By Betsy Burlingame
Summary: Expats living in Ireland say that the transition from tourist to expat is not as easy as one would think -- from challenges making friends with the Irish to the rainy, gloomy weather. Expats who make the effort and take their time are rewarded with life-long Irish friends and a love of Ireland.
"The Irish have somewhat of a "tribal" culture, can be wary of outsiders, can be hard to get to know. They do not answer direct questions. They are incredibly polite in their speaking and are very subtle. If you adopt their speaking style it will be much easier for you to communicate. The Irish will quiz you to death if you let them but all information is potentially fodder for stories at the local pub so be careful about that! If they think you are living in Ireland short term, they may be uninterested in making a connection (I've heard the line "I'm busy the next few months" more than once!). However, the key is to join a group where there is a common connection. There are good international clubs, or schools with a large percentage of international students where the parents of Irish students are more open to having international friends who might be in Ireland shorter term. Those who want to brave the pub culture will find it easier to have social engagements with local Irish, but make sure to learn the rules of drinking etiquette and be careful about staying out in the dark wee hours of the morning when trouble can brew. It takes a year before your Irish acquaintances will turn in to friends. However, once you are a friend, they will place a very high value your friendship and will treat you accordingly. If you are in crisis, they will do anything for you to help. The Irish will spend quality time with you as a friend and you will feel welcome and at home. Last thing, it is key if you can be introduced in any setting by someone local. Even to the local pharmacist or shop keepers, who will become suddenly more friendly. Our landlord allowed us to say she sent us to various shop owners and the doctor, etc. and it really created an immediate level of trust and welcome that was missing when we did not have that," explained one expat in Dublin.
"I have felt depressed, because I am all alone and new here and it is hard to really connect to the locals. They seem pretty nice on the outside, but I feel it is just superficial. I cannot really get closer to them, because they are offended by almost everything I say or point out (which, in my view, is just stating the obvious). They don't like sharing personal information and they don't like to talk politics," said one expat living in the countryside of Ireland.
"Sports clubs are always good - it's a sports-mad city, following soccer and rugby as well as traditional Gaelic games. There's a good range of night classes, and many people use these as a social outlet and way to meet new people. Cultural life centres on the university and the Beltable theatre. Main social life revolves around the pub, but you may make your friends in other fora, then proceed to socialise with them there," suggested one expat living in Limerick.
"We thought it would be easy to adjust to Ireland because before moving we knew so many friends of Irish heritage. But, unless you are from a family that has frequently visited relatives in Ireland over the years, the culture shock is great. However, visitors to Ireland who are of recent Irish decent will have an automatic network of family to befriend. The Irish are friendly with tourists and tourists are very important to the country's economy. Immigrants are treated differently than tourists. The lack of sun can take a toll. Get away during the summer for a vacation somewhere hot. Staying connected by internet to friends at home helps with homesickness, also joining one of the international clubs to hear your own accent again. Taking lots of pictures is a great way to find joy in the local surroundings. You can get lots of great pictures in Dublin as there is so much architecture to look at and many good parks. However, in Dublin there are many cultures and you can find food, restaurants, etc. from a surprising number of cultures and countries." explained one expat.
"Know that Dublin's traffic jams are are really bad and getting worse, a 15 minute journey on a Sunday morning can take an hour and a half during the week! The bus system is hopeless, the Dart is more reliable. It's always worth investing time and money on a reconnaissance trip before moving. We came to Ireland on a pre-move visit to get a 'feel' for the different areas in and around Dublin." suggested one expat in Dublin.
If you are interested in Dublin suburbs, read the article Suburban Dublin.
"Renters only have to give one months notice so potential homes won't come onto the market till they are ready (or nearly ready) to be leased. Find out what the different types of houses are like; terraced, semi detached etc. Think about your lifestyle, would you like to be near the beach, a park, the DART (Dublin's main transport system, your office, kids school etc.... In the months previous to our move we scoured the homes for rent list on www.daft.ie which is THE website for real estate on which virtually all real estate agents and prive landlords advertise their properties. We eventually found our home via an estate agent," recommended one expat.
In her book, Moon Living Abroad in Ireland, Christina McDonald says, "There are two types of tenancy agreements in Ireland: periodic and fixed term. Periodic tenancy is not for a fixed amount of time and is generally an informal oral agreement. This type of tenancy is by far the most common in Ireland. Fixed-term tenancies cover a specific amount of time--usually six months to a year--and are usually written in a lease. Many city center locations will require a lease, as will letting agents. However, leases in Ireland are not as hard and fast as U.S. leases. If you need to leave, simply give one month's notice first, and you're free." Read more about rentals in an excerpt from the book.
"You should make sure to hire a good solicitor to guide you through the necessary legal paperwork. Unlike in the United States, where all of real-estate-related legal matters are wrapped up with the agent, in Ireland a solicitor (lawyer) is hired to do all of this. Solicitors charge 1–1.5 percent of the total house price. Once you have settled on your ideal property and have your solicitor to do paperwork, you should arrange financing. Unless you have cash to pay out- right, this will be the trickiest part of the process-- banks can be difficult to extract money from-- but not impossible if you have a stable job, a good in- come, and a good credit record. Once you have financing, you can put an offer on the property by paying a booking deposit. This deposit ranges from €3,000 to 3 percent of the sale price but is refundable up until contracts are signed," explained Christina McDonald in her book, Moon Living Abroad in Ireland. Read more about the steps in buying property in Ireland.
"The Irish speak some Gaelic (now called simply "Irish") and it is widely taught in schools. In the west in particular you might find towns that are Irish speaking only, but otherwise the primary language is English," said one expat.
"I wish I'd brought; Bike (traffic circulation is horrendous), sewing fabric (hard to find nice stuff), antiques (excrutiatingly overpriced). Wish I'd left behind; bathing suit ;-), sunscreen ;-), anything else sun related :-(," said one expat in Dublin. "Wish I had brought more clothing, more tech stuff... more everything, because everything is more expensive here," said one expat in Dublin.
"Most technological equipment will convert from 110 to 220 so all you need is an adaptor which you can get here. What is challenging to get here is the converter/transformer and if you are bringing over other electrical appliances...blender, coffee maker, TV, stereo etc. then you need to have converter/transformer for all. Make sure the converter is large enough to cover the wattage of the appliance. Plus if you get big converters you can use an American power strip to plug in the TV, DVD, gamer and so on. We have a couple large transformers and then several smaller ones throughout the house. Some applicances will actually burn up such as the high wattage hair dryers, curling irons etc. unless they are travel ones and then they will work only on low settings with the use of an adaptor," advised another expat in the Ireland Forum.
One expat advised, "take WARM clothing, WARM blankets, and try not to spend money in Ireland for things that you could have shipped cheaper. Pay the extra money for taking extra suitcases on the plane. You couldn't buy the same items in Ireland for the amount you would pay for the extra suitcases. Even though sweaters are made in Ireland, they are more expensive than they are here in the States. Wool is the best fiber to wear for most of the year in Ireland, unless you will be living in the southwest, near the Dingle Peninsula. Take plenty of long pants and/or jeans, sturdy shoes that won't hurt your feet and be prepared to dress in layers, so that if it gets hot or cold, you can add to or remove something to keep you comfortable. Take rain gear of any sort. Forget "fashionable"! When it rains, nobody cares what you look like - you'll just be wet and dripping!"
"The university is a big employer, and Dell havea large plant. Many people who work in the nearby Shannon industrial estate live in Limerick, as the facilities are far superior. Job listings in the Irish Times, or the local paper, the Limerick Leader are widely used," advised an expat in Limerick.
Many expats have submitted reports about having a baby in Ireland. One expat in Ballinsloe said, "Go private, not public!! After some research, I discovered Portiuncula was rated as the best maternity hospital in the country and so it was definitely worth the extra 15 minutes in the car." Another said, "We were paying into private health insurance but could not afford to pay for a private room. So, I had to share a room with 3 mothers/and 3 babies. The babies sleep in the room with you and if the babies are extremely colicky or the mother is having issues~ good luck trying to sleep! I did not sleep for two days while I was in the hospital and even requested that nurse give me a 'sleeping pill'. No joke!"
Another expat warned, " The Coombe Women's Hospital. Deplorable. Staff attitudes from the 50s. This is the country that pioneered the medically managed model of birthcare, and they've not changed a lot since. Prenatal care is better and more personable for dairy cattle and don't even ask about postnatal care." "I went as a public patient for my first baby. I received ante-natal care at Naas hospital, which has a program run by Coombe midwives. I will be going there again for my second child due in Dec 2008. I wouldn't know which other hospital to choose as I live in Co. Kildare. Coombe is the closest. A i had tested positive for GBS weeks earlier, I got a private birthing room as I'd have to be put on antibiotics. I was shocked to find the bathroom there dirty... No hurry to clean it up for me," said one expat in Dublin.
One parent described the International School of Dublin as, "The school is an International Baccalaureate school and hence children are learning using the enquiry based learning approach. The parent community is very supportive so you can reach out to each other in times of need. If you are considering this school, I strongly recommend visiting during school session." Another parent with children at the International School of Dublin said, "The International School of Dublin is the only primary school in Ireland that is accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization. Parental involvement is extraordinary! The board of directors is all parents and they welcome assistance on committees and projects. Then there are social events for parents, events for families, coffee mornings at the school with the principal, parents' gatherings at homes, etc. It is a really welcoming community, probably because almost everyone is an expat."
One expat reviewed the Castle Park School in Dublin saying, "Politeness and proper conduct are very important. Do not be a typical pushy American. We loved this school. They will seem distant at first (very Irish) but you will find that everyone will warm up to you over time if they find you are polite. The international parents will warm up to you much quicker, and so you can have friends who are both expat and local parents (and children) over time. The other parents accepted our sometimes strange seeming American ways, perhaps because they sensed we were truly friendly and well meaning."
Several other schools in Ireland are reviewed.
First Published: Jan 11, 2013