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Ireland may be small but it has an enormous amount to offer, including an incredibly rich culture, diverse artistic talent, lively people and gorgeous, lush landscapes.
The 'Celtic Tiger', which saw the economy and property market in Ireland boom from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, took Ireland from one of the EU’s poorer countries to one of the wealthiest. The recession that followed affected Ireland as badly as any Western country, but the country bounced back and experienced an economic boom in the last few years, particularly in light of Brexit regulations that saw a slew of big corporations move their European headquarters to Dublin.
In fact, the Irish capital has become so popular with expats since the upturn in the city's economic prospects that the demand for housing has skyrocketed, which in turn drove prices up to an extent where many locals can't even afford to live in the city any longer. However, despite the pricey cost of living, the quality of life in Ireland remains excellent and the people, culture and lifestyle outweigh many of life’s difficulties.
Below are some of our pros and cons of expat life in Ireland.
Accommodation in Ireland
+ PRO: Options to suit any budget
Ireland has a wide range of accommodation available to suit any budget. Many metros, especially Dublin, are extremely expensive to live in, but more affordable accommodation is available towards the outskirts of these cities. Conveniently, most places come furnished, including couches, tables, dressers and usually a new mattress.
Many city dwellers are moving away from metros and into 'commuter towns' in surrounding counties. While this often means travel times of up to two hours each way, the financial savings are considerable and, if expats are looking for somewhere rural, quiet, and with a good sense of community, bargains can be had in these areas.
Culture shock in Ireland
+ PRO: Proximity to Europe
Thanks to its excellent location, Ireland is a perfect launching pad for travelling. Barcelona is two hours away, Rome is three hours, and for a really short trip, the UK is barely 45 minutes away. If looking to experience other European cultures, Ireland is a great base to do that from.
- CON: The weather
Ireland’s size and location in the middle of the Atlantic cause frequent variation in weather conditions. It can be sunny, rainy or a mixture of both at any point in the day. Although it rarely snows in Ireland, if expats are unprepared the perpetual wet weather can definitely be a shock, so it's important to have warm jackets and umbrellas on hand regardless of the time of year.
Working and doing business in Ireland
+ PRO: Annual leave
By law, all those who work full-time in Ireland are entitled to 20 days of annual leave. It's not usually possible to get away with not taking leave and most employers will also award extra vacation days to long-term employees.
Cost of living in Ireland
- CON: Cost of living is high
Everything is priced in EUR, and the high demand for accommodation in cities such as Dublin is driving the cost of living through the roof. Naturally, the further one moves from Dublin, the lower the cost of living will be.
Safety in Ireland
+ PRO: Safe with few guns
Ireland is very safe. Guns are illegal unless one owns a farm. Naturally, some are smuggled in, and shootings do occur every now and then and are hyped up by the media. Compared to the USA, though, gun crime is near non-existent and the annual crime statistics released by the Central Statistic’s Office (CSO) backs this up. However, like anywhere, there are bad areas and caution should still be taken.
- CON: Less police
There is not a large visible police presence, and the response times when they are needed can be slow.
Healthcare in Ireland
+ PRO: Healthcare is accessible
Both private and public healthcare are available in Ireland. The public healthcare system is funded by general taxes. If needing immediate attention it's likely that a subsidised fee depending on age and income will have to be paid, but the cost should nevertheless be minor. Otherwise, if it is something that can wait, expats should expect to go on a waiting list. There are numerous private healthcare providers where one can pay for services such as private rooms and no waiting lists.
- CON: Waiting lists and A&E delays
The waiting lists for medical procedures can be as long as a few weeks. However, if going to emergency care for something non-life threatening, expect a delay. A standard wait before being treated is between 10 and 14 hours. This obviously deters a majority of those without serious conditions from going to the hospital and is an ongoing source of debate and frustration in Ireland.
Lifestyle in Ireland
+ PRO: Pubs, pubs and more pubs
Ireland doesn’t mess around when it comes to its pubs. Take a walk through any city here, and there’ll be more pubs per square foot than anything else. Whether in search of a small quiet pub with a handful of patrons, or a full-on standing room-only, shout-over-the-noise pub, Ireland has it.
- CON: Not much of a social scene without alcohol
The lifestyle in Ireland has incorporated alcohol into its very core. This is great for those who enjoy a drink, but if not, there’s not really much to accommodate. There are of course sights to see and things to do all over the country that don’t involve alcohol and Ireland is famous for its theatres, music, sites and people. But ultimately, the pub is the number one destination for many locals and expats alike.
Transportation in Ireland
+ PRO: Cheap rental cars and plenty of public transportation
Ireland’s size makes travelling the country exceedingly easy. Rental cars are incredibly cheap and buses run between cities, as do trains. Public transportation in Ireland is heavily relied on. If moving to Ireland, expats should make sure to figure out local train and bus times, as both are readily available.
- CON: Delays and expensive fuel
Ireland is small, and so are its roads. Approximately a third of Ireland's population lives in Dublin. Expats can expect the usual traffic associated with any major city, and if taking the inner-city rail line, prepare for daily delays and stoppages in services during rush hour. Petrol in Ireland is generally expensive.
►Have a look at Cost of Living in Ireland for information on the expenses of daily life for expats in the Emerald Isle
"The Irish are extremely tolerant and accepting of foreigners in their country. They understand that foreigners bring economic prosperity with them. We have only had good experiences with the locals. When they hear you're from South Africa, they're very interested to know more. Often they will know of someone who has been to South Africa and will have a cool story to share." Read more of Darren's interview.
Are you an expat living in Ireland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ireland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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