I spent a couple of years in Ireland and no words I am able to jot down would ever be enough to express my gratitude for this country and its people.
Ever since I was a teenager I’d felt some kind of inexplicable attraction. It was something I had read about the Celtic. Smells which I perceived through pictures, traditional books or dusty encyclopedia pages. Sounds of bagpipes mixed with nature and a language I loved since I started studying it. Eventually, I ended up going travelling to Ireland alone when I was 18. I landed in Cork, made some friends and hitchhiked for a couple of weeks. I truly did a million things in that small time frame, including woofing in a farm or sleeping in an abandoned caravan in one of the Aran islands. Not that I had a plan, even back then I loved this kind ‘going with the flow’ discovery through a journey that was spontaneous and for this, unforgettable.
I definitively fell in love with what I saw and promised to myself I’d have lived there when the moment would have been right. Today I put together some of the pictures that remind me of what is left of those years spent in Dublin, which funny enough was the place I had liked the least during that first hitchhiking trip. I was 25 years old when I decided to start my life from scratch and moved to this country. Those years were full of experiments on a cultural, personal, professional and also educational level. The memories I keep in my heart, the lessons I have learnt and some friends I have made are among the best my life has produced so far. Even when a busy life left little room for that kind of adventurous, Celtic world I dreamed of when I was a teenager, there was and there is still a great affection for Irish people, their history, their suffering and the way they smile at life that I certainly will never forget.
Some tips for travellers and expats are at the end of the gallery but feel free to comment anything you’d like to know.
/Guh rev mah a-gut/
(Thank you in Gaelic)
If you are a traveller:
- Try to plan your trip for April. It is the best month in terms of weather.
- I’d suggest a 2 or 3 weeks travel to get a great overview of this place and its history/culture.
- Try to get around hitchhiking or with a car/caravan.
- Go to a pub, order a pint and start chit-chatting with whoever sits there next to you. Say something about the weather and enjoy funny jokes, red cheeks and a loud laugh.
- Hop on a ferry to visit the Aran Island. You can hitchhike to move around or rent a bicycle. Mind that November, December and January ferry services can be suspended due to adverse weather conditions.
- New Year’s Eve is like a normal Friday night, nothing special in terms of celebrations. On December 25th and 26th, Irish people stay at home with their families. Good Friday is also one of those days when no one is out because pubs are mandatorily closed. If you want to get there during the winter time, Halloween is a great time or any weekend starting from December 1st until December 22nd, Dublin is crowded with groups of friends dressed up doing the traditional ‘12 pubs‘.
- People have fun drinking at the pub (have I mentioned that?) where they head early (like 5 pm on Friday or even earlier on Saturday or Sunday). Try not to start your night going out too late because everybody will be already rolling on the floor. At about 1.30-2 am pubs close and everyone heads to dancing in clubs or go to house parties. After-parties, either in the house or in hotels/clubs are kind of common too in Dublin, Galway and Cork.
- S. Patrick is a day when in any part of the country and especially bigger cities, tourists flock from all directions drunk, vomiting on the street. If you want to see something authentic, I’d suggest the Festival of the Fires which is in May every year.
- Have always a rain jacket with you, even if you might wake up and see the sun (quite rare).
- When you book a trip to Ireland for August and read everywhere that Ireland has no summer, believe it. Do not bring clothes you’d wear in Greece.
- If you love live & quality music, you are in the right place. Irish are not just music lovers but they are introduced to this art from a very young age. You can find amazing performers in quite unknown pubs or live venues, sometimes for a fairly low ticket price. Summer music festivals are worth and are great fun, too. Busking is pretty common but if you prefer indoor performers ask people around where to find the best gigs in town.
- Remember that in this country ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and modal verbs are a must. People are extra polite even when they’d like to send you to hell.
- Guinness is drunk and produced in Dublin. In the South, the equivalent is Murphy’s.
- Even though the most famous Irish dish is probably the Irish stew, I believe the burgers I had in Ireland are the best I ever tried (in Dublin my favourite spot was Bobo’s).
- If I could choose one spot among all the spots I loved about Ireland, I would say the West (Galway, Mayo, Connemara, Clare and the islands). To me is where the most authentic Irish spirit lies and survives to the wave of multiculturality you will find in the city.
If you want to move to Ireland:
- For bigger cities like Dublin, Cork or Galway, have some savings in your bank account (unless there are friends that can host you until you are settled). Depending on where you come from, life in Ireland can be expensive and you need to survive until your paycheck arrives. I moved with 1.000EUR back in 2010, but I had a friend hosting me for a month, ate bread and cheese for 3 weeks and I had lots of years of studying English at a good level in my past. I also made sure I was always ready for every job interview I was attending (at the third attempt, I got a job).
- The best housing website is http://www.daft.ie/ but you can also look in Airbnb. It is common saying that ‘it’s easier to find a husband than a flat in Dublin’. Due to the always growing number of people looking for a house in the big cities, landlords will pretty much always ask for an employment contract or some kind of guarantee. If you are unemployed but willing to pay, you can stick to Airnb until you get hired.
- Ireland is one of the few EU countries that has a privileged tax system for companies, hence there are tons of places you could apply even if English is not your native language. Your CV has to be in English, filled in a neat way (not confusing the recruiter) and a picture is not required. Have an Irish number on it with an Irish address. Do not put a foreigner mobile number because no one will call. Go to this shop and with 10EUR you can get a SIM card and good tips related to plans, as they have all the major networks from which you can choose.
- Keep in mind that employment agencies work pretty well and may call you for an interview soon. If you count on getting corporate jobs, I suggest you prepare yourself well because there are a lot of qualified people looking for jobs. In this country it is ok to dress adequately, print CVs and bring them door to door (even if most places you’ll be told to send over the electronic format but I’d still give it a try).
- The minimum hourly rate is 8.45EUR/hour. Salary taxes starts to increase after the 35k > threshold. Salary amount is normally visible on the job description page. You can get an idea visiting the website http://www.indeed.ie, LinkedIn or also EU language jobs. If you are the right candidate, some companies will pay for your relocation.
- You need to have a basic knowledge of English or willing to learn. In order to do so, you could join language exchange groups which are pretty common if can’t afford language courses. If you already grasp the language or have studied in the past, I highly recommend having podcasts or radio stations playing in your ears constantly. This way you will get used to that kind of funny, singing-swinging English which has nothing to do whatever you have learnt in school until now. It is more effective than watching TV cause you don’t have any visuals and your mind is forced to recognize the language without any help. If your level is a bit lower, use songs lyrics or try to stay with people who are not of your country of origins.
- This land gives fair opportunities. If you work hard and roll up your sleeves, the sky is the limit.
- The PPS number is the Irish Personal Public service number which you can request to the welfare office (FAS) and need in order to be registered as an employee. I asked for one only after I accepted my first job offer. You can ask for one even without having an employment contract but in that case, you need to show a proof of address.
- You can open a bank account in 10 minutes. You just need an ID and a proof or two of address.
- Health insurance is not mandatory. You just can go to the GP or hospital when you need and pay per service. Most of employment contracts come with health insurance.
- Keep in mind that Cork or Galway compared to Dublin are both about 30% cheaper for housing, groceries and average life price but they are smaller and don’t offer as much as the capital.
Either you feel like going for a 10 days trip, a music festival or you want to try to be a waitress for a season, I’d say go by all means and enjoy this life experience at the fullest 🙂