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12 Expats Talk about Living in Ireland

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats in Ireland talk about meeting people, expat life, cultural blunders and more. Some expats find it hard to make real friends and become part of community life.

Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland

Expat life in Ireland has its ups and downs. Making friends and becoming part of a community can be challenging, but once you make friends you'll find that they are kind and helpful.

Deciding Where to Live in Ireland

Read our article, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland. When we asked expats living in Ireland to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"We came to Ireland on a pre-move visit to get a 'feel' for the different areas in and around Dublin. 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," said one expat living in Dublin, Ireland.

"Originally we sought a retirement area south of the USA to live that was going to give us a good life for our retirement income (social security and savings).. Having discovered expatexchange.com over three years ago we found Ireland ranked highly in a listing there for cost of living affordability and we speak the language! In our additional research we found a gent and his wife who had preceded us to Tobercurry in County Sligo, who had retired and relocated 7 years before us. We struck up internet chatting and with the friendship that developed, our move was especially easy," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

Meeting People in Ireland

Expats living in Ireland talked about meeting people in Ireland and local clubs and organizations:

"Sports clubs are alwys 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," said one expat living in Limerick, Ireland.

"meetup.com has great groups (organized by interests) that get together often. Also, if you're living in Dublin alone, don't be afraid to go out to the pub or out to eat on your own. I'm a major introvert, so pushing myself to actually go sit at a pub alone, with people potentially judging me, was very daunting. But you know what, 4 different people came up and started conversations with me. The 2nd time I did it, I met the guy who is now my boyfriend of six months, and acquired a great group of friends," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"Tubbercurry is what we, in the USA, would call a smallish country town but it is packed with things to do and see. One of the outstanding features is the cultural activity surrounding the annual Drama Festival and competition. Very talented actors and writers from the entire country spend days here to rehearse and perform and the shows are delightful. Another is the week long South Sligo Summer School of Traditional Music camp (fest). where students of all ages from all over come to work with consummate professionals to improve their skills or to learn a new one. Included are performances at local pubs and community hall. Tubbercurry is also the home of the Annual August Old Fair Days that lasts five days when folks turn out in the thousands to experience real country atmosphere, crafts, foods, performances, and wonderful community spirit. Tubbercurry folk are some of the warmest, most welcoming to "outsiders" and before you realise it, you're one of the family," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

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Expat Life in Ireland

What is it like living in Ireland? Here is what people had to say:

"Sports is a hugely important thing in the lives of many Limerick people. Work is an important part of life, but most people put family and friends first," said one expat living in Limerick, Ireland.

"Boating is huge here in Crosshaven. Haven't been invited to socialize much with others, but we invited neighbors to our parties," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"Family life is big. I love to see all the families out on the weekend spending time together in the parks or the sea front (weather providing). Socialising is a big thing as well, and there seems to be a healthy balance between the two. Often times, you'll see kids with their parents in the pub, which still seems so strange to me," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

"As in most communities throughout the world, priorities center on providing for family, religion, discussing global affairs and politics, and of course, sports. Tubbercurry has a GAA pitch and a lovely golf course. There is a newly revamped children's park and excellent walking areas with wonderful beauty," remarked another expat living in Tubbercurry, Ireland.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture


We asked expats in Ireland what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"Quality of friendships (once made). Kindness and helpfulness of friends. Fascinating to learn about a new culture and to learn Irish history, of which there is an extraordinary amount!!! So many places to see going back through time. In a few days you can take a visitor to ancient ruins (3000-5000 years old), historic castles and abbeys from 1100s, Viking outposts, Book of Kells from the 400s? 500s?, you can walk down a sidewalk and see a Celtic cross next to a cafe that is from 800 AD, loads of castles from the 1700s and 1800s, lovely gardens, incredible natural scenery. And lots of green hills and sheep of course," said one expat living in Dublin, Ireland.

"People do smile on the streets, are nice in shops and in restaurants, and generally helpful. In my home country everyone looks grumpy and acts arrogant," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"I love that kids stay innocent longer here. The kids just play and run around and there isn't the same fears associated with it as there would have been in my home town in Canada. People are very friendly and inviting and go to great lengths to help you out once they know you. We've been warmly included in many traditions and celebrations here. We also love the history and have spent a lot of time exploring the country learning as much as we can. It's a gorgeous place to live, especially when sunny," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

"People are very shallow. They are very friendly at cafes and pubs, and very talkative, but they don't really become "friends" the way we think of it in the US. It reminds me a lot of Los Angeles - being polite and welcoming, and asking open-ended questions to get the basics on a person, but taking a long time to develop any sort of valuable relationship," remarked another expat living in Limerick, Ireland.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Ireland

Then, we asked expats in Ireland what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"Be careful not to talk too much about yourself and reveal too much about yourself too early. It will takes weeks and months of getting together with an Irish friend to learn personal details about them. Only reveal one or two personal details per visit or it will overwhelm them. They will respect the friendship more if it is earned and learned over time. Forget getting anything fixed, it will take weeks and more than one visit. Always offer a service person (plumber, gardener, etc.) tea and make sure it is one of the two Irish brands, offering a biscuit doesn't hurt too. Won't improve the service but they will appreciate that you are polite. Always apologize if you create any sort of inconvenience for another person, it will be much appreciated," said one expat living in Dublin, Ireland.

"Getting to meet 'the right people'. That could be the baker, for the freshest bread; the postman, so he can give you your packages sooner; the handyman, so he won't let you wait for a day to fix your problems," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"Nobody is in a hurry to do anything and they run on "Irish time" meaning it's normal and acceptable to be late. It has taken us a long time to get used to this. Repairs take forever as does processing paperwork. Don't even get me started on the challenges of getting a full Irish driving license!!," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

"Other women. Most of the women I have met here put men first in everything. It's very difficult to find women to do things with on weekends and evenings, because the women "mind the children" while the men go out to have fun. My suggestions that their husbands should take turns so the women can go out, too, are usually met with laughter. I also have trouble with the glorification of Americans and American products here, while in conversation American people, politics, and values are regularly insulted. I know people with American appliances in their homes who go to the US to buy clothes, who then complain about American consumerism and capitalism. I usually just change the subject," remarked another expat living in Limerick, Ireland.

"Difficult in a small town to become a part of the community. Had planned to volunteer in the schools, but they don't do that here. But we're making baby steps. Buying anything is a nightmare. I was so used to shopping online. Not really possibly here. Products are so different," added another expat in Ireland.

Cultural Blunders

"I had a clash regarding directness. The people here are not too direct and don't say what they mean. I on the other side want to know how things work. I was getting gas, but there was no fuel coming out of the gaspump. I was talking to an Irish customer about it and she said she didn't know why it didn't work either. I tried another pump, on the other side, and that one also didn't work. The Irish customer had moved up to the first pump I tried out, and she did manage to get the gas running! I went inside and asked a woman in the store why the pump wasn't working. She said that it was pay first then get gas. I was surprised and pointed out to her that for the other woman it worked without pre-payment. The woman in the store was a bit shocked and she said that she had not seen me stand there, so she didn't push the button for the pump to start working. She said that she would press the button now and that I could get gas. It was only later that I realised that the woman in the store and the customer both had lied to me. The woman in the store did not want to admit that she make the pump work for the other customer because she knew her and that she refused to make the pump work for me, because she didn't know me and I had foreign license plates. I understand she didn't want me to get gas without payment, but instead of just saying so, she made up a story about how she did not see me. And the customer knew all along why the pump did not work for me. I also had an experience where a shop owner said to me: great weather, isn't it? I looked outside and it was grey and it almost started to rain. I said: well, I don't like it at all. I would have liked to have sunny weather, because I am showing some friends around today. I thought it was the most normal response, since I was stating the obvious and I felt like the shop owner had this answer coming. But still, she was shocked. Weird," said one expat living in Countryside, Ireland.

"I kept referring to my kids trousers as "pants" which would be normal in Canadian culture. My friend took me aside and told me I had to stop because "pants" here means underwear!!! Oh and once my son was asked to wear his boots to his gaelic football practice - I sent him in rubber boots not realizing they meant cleats! Fortunately my kids are very forgiving :)," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"I negotiated my compensation package at a new job, rather than just accepting the offer. I found out later that negotiating is very rare here, especially for women, and that the offer was almost rescinded because of it," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

"Mispronouncing everything from Laois to Cloughjordan! It's Leash and Clockjordan," remarked another expat living in North Tipperary, Ireland.

"Well the typical first mistake is always making a comment or extending an invitation including the word "ride" vs "drive". Ie...Can I get a ride? Would you like a ride? Ride here is a sex act. Drive means a lift in the car," added another expat in Ireland.

Diversity in Ireland

We asked expats about diversity in Ireland and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"Not bad. There is increasing diversity, with about 60 ethnic groups now represented in the city. There is still some intolerance or even outright racism, but the attitude is far better in Limerick than in Dublin, for example," said one expat living in Limerick, Ireland.

"Everybody has been extrememely kind and most people think we are on holiday. They didn't attempt too many new food ideas at our parties--like their potaytoes," mentioned another expat in Ireland.

"The Irish are very accepting of other cultures. You'll hear some people complain about the loud, obnoxious groups of Spanish tourists, or the taxi drivers of other nationalities, but for the most part, in my experience they are very tolerant," commented one expat who made the move to Ireland.

"Tubbercurry is a melting pot of diversity. There are a few residents from the USA, and some of the others we met are from Poland, UK, Africa, other European and Asian countries, and we are very proud that Tubbercurry accepts and welcomes all people, no matter their background, cultural and personal differences. We have restaurants and fast food places that cater to Irish, Mediterranean, Asian, Indian, Italian foods among others. Its not uncommon to find a mixed group of folks laughing over a cuppa in a local gathering place, restaurant, pub, petrol station or just standing on the street for The Craic (chat). A friend told us a ten minute walk to the local grocers can become a two hour adventure for you are sure to meet someone you know along the way. Economically, in our opinion, being on the western side of Ireland is far more economical than for example, Dublin, in the east. Cost of most everything in Tubbercurry, compared to the USA, is roughly 2/3s what it had cost us to live similarly in our prior home in Florida. We chose not to own a car (insurance costs are high but Ireland is addressing that) because bus transportation is lovely and for the over 66 - (and spouse) free (as is train travel)," remarked another expat living in Tubbercurry, Ireland.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jun 19, 2018

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