How to prepare for moving to Dublin, Ireland?
In this Expat Interview, Jennifer shares her expat life in Dublin and important resources that you need to know to start your new life here.
From the cost of living in Dublin to the good and bad things about this city, Jenifer will show you what it’s like to live in Dublin, Ireland as an expat.
Dublin, Ireland, is a city with a rich history.
Ireland has been inhabited for over 1500 years, and the first references to Dublin (Dubh Linn or Black Pool) coincided with Viking raids over 1000 years ago in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Today, Dublin is a thriving city. It has a small-town feel with capital city amenities, including a great theatre and music scene. Many people come to Dublin for the craic.
Translating approximately to ‘fun’ or a place/activity with a certain buzz, the craic is not a drug, but the craic in Dublin is just as addicting.
You can’t help but have fun here. Just check out any one of the countless local pubs to see for yourself.
How did you move to Dublin?
Since my late 20’s, I’ve had the travel bug, and it’s been a dream of mine to live abroad. Since that time, every career decision I’ve made has been with this goal in mind.
I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry (that’s where the moniker Dr. J comes from) and started my career as a research scientist in the chemical industry.
I moved from research to HR and then had the opportunity to make the leap from the chemical industry to an internet company.
I did all these things because I knew in my heart that they would take me closer to my goal of living abroad.
In early 2010, I’d been at Google in the San Francisco Bay Area for about three years when an opportunity came up to apply for a 1-year expat assignment at one of our international offices.
I surveyed the opportunities and applied for a role in Dublin and a role in London and landed an assignment as a project manager in Dublin.
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Why did you choose to live in Dublin?
For me, when I applied for my international assignment, the location was not that important. I just wanted to experience life outside of the United States.
Dublin was appealing because English is the primary language, and Irish people have a reputation for being fun and friendly. I moved to Dublin, having never set foot in Ireland before.
I rationalized: “For a year, how bad can it be?” It turns out that Dublin more than exceeded my expectations and won my heart. My husband, Scott, and I still call Ireland home eight years later.
How to prepare for moving to Dublin?
Since I was relocating to Ireland with my company, I benefited from relocation assistance, an advantage that not everyone may have.
Here are some resources that we found useful:
- Citizens Information has detailed information about getting a visa and working in Ireland.
- Daft.ie, is a one-stop-shop for finding an apartment.
- Boards .ie is excellent for answering all those random questions that crop up when moving or living in Dublin.
- SubscribeDublin: My husband created a site to help people find out what’s happening in Dublin. It’s frustrating sometimes that there are so many cool events happening in the city, but they aren’t well-publicized.
The cost of living in Dublin
When I moved to Dublin with my husband in 2010, the bubble of the Celtic Tiger had just burst, and the cost of living was very reasonable.
Ireland was about to enter an economic crisis, leading to an EU bailout complete with austerity measures.
Today, Ireland’s economy is thriving again, with announcements about new jobs making the news every week. This is a double-edged sword because job growth has far outpaced housing stock.
Rent in Dublin
Rents have skyrocketed, particularly in the Grand Canal Dock neighborhood (also known as Silicon Docks), home to the European headquarters of American Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Airbnb.
At the time of writing, rents within walking distance of Dublin city center run upwards of 2000 EUR/month for a two-bedroom apartment.
Many people look for smaller apartments, move farther from the city center, or find a roommate to keep costs down.
The high cost of an apartment is balanced because you can get by without a car in Dublin, which means you don’t have to pay fuel and insurance costs (non-trivial savings).
How to deal with difficulties when moving to Dublin?
Shortly after moving to Dublin, I realized that behavioral norms could be quite different.
In the U.S., we are more likely to say something (often quite loudly) if someone cuts us off, skips the queue, or otherwise does something annoying. Americans speak up.
I quickly learned that Irish people would typically suffer in silence rather than say anything. I realized that to fit in. I should curb this tendency to speak up loudly. Pick your battles.
Did you experience any discrimination in Dublin or Ireland in general?
I did not experience discrimination in the traditional sense, but I have experienced blatant stereotyping that can be a little annoying.
Because many American tourists visit Ireland, Irish people tend to assume that all Americans are tourists.
As soon as we open our mouths in a coffee shop or a taxi, people often ask, “Oh, you’re from the States. How long are you visiting for?”
Did you have culture shock when first moving to Dublin?
The culture shock was definitely manageable. Both the U.S. and Ireland are English-speaking countries with cultures well-known to each other. I was most surprised by the differences in slang.
I’ll never forget the first time a colleague referred to someone as “yer man.” I was so confused.
They referenced someone else and not my husband, who was standing next to me. It turns out that “yer man” is not my man but the equivalent of “that guy” in the U.S.
Every time I encountered unexpected slang, I tried to understand it. After eight years of living in Ireland, I speak the slang like a local (which sometimes surprises people given my American accent!).
What do you like about Dublin?
Dublin is super-walkable.
We can walk from one end of town to the other in about 30 minutes. As discussed above, we don’t have a car (which is an amazing cost-saver).
We can take public transportation or a taxi anywhere we can’t walk.
Dublin also has a fantastic craft coffee scene.
We enjoy taking a walk to one of several artisanal coffee places like 3FE, Art of Coffee, Coffee Angel, and the Bald Barista within a 30-minute walk of our apartment before work each morning. It’s a great little ritual.
Is there anything that you don’t like about Dublin?
Things can sometimes get messy in Dublin. Be careful where you step if you walk around on a Sunday morning. Let’s just say that you may encounter evidence of people partying too hard the night before.
Also, people are not responsible for cleaning up after their dogs as in other cities we’ve visited. The bins along the Dodder River and Grand Canal sometimes overflow after a rugby or football match.
What are your favorite things to do in Dublin?
There are so many things that I love doing here.
- Grab a pint (preferably while watching Irish trad music) at a local pub.
- Take a walk in Dublin’s many Georgian parks like Merrion Square.
- Visit museums. Most museums in Dublin are free and make for a great rainy-day activity.
- Go to the theatre or a gig at one of many venues dotting the city.
- Take a hike in a nature reserve on the Irish Sea (you can sometimes see puffins on Ireland’s Eye Island near Howth!)
Where do you recommend visiting in Dublin?
The Museum of Natural History (aka “The Dead Zoo”) is my favorite free museum in Dublin.
The “Dead Zoo” is a Victorian-era museum dripping in history with curio cabinets packeted with vintage taxidermy. There is sometimes even some authentic Darwin material on display (and yes, I mean the Darwin responsible for understanding evolution).
Traverse the locks on a dinner cruise down Dublin’s Grand Canal.
If you visit Merrion Square on a Sunday, be sure to check out the artwork on display and for sale in the Open Air Art Gallery.
Pick a pub, any pub away for the afternoon.
Dubliners are also mad about sport. Check out a Gaelic football or hurling match at historic Croke Park.
For the hurling final, the competing teams of amateur athletes pack an 80,000 person stadium to capacity. The love of the sport by both the athletes and their fans is unparalleled in Ireland.
Is it easy to make new friends in Dublin?
I’ve found it easier to make friends in Dublin than in other places I’ve lived (e.g., San Francisco). There are so many expats living in Dublin. It’s never a problem to find someone who wants to grab a pint after work.
I’ve met many people through work and ‘meet-ups’ focused on different interests. Meetup.com has a thriving community in Dublin. New and Not So New in Dublin is an excellent first port of call.
Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?
I hang out with a mix of both locals and foreigners.
I find that the expats from all over Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the world are less likely to have a pre-existing network of friends in Dublin and are thus more likely to want to hang out after work.
Where do you usually meet friends in Dublin?
Life in Dublin revolves around the pub. People are very likely to meet for a pint at a local pub. There are no fewer than five pubs within a five-minute walk of my office.
Do you interact with any expat communities in Dublin?
International has a presence in Dublin, and I go to their events occasionally.
The American Expats meet-up and Democrats Abroad are also active in Dublin and have been a great channel to connect with fellow U.S. expats.
A memorable experience in Dublin
It was the first time I went into a cafe to order a coffee in Dublin.
I walked up to the counter, and the person behind it said, “You alright?” I replied, “Of course, why do you ask?” It turns out that in Ireland, “you alright?” means What do you want to order? LOL.
Did you change your perspective after living in Dublin for a while?
I didn’t know much about Dublin before moving there. In fact, when I applied for the job in London and Dublin, I really wanted the role in London.
I had this impression that Dublin was a second-class city compared to London. That impression totally changed once I moved to Ireland. Dublin is lively with an incredible cultural scene.
Also, I find that Dublin is much less stressful and, in turn, more livable than London. I wouldn’t trade Dublin for London if I were offered the opportunity. I love my life in Ireland.
What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Dublin?
If you speak fluent English and another language, that’s your ticket to moving to Dublin.
Many companies have their European HQ here and hire people from all over the world to do Sales and Customer Support in a variety of languages.
You can easily move here without a visa if you have an EU passport.
You’ll need to find a company to sponsor you or explore educationally-based opportunities to get a visa if that’s not the case.
For example, many people from Brazil and other destinations in South America come to Ireland to learn English and, as I understand it, get their visas that way.
Would you recommend others to live in Dublin?
Yes! Dublin is an approachable city with lots to do without being stressed or overwhelmed. The pub scene is unrivaled with an art and music culture that is world-class.
It’s easy to travel around Ireland by train or by car with distances between most places not exceeding 4 hours.
Dublin is also a fantastic home base for travel around Europe with excellent affordable flight coverage thanks to low-cost carriers like Ryanair.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Living abroad, I’ve realized that the world does not revolve around the U.S.
The news in the States is very U.S.-centric. In Ireland, locals care about local news, but they are also more deeply concerned with what’s happening in the world, from the U.S. to Africa to Asia and beyond.
I’ve also learned that there are different approaches to things (e.g., being direct vs. more oblique in getting what you want). Neither approach is right, just different.
I never imagined that one day I would end up living in Ireland when I graduated from university.
If you want to live abroad (specifically in Dublin or just outside your home country generally), make that your Guiding Star.
Then, make sure you make life decisions that present themselves with this goal in mind.
Does this opportunity take me closer or further away from my goal? Before you know it, you’ll realize your dream.
For me, it took several years, but I’m now living that dream that I set out for myself more than a decade ago.
Jennifer (aka Dr. J) is the voice and photographer behind the Sidewalk Safari travel blog.
She is a fortysomething American expat and part-time travel blogger living in Dublin, Ireland, with a busy full-time ‘day job’ as a project manager at Google.
Married to husband Scott for over 20 years, she’s been writing about their travels on Sidewalk Safari since 2008.
Jennifer’s goal is to inspire people who have demanding jobs to realize that it is possible to achieve work-life balance and travel extensively, making use of every business trip and vacation day to explore the world.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.