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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Finding Friends Not an Issue for Irish Expats

Having lived in multiple countries, Irish expats have no problem settling in to life overseas and making new friends with locals and expats alike.
  • Over two-fifths (42%) want to stay abroad forever
  • The Irish tend to stay within Europe
  • 29% disappointed with economy of host country
  • Nearly all (91%) happy with their relationship
  • Six in ten find it easy to make friends

Feeling at Home Abroad

Irish people seem to love living abroad: although emigration levels have decreased in recent years, it is still the country with the highest percentage of citizens living beyond its borders. One in six Irish people are currently living outside of Ireland, and they seem to be enjoying themselves: four-fifths are generally satisfied with expat life. This happiness may be the reason why the Irish stay abroad for so long: over half (54%) have been living in their host country for more than five years, and 42% even want to stay abroad forever.

High satisfaction levels may be because the Irish adapt quickly to life abroad. Over one-fifth (22%) say they felt at home nearly straight away, while more than three-fifths (63%) believe that it is easy to feel at home in their host country’s culture. In fact, Irish expats rarely feel unwelcome abroad: over four-fifths (82%) have never felt unwelcome because of their nationality, compared to a global average of 65%.

Staying Close to Home

Despite many Irish expats worrying about the distance between their host and home countries prior to relocating (33% saw this as a potential disadvantage), Irish respondents tend not to move too far: 7% relocated to the neighboring UK, while a further 7% moved to Germany and 5% to Spain. The fact that the UK is the most popular destination among Irish expats might explain why only 14% thought of the political situation as a potential benefit prior to moving (global average: 27%). Irish expats in the UK are concerned about the effect of Brexit on their residency rights, with one respondent complaining about the “move towards more nationalist policies” and “the inwardness of Britain”.

Overseas Economies Leave a Lot to Be Desired

Over a tenth of Irish respondents (13%) moved abroad because they found a job on their own, making this the second most popular reason for relocating. The majority of Irish workers are employees (25%) or managers (16%), and, of the latter, nearly nine in ten work in either top (35%) or middle management (54%). Despite these more senior roles, Irish expats do not have exceptionally high incomes: one-third of respondents (34%) earn less than they would in Ireland, and more than a quarter (26%) say that their disposable household income is not enough to cover everything they need for their daily lives. What is more, nearly three in ten (29%) rate their host country’s economy negatively.

International Love

One in seven Irish expats (14%) move abroad for love, making this the most popular reason to relocate. The Irish are big fans of international romance: less than three in ten of those in a relationship (28%) have a partner who’s also Irish, compared to 44% globally who have a partner with the same nationality. What’s more, only 38% met their partner in Ireland, while over a third (35%) met them in their current host country, and over a quarter (27%) met in another country entirely — nearly ten percentage points higher than the global average of 18%. Very few Irish expats in a relationship (8%) are in a long-distance one, possibly explaining why around nine in ten (91%) are happy with their relationship.

Friendly Folks

Ireland ranks 23rd out of 65 countries in the Friendliness subcategory of the Ease of Settling In Index, and it seems that the Irish abroad are equally open: three-fifths think it’s easy to make friends while living abroad. In addition, nearly one-quarter (23%) say that their friendship circle mostly consists of local residents — four percentage points higher than the global average.

Of the 33% that have mainly expat friends, less than three in ten (28%) find it hard to make local friends because of language barriers. This is possibly connected to the fact that Irish people generally speak English, which is also spoken by around 1,500 million people around the world, potentially minimizing communication problems in their host county. This could explain why they find it so easy to make friends when abroad, despite the two most popular destinations for Irish expats — the UK and Germany — ranking 52nd and 51st respectively in the Friendliness subcategory.

Further Reading