Before moving to the “Emerald Isle”, most expats have a mental image of Ireland that includes green meadows, lots of rain, rough — but cordial — conduct, and moderate pace in all things imaginable. While you will find all of these aspects to some extent, you will quickly discover that the Republic of Ireland is strikingly similar to many other industrialized nations. Still, even as the highly globalized and technophile nation that it is today, life in Ireland has retained that special flavor that gives it a distinctive touch.
There are only about 4.7 million people living in Ireland, a number most would expect from a medium-sized metropolis, rather than an entire nation. The low number of inhabitants means that the country is a social one, acquaintances and contacts are very important in your everyday life. When you encounter problems, there is probably someone you know who knows someone who can help.
Those green meadows you dreamed of come at a price. As an expat living in Ireland, you will have to come to terms with rain and fog. Of course, that is not all you are ever going to see, otherwise life there would be unbearably grey and dreary. Just keep in mind that Ireland is not a popular tourist destination because of perpetual sunshine. However, the maritime climate of the island makes for warm summers and mild winters, bestowing Ireland a moderately tempered climate all year round.
During the days of the Celtic Tiger, working and living in Ireland was not only an attractive prospect to expatriates, but also for the Irish who had left the country years before, as well as their decedents. However, with the collapse of the Irish economy during the global recession, life in Ireland hasn’t been so easy in recent years. For this reason, there has been a trend of emigration with less Irish nationals returning to their home state.
Things are starting to slowly change, though. The number of Irish nationals leaving the country decreased by just over 30% between 2013 and 2015, while the number of Irish nationals returning to their home country increased by 4.3% between 2014 and 2015, although the level is still not anywhere near pre-crisis levels.
Indeed, with its long history as an emigrant nation and the dramatic increase in expatriation over the last few years, it seems fitting that the country created the new post of Minister for the Diaspora in 2014. The Minister’s main goal is to forge a connection between the homeland and those who have left life in Ireland behind. Some initial success can be seen by the creation of a government diaspora policy, which was released in 2015, and the inclusion of many people and groups in the conversation about Ireland and its diaspora. So far, the situation of Irish emigrant voting rights has not changed, however.
In the face of the economic situation and the high emigration rate, Ireland has been eager to attract expatriates to its soil alongside the emigrants it is hoping to win back. The efforts seem to be successful; about 12% of the population was foreign born in 2013. The majority of these expats came from within the EU. There are substantial immigrant communities throughout the country and with the addition of new EU member states, many people took the opportunity of their newly gained freedom of movement to begin a new life in Ireland. For instance, according to the 2011 census, Poles make up the largest migrant community in Ireland, but there are also large Latvian and Lithuanian communities.
Of course, expatriates in Ireland do not come exclusively from the abovementioned countries. Among many others, people from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the USA have settled here. The openness of the Irish economy towards investments from abroad and the high demand for skilled workers attracts people from around the world who have made Ireland their new home.
The largest expat populations can obviously be found in the main cities. This is particularly true for Dublin, further consolidating the city’s status as the first choice for those interested in living in Ireland. For detailed information on the capital, please read our guide on living in Dublin.
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