Are you planning to move to Cork? What is it like to live in Ireland? In this Expat Interview, Amber, an expat living in Cork, shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers.
You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Cork, such as the cost of living in Cork, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
Cork is an international city, largely thanks to Ireland’s relatively relaxed immigration laws.
Living in Cork, you’ll find that there are people from around the world who are drawn to the city for work, to learn English, or to study.
It’s easy to see why it draws so many people; the locals are friendly, the pubs are warm and welcoming, and the rest of Europe is just a quick RyanAir flight away.
The pace of life in Cork is fairly slow, and locals place a high value on relationships.
You’ll find that the longer you’re in the city, the more comfortable you’ll get asking for information.
Looking for a certain type of breakfast cereal? There’s no use researching it online; better to ask someone. In no time, you’ll be a part of WhatsApp and Facebook groups that will prove to be a wealth of knowledge.
How to prepare for moving to Cork? : Resources, checklist.
The biggest thing you’ll need to prepare for moving to Cork is a plan for finding housing.
There is a housing crisis throughout the country, and affordable flats and houses are hard to find.
As soon as you know you’d like to move to Cork, start researching potential apartments and reaching out to any contacts you might have.
Here are some things you’ll want to do before moving to Cork:
- Find housing.
- Decide if you’ll need a car. Once you move, you’ll only have a year before you’ll need to have an Irish driver’s license.
- Decide if you’ll be shipping your belongings.
- Start looking for a job, if you’ll need one.
- Determine the visa you’ll qualify for, and submit any paperwork as soon as possible.
- Visit Cork to ensure it’s a city you’ll enjoy and where you can see yourself being happy.
- Start searching for a GP as soon as possible – don’t wait until you’re sick.
- Buy health insurance if your job won’t provide it.
- Moving tips: Relocating abroad? Try Sirelo for free quotes from top international movers that fit your budget. Learn more here.
- Money transfer: I use Wise for my international transfers. Quick, secure, and their fees? Way lower than most banks I’ve tried!
- Expat insurance: Life abroad has its surprises; make sure you’re covered with expat insurance.
People will speak English anywhere you go in Ireland, so you shouldn’t have trouble communicating with healthcare workers.
You’ll find the best healthcare if you can register with a GP, but if you need urgent help, you can visit Mercy University Hospital, Cork.
The two main internet and cell service providers are Vodafone and Three.
I use Vodafone for my home internet and Three for my cell phone, and both work fairly well.
Supermarket and grocery stores
The main grocery stores in Ireland are Tesco, Supervalu, Dunnes, Lidl, and Aldi.
For more specialty items in Cork, you’ll want to visit the Quay Co-op, Cork Rooftop Farm, and the English Market.
Additionally, there are a number of Asian, Middle Eastern, and African markets in Cork that will have more specific ingredients and sometimes better produce.
It can be hard to find clothing similar to the styles, cuts, and fabrics you’d find in the US.
In Cork, locals love to shop at Pennys, a low-cost clothing retailer.
I generally shop for clothing at H&M, though I also have a few items from Fat Face and Sweaty Betty (online).
The emergency numbers in Ireland are 999 or 112.
The cost of living in Cork
The biggest expense for most people will be rent, as Ireland has been experiencing a housing crisis for several years.
You can often save money by sharing an apartment with others or renting further outside of the city and commuting in.
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||€1600|
|Internet||€40 per month|
|Transportation||€3 for local bus fare|
|Average meal/ person||€14|
|Gym membership||€49 per month|
|Yoga class||€18 each|
|Total||€2400 + entertainment and transportation|
What salary do you need to live in Cork?
The average annual income for people in Cork is €45,000.
To live comfortably in Cork, you’ll want to have a salary of at least €35,000, but closer to €40,000 would be better.
If you can find a flatshare, you can significantly reduce your rent expenses.
Where to live in Cork? – The best areas to stay
Luckily, Cork is a safe city, and there aren’t any areas that need to be avoided when looking for housing.
That said, the best and most convenient neighborhoods are the Lough, the City Center, and the Victorian Quarter.
If you don’t see many options in these areas, just try to stay within about 20-25 minutes of the English Market, and you’ll feel central enough.
How to find apartments in Cork?
Ireland is currently experiencing a housing crisis, so finding an apartment is likely to be your biggest challenge as an expat.
Start looking as early as possible, and reach out to any places that interest you.
Unless you get lucky, you may need to rent an Airbnb or other short-term let while you look for an apartment.
Transportation in Cork
If you live in the city center, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting around. The central areas are walkable and bikeable, and the public transit is decent.
Once you get further from the city center, you’ll find yourself relying more on the public transit systems, and it is likely to be a bit less reliable.
Cork is a bikeable city, but there are a few hills once you get out of town. For that reason, electric bikes and scooters are very popular amongst locals.
Weather in Cork
I don’t think anyone’s ever moved to Ireland for its great weather.
Although the temperatures are generally mild, Cork sees relatively few bright, sunny days throughout the year.
Expect about 5 hours of sunshine per day, 300 days per year.
Good and bad things about living in Cork – What you love/dislike.
Cork has great food, nightlife, and plenty of things to do on the weekends.
You’ll find plenty of live music on Friday and Saturday nights, especially during the summer.
I also love how safe Cork feels, even in the evenings. There is rarely crime in Cork, so you can go to movie theaters, bars, and restaurants without considering how you’ll need to get home.
You’ll often see women walking home alone late at night, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it after around 11 pm.
One of the hardest things about living in Cork is the long, cold winters with very little sunlight. The housing and buildings in Ireland usually aren’t well insulated, so it’s often chilly both indoors and outdoors in the winter.
Ireland is part of an island, so it can sometimes feel isolating to be a flight or a boat ride from the rest of Europe. To get to mainland Europe, you’ll need to fly – usually from Cork or Dublin airport.
What are the best things to do in Cork?
You’ll find that most of the activities in Cork are very social.
Locals love to join friends for a coffee in one of the many cafes in the city, wander through the Marina Market, and relax in Fitzgerald Park.
At night, most people will make their way into a pub to enjoy a pint with friends and chat into the evening.
If you’re looking to get out into the rest of Ireland for the weekend, Cork is located near many of Ireland’s top tourist destinations.
You can easily visit the Cliffs of Moher, Kinsale, or Blarney Castle as a day trip from Cork.
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here? How did you deal with that?
One of the biggest challenges many expats face when moving to Ireland is getting a driver’s license.
Expats from the United States will need to complete a written test, take several driving lessons, and pass the driver’s test before being issued a license. The process is lengthy, expensive, and surprisingly difficult.
Is it easy to make new friends in Cork? Where to meet new people in Cork?
Cork has a large expat community, so it is fairly easy to make friends with other people who are new to the city.
The easiest and best place to meet new people is online through sites like Meetup and BumbleBFF.
Although there are plenty of people to meet, you’ll probably still need to make a concerted effort to meet one-on-one and build your friendships.
People in Ireland rarely have guests over for dinner, so don’t be surprised if you’re rarely invited over to your friends’ houses.
Where are your favorite cafes in Cork?
I love SOMA Coffee Roasters, Three Fools, and Guji for coffee in Cork.
Both SOMA and Three Fools have an indoor cafe area with tables and a few outlets, so they’re great for getting a little work done if you can find a spot.
Guji is a coffee cart just outside of the Marina Market, so you can easily grab a table inside (or outside if the weather is nice) to work and enjoy your coffee.
There are also coworking spaces in Cork if you’d like a quieter setting. Some of the top options are Republic of Work, Culture Co-working, and Plus 10.
If you’re just visiting for a short time, you might want to ask about a hotdesking day pass instead of a membership.
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Cork?
Cork is the Food Capital of Ireland, so you can usually find a few great spots to choose from.
My absolute favorite spot is the Good Day Deli, a cafe set in the Nano Nagle Place in Cork. They have fabulous brunch options and are able to accommodate most dietary restrictions.
I also love Pompeii Pizza, a Neapolitan pizzeria set in the Franciscan Well brewery in the city center. They have affordable and delicious pizzas, and you can pair them with a local pale ale or IPA.
Two of my favorite pubs in Cork are the Shelbourne Bar, which is home to Cork’s Irish whiskey scene, and the Friary.
The Shelbourne has a classic wooden interior and the second-best Irish coffee I’ve had in Ireland (the first was at Bar 1661 in Dublin).
The Friary is more of a hip local spot with great beers and fun energy but in a laid-back atmosphere. It doubles as an homage to Nicholas Cage – just go, you’ll see what I mean.
Tips for finding a job in Cork.
For most jobs in Cork, the best place to start looking is on LinkedIn.
Also, you’ll want to start networking as soon as possible, as this is the best way to learn where to look for jobs and the sorts of companies you might want to consider.
You can find networking events on Eventbrite or by checking the events calendars of the local coworking spaces.
Apple is a large employer in Cork, so it’s probably worth looking at their job postings to see if there are any interesting roles.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Moving abroad has taught me that it’s so important to be intentional about my relationships.
When I first moved abroad, I was disappointed and lonely because I thought I was doing something wrong if friendships didn’t just happen for me. It was only when I took a more intentional and results-oriented approach that I started to see results.
I made a point of attending at least one Meetup event each week with my partner, which helped us to meet a few people.
Additionally, I spent time each day on BumbleBFF chatting with new potential friends. On BumbleBFF, I made a point of “getting off of the app” and having coffee or grabbing a drink as soon as possible so I didn’t waste too much time talking online.
Living in Cork with kids
I do not have children, so my knowledge here is limited.
There is a large play area in Fitzgerald Park, and kids generally love to ride bikes along the many bike paths in the city.
If you’d like to go to the beach, there are several nearby – some are even accessible by public transit.
If you ever find yourself stuck or unable to find information, start asking around.
Unlike other places you might live, Ireland is very relational, and you’ll often get the best information by word of mouth.
From which insurance to buy to where to live to where to find a certain ingredient, the people around you or other expats in Facebook groups will probably have more/better information than Google.
Amber runs Amber Everywhere, a site dedicated to encouraging others to travel. The mission of Amber Everywhere is to help people feel the sort of belonging, purpose, empathy, and expansiveness that travel can offer, especially if approached with the right mindset.
Amber is originally from Colorado, but now she now lives in Europe and writes about her experiences traveling and living abroad.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.