"Did you make the right decision?” is a question I am asked regularly. Those posing the question are not asking did I make the right decision choosing my husband John or launching my own bridal magazine. No. What they are asking is did I make the right decision moving back to Ireland?
Since our return to Ireland (Limerick) in May 2012 I’ve received emails, Facebook messages and even calls asking me the aforementioned question. Some ask, mainly those still living in Ireland, because they find it difficult to digest our decision to leave a prosperous and invigorating metropolis like New York to return to a small city like Limerick with limited work and play opportunities.
At least that is what they tell me when my answer is always, “Yes, we most certainly made the right decision, 100 percent.”
I then continue to argue that work opportunities may be limited in Limerick but they are still there. My husband is living proof of that, having secured a job in an American company based in Limerick (12 minutes from our home) two weeks after arriving home to live. It may be luck, and it may also be opportunities he created for himself.
My second argument is that there is an abundance of play to be had in Limerick. It’s the 2014 Irish City of Culture.
There are restaurants, bars, cinemas, plenty of kids’ activities, hotels, theaters (Riverdance had an extremely successful four-day run two weeks ago at the university). There are also sports clubs, reading groups, cooking groups -- the list is endless really.
So although we left a city with all the above and more, we came to another city with more than enough to keep us on our toes, albeit on a smaller scale, which suits us just fine.
So it’s a fairly straightforward response I give to those just asking out of sheer curiosity, but the same question is a lot more difficult to answer when asked by those living in New York (or other countries), those contemplating the big move home and seeking my advice and experience.
Some close friends still over in New York ask every few months, just in case our answer has changed. Other acquaintances and even some strangers have gotten in touch asking what I think they should do.
I always start off by saying, “No one can make the decision for you.” And then I impart my own experience because that is all I can do.
Ireland for John and I has been very good to us and our two kiddies (Sadie, nearly two, and Colum, three) since our return. It might, however, not be as kind to others.
The positives heavily outweigh the negatives in our experience. I’ll list some things to take into account when thinking about making the bold move back to the country of one’s birth.
*If you are from Ireland then more than likely your family is here too and that’s precious, especially as we grow older and have families of our own. It’s also a very obvious reason people move home (probably the most important one).
*You bring back from New York a strong work ethic and it stands to you when applying for a job.
*House prices here are so much lower now than five-10 years ago.
*Ireland is a beautiful country with lots of things to do, lots of places to visit, lots of beautiful beaches, mountains and lakes.
*Ireland is a small country and a gateway to Europe, so when you do get settled financially you’ll begin to plan trips around Ireland and eventually Europe.
*I really don’t mind it, but if you are not a fan of rain it’s important to remember it rains a lot in Ireland.
*Although our government tells us we are officially out of a recession, there are still people out of work and finding it hard to have a decent lifestyle on social welfare. And it takes over a year of residency here to become eligible for social welfare.
*It can take up to two years to get a mortgage for your dream home, and having at least 10 percent down-payment is essential. Obviously more is a plus.
*It’s easier returning to Ireland as a family. Which makes it harder if you’re single. What I mean by that is a lot of your single friends here in Ireland may be married with children and only go out on the town to celebrate a special occasion (two-three times a year). You certainly don’t want to be stuck at home every weekend when you could be in Manhattan partying it up till dawn.
*Families argue more when they are in closer proximity and see each other more regularly.
If you’re planning the move home from the U.S., try to have at least a year’s worth of living costs saved before returning home. Everyone needs cash for a rainy day.
Have family or friends at home look out for suitable and affordable rental accommodation (if you don’t have a home already) to get you started. (Most places, like New York, require a month’s rent in advance).
Have your resume ready and collect references from previous employers months before your departure. You can also apply online for jobs (that’s how John got on the interview ladder for his current job).
Try to do a course or some volunteer work in the area you wish to work in back in Ireland
If you have children of school age register them immediately into the school of your choice (and if they are babies still register them) as a lot of schools have a long waiting list.
Get a name of a good GP in the town you are moving to, especially if you have small kids.
Open a dollar savings account in one of the banks in Ireland so you can start transferring all your hard earned cash into it as soon as possible. (You won’t be allowed through an airport with a big wad of cash).
Get back on the Facebook account and look up old friends who you lost contact with, but only those you really want to have in your life.
Ask family to give you a rough idea of the cost of living in Ireland (or more specifically to the area you are going — Dublin is more costly than Limerick or Cork) on a monthly basis. Ask for a detailed breakdown of electricity, heat, refuse, water, cost of gas (petrol), television bills and then do out a budget based on a year’s worth of savings and see if you can have a happy existence with that.
Here are some tips that are a MUST if you’re planning to move home.
*Put your lifestyle in New York out of your head.
*Commit to Ireland as your home and show your commitment by planning for your future.
*Get involved, join clubs, take classes, get off the couch and meet people. Have family or friends over for tea or dinner. You have to make the effort to fulfill yourself.
*Keep an open mind to work. You may have had your own construction company or owned your own beauty salon or bar while living in the U.S. Unless you have a lot of capital to bring back to Ireland, you may have to go back working for someone else and that might be challenging.
*Join a local networking group to help get you started.
*It’s also important to try your hand at a different job, and don’t look your nose down at certain careers (hotel work, restaurant work etc).
*In general, just have a positive outlook on this new chapter of your life that you are about to embark on. Believe me it’s what you make it (with our without money).
If you are unsure of where to move to I would strongly suggest go to, or near enough to, a big town or a city. You will be used to the hustle and bustle of a city/suburb in the U.S. and you will miss that. A city or big town offers more job opportunities, entertainment and a chance to make lots of new friends.
Irish people get bored quickly listening to all the wonderful things New York has to offer, so tone it down a little.
It will take a while to go back to using words like mineral (soda), cinema (movies) twenty-to-five (four-forty) but do try. You will get slagged every single time you utter an “American” word.
And last but not least: The grass is always greener on the other side. Move home for the right reasons and live with your decision.
Ireland is a wonderful little country with fantastic people and a mighty culture. I know for sure it would welcome you back with open arms.
If you have any other questions about our own personal experience with Ireland please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I warn you, however, I’ve nothing bad to say. I’m at [email protected]
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks