the rolling green hills, friendly people and the relaxed way of life. However, the holiday feeling ended when we began the arduous immigration process which consisted of sitting for hours in the Immigration Office and nervously waiting to see whether they would let us stay (we couldn’t do this before we departed as it could only be done once we arrived). I’m not going to lie, the visa and work permit process for Ireland is stressful and confusing. Everyone seems to tell you something different and at times it was hard to get a straight answer. If you are in a situation where you need further advice, then consider accessing the free immigration legal advice services.
The reality of our move soon set in when I began searching for a rental home in Dublin. Dublin is an expensive city. It’s also filled with old buildings which are lovely to look at, but not so great to live in. Many were dark, cold and tiny. No kitchen pantries and only little under counter, mini bar style fridges that I thought only existed in hotels. Eventually we managed to find a nice modern apartment (with a normal sized fridge freezer), but we had to significantly increase our rental budget.
Everyday tasks that had once been so easy now became a frustrating chore. Like what supermarkets are available to shop in and which one suits our needs? Since we had left most of our belongings behind, we had to buy all new bedding, and even this was confusing. The bed sizing and labelling were different in Ireland, and I wasn’t sure where to shop for the quality linens that I wanted. (Ok, so I’m quite fussy about my linens, it’s my one splurge). And don’t even get me started on our struggle to find suitable plastic lunch containers.
The learning curve continued when we set up our utilities and then we had to figure out was out how to use the Irish heating and water heating system. Seriously, how do nightstore heaters work and what the heck is a hot water press and the immersion?! But after we had finally got past the basics of settling in we began to really enjoy Ireland. The people were friendly and welcoming and we were soon partaking in the popular Irish past time of drinking at the local pub (of which there is many) with our new friends, and enjoying the craic. We also had a long list of new places to visit which reinvigorated our weekends.
Tips and Advice for Moving to Ireland
I learnt a lot throughout my journey of moving to Ireland and have used my experiences to assist people like you to make the move. The following is a selection of tips and advice for those of you thinking of making the move to Ireland.
- Go and spend some time in Ireland before making the move. Remember that holidaying in Ireland is very different than actually living here. If you are looking for work, then try to make contacts in your industry and see if there is work available. Also, take the time to find out more about the cost of living in your preferred area.
- Ireland drive on the left hand side and love roundabouts. Make driving easier by purchasing a GPS with Irish maps. Note that depending on the length of your trip it may be cheaper to buy your own GPS, or Irish Maps SD card for your existing GPS, rather than hiring one from the car hire company. Alternatively, you can save money by using Google's free offline maps which you can use without roaming or wifi.
- The cost of immigrating to Ireland is high. The costs you need to consider are visa fees, airfares, moving costs and the cost of setting up a new home. Don’t forget to include the rental deposit in your calculations as well as a month’s rent in advance. Be aware that bringing pets with you can be very expensive.
- It’s very difficult to open an Irish bank account as you will need proof of your Irish residential address which can be difficult to get when you first arrive. Make sure that you have access to enough money to keep you going until you manage to get one open.
- If you have children, then contact the school in the area that you are moving to as soon as possible, as many schools have waitlists to get in.
- Accept that the wages in Ireland are low, taxes are high and living costs are expensive (especially Dublin). However, this is fairly common across many European countries, so if you want the experience of living in Ireland you just need to accept that you will have less disposable income. We have became more conscious about what we spend our money on and because we live in the city, we have realised that we can live quite happily without owning a car. We just hire one when we need it.
- Depending on your budget and expectations, you may have to accept that your living accommodation may not be the most glamorous.
- It can take a really long time for your personal items to be shipped to you (mine took four months coming from Australia), so take your essentials with you on the plane as well as some warm clothing.
- Many things in Ireland can seem a ‘bit behind the times’, like my bank wanting me to go into the branch to fill out forms instead of just being able to simply do it online. But this is just a part of the many quirks/foibles that you will experience and get used to when living in Ireland.
- Customer service can be hit and miss, and don’t expect anything to happen with any speed. The Irish attitude is very relaxed, but this can be infuriating.
- Electronics are quite expensive in Ireland (they have a high Value Added Tax), so bring yours with you and just buy a new SIM for your phone.
- Remember to take several power plug adapters with you for your electronics. You will have so many things to do once you arrive in Ireland that not being able to charge your phone or laptop will be an unnecessary headache.
- Prepare for the worse then the reality won’t seem so bad!
- The weather wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be (maybe because of my point above). We were lucky that our timing meant we got back to back summers. As a sun lover this made it much easier for me to settle in. However, in saying that Dublin’s weather is particularly mild in winter, especially when you consider it shares its latitude with many colder countries. It rarely gets cold enough to even snow.
- The Irish love to apologize. Be prepared to have people constantly apologizing to you for anything and everything. There have been many occasions where I have had no idea what the person was even apologizing for!
- It really is fantastic living in Europe and being able to jet set off to another country for the weekend (even on a tight budget). I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I can get to another country in only a matter of hours and for very little money.
- If you love hot summers and lounging on the beach then you are only a short plane ride away to many beautiful sunny locations such as Spain, southern France, Croatia etc… the list goes on. Plan your summer holiday in advance so that you have something to look forward to and are guaranteed a good annual dose of sunshine.
- If you want to get a true experience of the Irish culture, then:
- Go to your local pub and enjoy some great craic, music and storytelling.
- Go and watch traditional Irish sports being played like hurling, Gaelic football, handball and rounders.
- Visit the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas and hear the Irish language spoken.
- Need more convincing? Then be persuaded with these 10 Reasons You Should Move to Ireland.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 C L Mitchell