A while ago I had the opportunity to move to Ireland but I turned it down because the conditions weren’t great, and it wasn’t the right time in my life. Mind you, I’d move there now. If you’re on the fence about life in Ireland, this post might help.
This month I chatted with Katrin, better known online as Kate Rebel. Kate hails from Germany and now calls Dublin, Ireland home. Working in the tech industry in mergers & acquisitions, she also blogs about expat life. In this post she shares her impressions on life in Ireland.
Moving to Ireland
My move to Ireland felt ridiculously easy! That’s probably due to the fact that I am a European citizen. Compared to moving to the US I did not have to apply for a visa or work permit.
I also moved for a full-time job in tech, not an internship, and therefore had tons of support from my employer. They helped me find housing, open a bank account and social security, and even provided some helpful information about Irish culture.
Moving to Ireland happened so quickly for me that I didn’t really know what to expect upon my arrival. I literally had to figure out how to get to the office the next day of my arrival.
Irish people are incredibly friendly and helpful though and Dublin has many expats looking to meet new people so I found it quite easy to figure things out. I feel a little closer to home in Ireland compared to the US (Germany is just a short flight away) so I didn’t have to battle homesickness that much.
Is it expensive to live in Ireland?
The living expenses in Ireland depend massively on where you live.
There is a big difference between Dublin (and I’d say also Galway) versus the rest of the country. Most of the time, Dublin or Galway are the cities where expats end up, so you need to be aware that you will have to pay a lot more than in the countryside.
The housing situation is really tough, with not much choice and not always the best standards. For a 2-bed apartment in one of the popular areas to live in Dublin (Portobello, Rathmines, Ranelagh, Grand Canal Doc) is around 3,000€ but you won’t always be able to find good quality for that price. Going out is quite expensive too, – you pay 6-7€ for a pint of beer and around 150€ for a nice meal for two.
Unfortunately, not all salaries reflect the high cost of living in Dublin and almost everyone I know shares an apartment. I think you should make at least ~70,000€ EUR to live good in a shared apartment ~120,000€ EUR to live comfortably.
Trying to actually buy a house is almost impossible. Many Irish live with their parents for a long time and save up on rent to be able to buy a house eventually.
There are many people trying to find more affordable ways of living – such as student opting for shared bedrooms with bunk beds.
I think a great option is to move a little further out but getting a car. You won’t be in the center of everything, but rents are cheaper and a car is handy for getting around anyways.
Life in Ireland for foreigners
The Irish are very friendly and like having the “craic” (slang for fun), so you usually feel very welcome as a foreigner. It is much harder to extend your relationships beyond the local pub talk to actual friendships though.
A lot of my Irish colleagues go home to their families on weekends or have their Irish friendships from way back so it can be hard making deeper connections.
I work in the tech industry and it’s easy to connect with other expats since the tech scene is so big here. Many people move to Ireland, especially Dublin, from all over the world.
A lot of Irish also have a sense of pride when it comes to their counties, so even when you move from one county to another within Ireland, you are considered somewhat of a “blow-in” and you won’t be considered local even after many years. Thus it can take some time and effort to connect with the locals but once you do you have a friend for life.
Pace of life like in Ireland
The Irish live a very down-to-earth life and have an attitude of “it’ll be grand”.
They don’t make a fuss about things – for example when the bus is running later or isn’t showing up at all (quite a difference for a German). They say “thank you” and “sorry” a lot , which to me just makes them seem very friendly.
I think this attitude is even more apparent in the countryside. Many people from the rest of the country dislike Dublin to some extent because of the “big city life”. However this isn’t really true though – compared to Berlin or London, even Dublin doesn’t feel like a capital, but more of a big town.
Life in Ireland vs the USA
The most distinct difference to me is the small talk. Moving to the US I was a little irritated at first that people would greet me with, “Hi, how are you?” while in Germany we would just say “hi”.
The Irish also have this type of small talk, but I find it a little more charming because of the accent and some of the typical phrases they use. Security personnel at the airport once said to me “Happy holidays and see you soon, love” when I went home for the Christmas holidays and I thought it was the best thing ever.
Irish people are also very content and humble, they don’t brag and I find they have a talent for finding joy in small or everyday things. You don’t need a fancy car or luxury vacation, you can throw your stuff into a camper van and go for a hike in the middle of winter, get completely soaked and get a pint after to be “happy out”.
Irish people are content and humble. They don’t brag… they have a talent for finding joy in small or everyday things.
Any reasons not to live in Ireland?
The weather is definitely the first thing that comes to mind. It doesn’t rain all the time, but it is cloudy and grey a lot and never really gets hot (forget your summer shorts).
The Irish have developed a resistance to this type of weather, as soon as it gets above 15 degrees Celsius they get their shorts and skirts out but I am too much of a wuss for that!
It can be very sunny and warm (I even get sunburns frequently), but the weather changes quickly and you can get sunshine, rain, hail or storms all in one day.
You won’t be happy here if you can’t make your peace with it at some stage. Don’t rely on the weather forecast and go for that hike anyways. Yes, you might get wet and the wind will ruin your hair, but the views will be stunning and the pint afterwards will be tasty.
But if summer, sun and tanning on the beach are your jam, you might want to think twice.
On a more political note – the housing situation is something that really bothers me in Ireland.
It seems like landlords have a lot of power in city councils or government institutions, which is probably why the housing situation isn’t improving.
There is prime real estate in Dublin sitting empty with houses falling apart, while people are desperately looking for housing (or are homeless altogether, which is also a massive problem). Landlords wait to sell the land at a much higher price sometime down the road. That seems like a big waste of space, since they don’t rent it out in the interim either.
The best things about life in Ireland
Ireland has so many things to offer as a country. You won’t have a problem finding stunning landscapes in any of the counties or run out of destinations for your weekend trips. It also has so much history – from castles to abbeys to ring forts, to Irish folk and fairy tales, to beer and whisky, to Irish music and Gaelic football.
In addition to that the Irish are great people to be around – friendly, humble, down-to-earth, and always up for the “craic”. What more do you want? My partner is Irish so I think I should also mention Irish men!
Living in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic
I was obviously a little nervous when COVID hit off. I guess everyone was since no one knew what we were in for – but I also felt nervous because I didn’t know the Irish government as well as the German one and did not know how they would react.
Compared to other countries, Ireland has had one of the strictest lockdown policies. Sometimes people were only allowed out in a 2 km radius of their home – that’s a little over a mile. There were times when I was so fed up with it all.
I never felt unsafe though. I think the general Irish attitude of “it’ll be grand” (“It’ll work itself out”) has proven itself quite useful.
Yes, the lockdowns have been annoying, but I think everyone just tried to make the best out of it.
The Irish police by the way, are nothing like the American (or even German) police. They don’t even carry guns and they are really friendly and nice. So even though police patrols went up slightly (e.g. to prevent people from public drinking since pubs were closed), they honestly didn’t make a big deal out of it and just politely asked you to go home.
All in all, is living in Ireland good?
I think there isn’t anything to complain about when it comes to nature and being able to escape your everyday life or the city bustle. Plus, Ireland is a safe country .
Ireland actually has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world and there are many big companies who have their European headquarters or big offices in Ireland.
Healthcare is generally quite good but it can take a good while until you are able to see an expert if you need to rely on the state public system. Meanwhile, a lot of companies offer private insurance policies – including most tech companies, for example.
The cost of living is high in the typical expat locations so I wouldn’t expect to move here and make a fortune.
I am no expert in Irish education but there are many well-known universities such as Trinity College or UCD (University College Dublin).
Ireland has a vibrant pub culture, which I love since I am more of a pub or bar person than a nightclub person. Irish “gals” like to dress up for any occasion, but I find you can get into pretty much any club or bar with a more relaxed dress code as well.
So all in all, I find living in Ireland good and I know many expats who move here for a “quick expat stint” but then end up staying for the long haul.
Top tips for moving to Ireland
Just don’t take things too seriously.
The weather can be bad a lot of the time and you might ruin your make up or white sneakers, and Irish people like to “slack you” (i.e. make fun of you) from time to time – but it actually means they like you and feel comfortable making a joke.
On a more practical note, I would recommend just getting it over with when it comes to driving a car, even if the Irish do drive on the left side and the Irish country roads are…tough. You get used to it after a while and it’s worth being able to drive around the country since there are many things to explore. If you rent a car, always get the highest insurance coverage though!
For public transportation in Dublin, I recommend getting a leap card, which you can top up through an app. It works out cheaper than buying single tickets. Often you can use them for other busses as well, so they are quite handy.
Finally, did you know?
Here is a helpful fact that I didn’t know, but that I found profoundly useful: Ireland has pre-clearance to the US at domestic airports. This means, you can go through US border control at the airport in Dublin and then land at a domestic terminal in the US. This is so great!
I sometimes travel to the US to see friends or for work and it makes the entire trip just less stressful if you already passed border control in Dublin. The queues there aren’t anything as long and you don’t have to stress about any questions you might get as a foreigner at your arrival. It’s brilliant!