Once I decided to move to Ireland it was time to figure out what I had to do to make it happen. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty awaiting. From the most basic things, to the complicated official business, it’s a bear!
First, i’ll start with the basics. One of my businesses is heavily reliant on electronics, not all of which are compatible or convertible to 220-240v. American voltage on most electronics are 110 volt. For the smaller things like cell phone chargers and some lower power laptop chargers, this isn’t a problem, just go out and get a different charger, or use a converter. If you want to use anything that has a high wattage, such as power tools, amplifiers, kitchen appliances, etc… you would have to get a large, high capacity step up transformer. These transformers are about the size of a small space heater or computer subwoofer and cost anywhere between 200 and 800 Dollars (depending on how many watts you want.) Some of the audio visual equipment I have can be converted by opening up the case and re-soldering a wire or two to a different location on the circuit board, but not all. Anything older is more than likely stuck to whatever voltage it was manufactured for. I have some vintage studio rack equipment that are very rare pieces and super expensive and more often than not, they are from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The problem with some of these gets deeper in that there is also a difference not only in voltage, but frequency as well. American electronics, especially when it comes to video equipment, operates at 60hz and euro uses 50hz. Transformers do not address this issue. So all in all, for the basic household things, TV, kitchen stuff, basic things, i’m going to sell it and just buy used items from Donedeal.ie (the irish craigslist) when I get there. Some will say that there is craigslist there, but it’s only in dublin, and not widely used. I’ve found a great deal of things on donedeal, and at reasonable prices just like craigslist.
While i’m on the subject of online classifieds, i’ll have to touch on the vehicle situation. In another post I touched on the NIGHTMARE of getting an Irish driving license, but i’ll get onto the vehicle situation now. In New York i’m used to the annoyance of having to pass an emissions test every year. Not just an emissions test, but one that requires the service center to connect to the NYS system to pass the vehicle. It will prevent you from renewing the registration because of this and ANY emission related code, even if it’s not increasing emissions, will fail the vehicle. There are some loopholes in weight class and vehicle age, but for the most part, you can’t just get your mechanic buddy to slap on a sticker for a few extra bucks (the good old American way!) I was just struck silent when I read, and heard about the Irish version though. Not only do they make it really overly complicated (like EVERYTHING the government has there paws in) but it dips into personal freedoms as well in my opinion. When I get on a rant about anything that has to do with freedom and governmental interference, my wife just rolls her eyes and gives me that “get over it!” look, but as an American, these types of things get right to our very core. Granted, our country is full of frivolous bureaucratic bull of late, but there are some things that they just don’t touch. For example, if I want to drive my car without a safety vest or road cones, I can. If I want to have my washer fluid half empty, or have a temporary, non factory mirror, so be it. They don’t check your headlight beam adjustment, or your tire pressure. They don’t check your suspension more than visually or side slip. They don’t check your exhaust emissions (except if you’re in California) They don’t check your brake balance, or even at all actually, just the brake lights. Now I think that’s fine, I don’t mind them making sure they work, but sometimes your brakes wear unevenly, and unless you do your brakes every year, Rotors included, you won’t get balanced brakes ever. They don’t check your doors to see if they open properly, and what if I want to have a custom car with no outside handles like I had in the past? can’t do it in Ireland! They don’t check your fuel filler cap. We also do not check the brake lines and linkages etc under the car. We don’t check the pedals to see if they are the OEM pedals, and they don’t care if you have a different size tires than the manufacturer specification, because depending on the terrain, season, etc. it can be better to have a different tire on your car. In the winter I use different size tires than the summer. We don’t check the body work because it has nothing to do with anything except cosmetics. We don’t check the exhaust pipes, only the emissions codes. We don’t check to see if you have washer fluid. Some of these things, I can see the safety aspect, but some are just frivolous. Either way, none of these things are tallied for points or to pass or fail in the US for the most part. If the inspector sees something dangerous, they will fail or tell you to fix it and come back, but they use common sense and it’s up to them and their knowledge and opinion. I don’t like the idea of someone telling me what’s safe, or better, according to government and manufacturer specifications and rules. There are a great many of instances where the government regulations and the manufacturer specifications are not the best thing. The rules are not made by mechanics usually, and are mainly made so a profit can be made by certain sectors, companies, or unions. Whatever the reasons, I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it though. I just highlight these things, because they are all increases in cost and frequency of costs in maintaining a vehicle in Ireland, thou hath been warned. Then you have a vehicle tax yearly, depending on the year, engine size, fuel type, etc… We don’t even have a yearly vehicle tax here. (not overtly at least.) We pay a standard 60 bucks or so for a registration, and 21 dollars for inspection, and in most states, you do have to have insurance, which is comparable to Ireland. The tax can be as much as, or more than insurance in Ireland though…that’s a hefty sum for some! So tally up the Tax, Insurance, and the very high required maintenance costs, and you’re looking at a kick in the pants. I guess i’ll be a bit better off than most in that I work on my own vehicle, as long as I don’t get in the testers faces!
Next, let’s look at size…(and i’m not talking about the Irish curse)
I knew very well that Ireland’s streets and vehicles were smaller and cramped as I had driven there before, but I really hadn’t soaked up all the other size differences. The towns are more compact and centralized. In towns and cities, the houses are stuck together in big rows, and if they arn’t, there isn’t much space between them at all, not to mention the yard (garden) size is pretty darn small. Properties are sectioned off to the Centimeter it seems. and every bit of the countryside is accounted for and worked it seems. Look at the above picture of Ireland, and now look at this picture of my home town from above.
Most of that land is either state park for public use, or not used at all, or it’s huge swaths of privately owned land that people just use for hunting, fishing, camping and hiking. And that’s just one very small snippet of one county in one state. Ireland is about the size of, or smaller than New York state alone, and the civilization is much older. So you could imagine how it’s all been utilized to the brim. This creates effects that trickle down to everyday aspects of life. The way people live together, the way that people live and interact with each other, and even the accents of the language.
Driving on the small roads isn’t that bad, but you really have to be on point and can’t be as relaxed as you can be in America. If you drift even slightly to where a shoulder would be in America, you’ll be in a ditch or hitting a hedge or wall. If you drift slightly in the other direction, you’ll be asking for a head on crash. Most roads in the US have shoulders that are half the size of the lane, or a whole other lane on highways, and then after that, you have nice flat cleared swaths of grass in case the shoulder wasn’t enough. The center dividers or double yellow lines also add another foot between you and oncoming traffic, and the lanes are wider as well. I’d say that most of the roads in Ireland are about a lane and a half of american road at best. Get to the back country roads and it’s one lane that you have to squeeze two cars through. Why wouldn’t they just make them a little bit wider? They don’t have the expansion capability we have in America. As I said before, the properties are long divvied up and nobody is about to sacrifice the precious small area they have already. Not to mention the barriers are pretty permanent. The permissions for building are ridiculously hard to get around as well. If they want to build a road, there are so many more roadblocks (no pun intended) to overcome. Consider the scenery and visual aspects are regulated, the archaeology aspect is considered and can permanently shut down a project, whereas here, they would just send in a team to excavate the site, and then project continues. Agricultural aspects, private property aspects, you name it! There is no “Eminent domain” so the government can’t just come in and claim it needs to shave off a few meters of your property, or take it over completely. And if they can’t do that here, they just buy out the property owner. In Ireland there are certain laws and agricultural regulations that prevent reduction like this I believe.
Instead of a glut of large, workhorse pickup trucks that make the life of a working person in America easy, and more capable, there are small delivery vans, compact light trucks, and tiny luggage trailers towed by compact cars. I won’t be able to go and pick up all of the materials I need for a job in one shot, I won’t be able to carry all my tools and ladders I will need for my jobs, and I won’t be able to tow and haul much. This translates into more trips, more cost, more fuel, more wear and tear, and more time. All of these things mean less money, in a business climate that doesn’t allow me to charge as much as I do in America already. In fact, for a job I charge 189 dollars here, the same job in Ireland on average costs about 50-70 euro. Add on extra operating costs and i’m looking at a huge reduction in profit. The Economy in Ireland is not doing well, and people are much more frugal. Unemployment is incredibly high in Ireland as well. I won’t get into why I think that is though, it’s a complicated issue, and has many causes. Even with these limitations, things still get done in Ireland, and all you need is a little ingenuity and will. The good thing is, everything is closer in Ireland!
The Cities are all lower to the ground, you don’t have all the big skyscrapers and highrises, the massive underground systems, and massive engineering marvels. The amount of cars and traffic is at a refreshing level of low! Every drive I took there was like an easy Sunday drive in my home area. I love the scenery, and the lack of huge, city sized areas of industrial wasteland. I love the fact that the hillside scenery is regulated so you don’t see a clutter of massive houses built into the sides of mountains and hills. I love that Ireland respects and takes care of their farmers!
Usually, portions of food in America are seen to be the biggest in the world for the most part, but I disagree! Yes, the packaged products such as bottles, candy, and what not, are smaller in Europe, and the choices are much more limited. I actually like this a lot. I think we have too many choices here in the US and are over stimulated by them. The obesity and diabetes rates are higher as well. Sometimes you just want a king size Reeses peanut butter cup though, or maybe a Coca cola that’s not watered down (I am convinced the Irish produced American brand sodas are more diluted.) The portions you get for breakfast, or when you eat at someone’s house though….Much bigger than America! (unless you come from an Italian family in NYC!) I wasn’t able to eat a full fry (Irish breakfast) and I was struggling horribly to eat the dinner that was literally slapped and piled down onto my plate. So many SHPUDS! and apple tart with custard up the whazoo! Anything that involves in-country ingredients such as meat, bread, dairy, and potatoes…prepare to loosen your belt.
Moving on… I am used to an extremely diverse culture, a mesh of hundreds of cultures in one crazy mixing bowl. Ireland is simple to understand and get along in as long as you know a few simple things. The culture is relatively uniform, and doesn’t change easily or quickly! You need to know what not to say, who to avoid, and where to avoid. Before you go to, or move to Ireland, you should learn about the travelers….travelers…well i’ll just leave it at that and let you do the research…….
Shnacks…well…that’s another research project.
Ok, now the more light hearted stuff.
- Do NOT ask for a ride, or say, lets take a ride…it does not mean drive. It is more associated with bedroom or backseat fun.
- Mickey is not a mouse. So leave your Disney “I love mickey” shirts at home.
- Fanny is not a pack you wear around your waist. or a cute word for a but your grandmother says.
- Sorry is not just used as an apology, someone will try to get your attention by saying sorry
Ignorance of the latter did help me once though. There was a girl of questionable character (see shnack) passing us by on a street and she started saying sorry, then she started screaming it louder as we kept walking. I didn’t know she was addressing me though. Then she yelled something like “You in the whatever colored shirt! You don’t have to be an A@#hole, I wanted a fag!” Thinking I was ignoring her. When in reality, I was wondering why the hell she was screaming sorry in question form. It was amusing.
There are areas and neighborhoods everyone knows to avoid, but they are in close proximity to everything else, or right in the middle of them, so it’s a good idea to get to know the area you’re visiting, or ask someone you may know, or are chatting with about these no go places. There is a real Jekyll and Hyde effect in Ireland between night and day in some places. It can be a nice area, calm, lots of people walking around and no problems at all, then at night….BOOM night of the living dead…seriously. I saw kids of 17-20 out screaming in the middle of the street, stumbling up to you and I seriously couldn’t tell the difference between them and actors on an episode of The Walking Dead. When it comes to alcohol…well, it’s part of the culture there, it’s everywhere and always. Ones work ends, and the mammys, wives, husbands and couples are done making and eating dinner, the pubs all fill up. In america, there are slow nights more often than busy nights in bars. The weekends are usually fairly busy, but can be slow as well. I don’t think there is any night that’s considered a slow night in Ireland. Every pub is busy at night, almost every night. If it’s a slow night, it’s remarkable. And there is no “let’s go out for a drink or two” or “I’m just having a drink and leaving” Once the taps are flowing into the pint glasses, they keep going, and going. if they don’t, the glasses get a few fair bit of fills at least. The number of pubs is really just amazing really. I was shocked when I learned that there were 52 restaurants in a SMALL town nearby my hometown. Take that picture and just change the restaurant to pub, and you’ve got Ireland! Every block, every street seems to have a few. Even the tiny, one horse hamlets in Ireland have a pub (Usually reminiscent of someones living room with a bar.) I used to think that the drinking age being 21 in the US was just making alcohol a forbidden fruit that teenagers were just going more wild about because it was forbidden or restricted, and also disagreed with the fact that you could vote, be drafted, or choose to serve in the military, but still couldn’t drink. If you take the mystery and intrigue out of something here, It doesn’t have the same draw of abuse and binge draw that it would if it was normal and legal. As I got older, and it seems that people are maturing at a much older age, and began hating the bars that even the young twenty somethings were drinking at…I started to see that perhaps even 21 was too young in most cases! I wasn’t even close to understanding until I saw the walking dead teens in Ireland, heard about and saw the horrible and annoying effects that it has. The first time I stayed in my wife’s town, I stayed at a very nice small hotel/restaurant in the center of town. It was a quiet area in the early hours of the night, and even during the day it was just traffic sounds and talking of pedestrians. As the night went on, and went into the early morning…It was horrible, I couldn’t sleep a few nights because of the screaming, and I don’t exaggerate here…SCREAMING. Breaking bottles, and more screaming echoing through the stone and stucco lined main streets. Then you have the kids that were hitting the windows of shops and setting off the alarms (another topic i’ll touch on next) And there were no gardai doing anything, or even to be seen, anywhere. In contrast, if that was America…The police would have been called after a few minutes of noise, and they would respond within 10 minutes, 15 tops. And it would be rare enough anyway because the kids know that the cops would come right away if they act up like that. These kids were just sitting right in the middle of the main intersection in town, screaming, laughing for hours. You would go out, I could yell, and they would just either ignore you, laugh, or go away for 5 minutes, wait for you to go back up and then they would return and be louder. I didn’t want to get arrested on my trip, so I didn’t go up to them in a physical confrontation. The gardai in Ireland are pretty impotent, and don’t really do anything about noise or disturbances anyway. I’m used to seeing a fleet of police cars from 5 different departments patrol constantly at night, and respond super quickly to any call or disturbance. They patrol areas near bars even more heavily and take their job very, VERY seriously. Also, people in America are very quick to call about any disturbance of the peace in most areas, save college towns, but even there, they still will be called a LOT!
Every single house and building I saw in Ireland had an alarm box on the outside of it. I was told it’s because insurance companies either require you to have one, or give you a much cheaper rate and incentives to have one. Now, I was not only kept up by screaming kids, but alarms that would go off for hours, with a 5 minute break every half hour. Nobody showed up to check it out, nobody turned it off, no gardai showed, NOTHING, zilch, nada, zero response. by anyone. I thought that maybe it was faulty, or a rare occurrence, but when a kid passing by threw a beer bottle at another building’s window, and that alarm started it’s many hour shift, I realized that this was not the case. The next night, another building or two were screaming into the night with no response. OK.. what is the point if nobody shows to check it out? Who knows! So, I learned never to stay or live in the center of town unless I invest in soundproofing. And why rent in the center of town was so cheap!
So I now knew who, what, and where to avoid. I knew what the business and employment situation was, I knew what the vehicle situation was… now to get into the nitty gritty bureaucratic process of becoming legal and getting permission to stay, work, and live in Ireland. Yes, I’ve just highlighted a lot of negatives, but the positives, at least for me, outweigh any of these things. Ireland is a wonderful, laid back, friendly, beautiful place, with a progressive government and culture. The history is rich and intriguing. The lifestyle fits me, and I love it! It’s a hop skip and jump away from the rest of Europe, and travelling is MUCH cheaper! The fact that it’s part of the European Union causes some difficulty though. Since it’s borders are open for all EU citizens to come and work or live, it’s had to legislate to reduce the rate of Non-EU citizens coming to work and live in Ireland. In order to come and live/work there, you need to have them salivating to hire you, and have the company offering you the job to provide written proof of the offer and salary. The salary must be over 60,000 euro annually, or be on a diminutive list of rare jobs that they allow offers that pay less. OR you have to have 300,000 euro in capital on hand to invest in a business. Or if you are retiring there, you have to have 150,000 euro per person in your account but i’m young still… Or, you have to be married to an Irish citizen. I would never have been able to move there if we didn’t decide to get married when we did. It’s next to impossible unless you have a very impressive CV in a field that is having trouble finding citizen employees, or a whole lot of money. At least I didn’t find any way. Of course, there are ways to temporarily stay and work, but only temporary, and they tax you to the point of breaking in that case anyway. I agree with this policy due to the alarming unemployment rates though, I just think that they should loosen the restrictions on small business startups. I plan on adding a few jobs to their market, and could do so with a tiny fraction of what they require for capital, and small, local business is the backbone of anyplace these days.
To get married, we had to inform the local office of birth, marriage and deaths registrar at least three months ahead of time. You CANNOT get married before that three month period is up, probably to reduce the impulse or hasty marriages. They do take marriage seriously in Ireland, and I love this. Divorce is much, MUCH less common in Ireland. I believe the divorce rate is about 13 percent, whereas in America, it’s 53% to 60% last time I checked. You schedule a date and location for the wedding ceremony within this 3 month period and choose an officiant. In our case, the registrar did it herself, and we were able to choose a nice upscale, old hotel that was listed as a location, though you can choose your own location and officiant if you want. We were just choosing to do a small civil ceremony at first and then we can do the big family wedding when I get moved, settled, and working there. A week ahead of the wedding date, you have to go to the registrar’s office to pay a 200 euro fee, passports, birth certificates, and fill out some forms. A week later we were married! It was the best day of my life, and I couldn’t wait. So many people these days see it as a ball and chain, or the end of your fun years…I can’t understand that. If you are planning on spending the rest of your life with someone, why would you do it if you thought it was a prison, or mundane, or a negative thing in any way at all?
After the wedding I didn’t just automatically get permission to work, or residence rights. You have to separately apply at the local gardai immigration office. You have to register your marriage and meet with the officer in charge of immigration there. They will review and make sure that all is in order, they may ask you questions to make sure it’s all on the up and up. I think this is a great thing, as I am very opposed to marriages of convenience, people just using the institution of marriage to get into a country and work. It takes away from and makes it harder for the people that are doing things for the right reasons, and that really love each other. It’s hard enough to be scrutinized or have your personal love examined as it is. Then you pay another 300 euro fee, or 500 euro for long term residency, get your fingerprints taken, your criminal backround checked, Photo taken, and then you wait for your id card to come in the mail before you go down and get the stamp for your passport. After that you have to go back 6 months later to get stamped, then a year, then three years.. after 5 years you can apply for citizenship.
So now i’m legal, what now? Well, I still have to sell most of my things, close my business, save enough money to cover a few months of rent, a vehicle, living expenses, and cushion money in case the money doesn’t start rolling in soon enough. Rent is fairly cheap in Ireland, especially outside of town, but you really need a vehicle in Ireland unless you live near your workplace. I have to have a vehicle for my business, and wanted one to increase my chances of employment if I have to get another job in the mean time. The public transportation is ok, but not great, and doesn’t go everywhere. It also doesn’t run around the clock.
I’m still trying to figure out how to make the move as seamless as possible, finding housing, and taking care of finding and registering a vehicle before i’m in country.
I also will write about finding health insurance, doctors, and other mundane tasks soon! I haven’t been able to find any concrete info, nor people that have written about any of these things in detail. Getting information from any public office in Ireland is also a nightmare, and very, very, very, very inconsistent. You’ll get five different answers from five different people if you get a response at all. Most of the time they just say to come in person when I arrive. Also, finding housing is not easy when i’m in a different country, as most people want to meet you in person understandably. I’m going to find out options and share them.
So that’s my boring blog post for the week, i’ll add something a bit more colorful next time. I’d love to hear any questions or comments as well, so feel free!