Michael and Karin Shepherd had always been interested in understanding and living in different countries and cultures. In 1996, they decided to take the plunge and buy property in Ireland. The property was a place where they could both live and operate a small shop to work and earn a living. Now with over a decade and a half of living primarily in Ireland as well as Greece and the Czech Republic I had to hear what they had to say about their life there.
Here are the top 9 things to consider if thinking about living as an expat in Ireland.
#1 Were your mother or grandmother born in Ireland? Citizenship awaits you!
Working within the Irish government guidelines to set up a business and live in Ireland as a non-Irish citizen certainly had its expected bureaucratic challenges for Michael and Karin. They were eventually able to work through them, but could have had the process go much easier if, “they had a grandmother or mother born in Ireland.” Then, according to Michael, “getting citizenship would be rather easy.”
#2 Ireland’s struggling economy could be a good sign to expats who want to do business there
Ireland’s economy, like most of the world’s economies, is going through its share of struggles right now. However, Michael believes this could work in favor for non-Irish citizens who are looking to set up businesses and live in Ireland. “Given today’s economy I think Ireland is more open to foreigners setting up businesses here. They are trying to stimulate the economy. I think it could be easier than it was in the past to do so. People who are interested in doing it should definitely give it some serious consideration.”
#3 How Americans can offend the Irish
According to Michael, “Americans are so much more direct than the Irish. People in Ireland always take the time to say hello and greet each other and have a bit of small talk before getting down to business. I was always offending people by getting right to the point.”
#4 Heard Ireland is insanely expensive? Maybe you heard wrong.
I had always heard that Ireland was prohibitively expensive. However, I think much of what I heard about the cost of living in Ireland is in regards to costs of living in Dublin and not necessarily the rest of Ireland. According to Michael, “Ireland is characterized as two places: the country of Ireland and then Dublin. Dublin is a place in and of itself.”
Michael and Karin live on the west coast of Ireland in Ennis. For a four bedroom furnished house they pay 600 Euros (approximately 780 US dollars) a month plus utilities. Michael said a nice two bedroom place with basic furniture will cost about 400 Euros (approximately 520 US dollars) a month plus utilities. For a lower quality two bedroom place with limited furniture it would be about 350 Euros (approximately 455 US dollars) a month plus utilities.
The key to living affordably in Ireland according to Michael? “People are amazed we do this. They think we have a lot of money, but we don’t. We can afford to do all of this because we rent, eat and live like the locals.”
#5 Ireland’s minimum wage? Almost double that of the US.
Not only, according to Michael is the cost of living do-able in Ireland, but Ireland has the second highest minimum wage in Europe. Their current minimum wage? Almost double that of the United States at about the equivalent of 11 dollars an hour.
#6 Going out to dinner in Ireland will cost you
Going out to dinner in Ireland is, “more expensive. The lower priced items at a pub are at the equivalent of nine to ten dollars and what is more typical is the equivalent of 12 to 14 US dollars. For non-pub food even the early bird special will cost you around the equivalent of 18 US dollars.
#7 What is it like to go back and visit the US after being away for so long?
“Every time we go back we feel less at home. We are from Beaverton, Oregon. It is the headquarters of Nike. The traffic is terrible. You spend eight minutes to go through an intersection. Also in the US there is a culture of getting people in and then getting them out of restaurants. In Europe you may pay three Euros for coffee, but that table is yours for the rest of the day.
Michael also agrees with many other expats I have spoken to in regards to living outside of the US, “In the US there is a lot of consumerism. There are, of course, exceptions, but we have relatives who spend their lives working or shopping.”
#8 How Americans are perceived in Ireland
“When we first moved to Ireland, Americans were embarrassing. They were loud, obnoxious and pushy which I still do believe is the case but, of course, there are exceptions.”
“On the world stage when we first went to Greece as often as not they would frown when we told them we were from the US. When we told them we were from Ireland they would smile. Over the years I would say that has not changed. In a general news perception Americans are not well liked, but person to person relationships here are not a problem.”
#9 Michael’s advice for those who want the expat life?
“It is in an attitude. You have to have the attitude to fit into a different culture and to accept different ways of doing things. The only way to figure out if this way of life is for you is to go and do it.” Michael however offers a word of caution, “A lot of people fall in love with a place when they visit it on a holiday, but you have to experience a place during the off season to really know if you are going to like it. It is a totally different thing to live there day in and day out when you have not lived there through the off season and the bad weather.”
Michael also suggests, “If you go to a place where the artists and expats are you will have a much better time than where it is 100 percent locals. I have heard of a lot of people who have gone to rural areas and been successful, but I have heard of a lot more people who grew tired of it quickly and moved back home.”
And he also adds, “For those types of people who enjoy doing something different the only thing standing in their way is their own mind.”
#10 Know Before You Go
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Learn as much as you can, from as many people and perspectives as you can before you go. Here are some resources to help:
More about Michael and Karin: www.TravelShepherd.com