Moving to (and Living in) Cork, Ireland
Like most areas in Ireland, English is the dominant spoken language of Cork (the only exceptions being Ballyvourney and Cape Clear, which are both on the outskirts of the county). Many of the locals (and signposts) will also feature Gaeilge, or Irish Gaelic, however. This language is taught to young people in Ireland as a matter of course, so if you’d like to take a stab at learning it yourself, there are plenty of schools and evening courses available.
The weather in Cork is probably best described as ‘variable’ – several months of the year are defined by sunshine that makes the large green spaces of the county particularly beautiful, but there is also no shortage of rain throughout the territory. Much of the county is also on the coast, which will create damper conditions and a sea chill throughout the year.
Obviously your own experience of the climate in the States will depend on how well you cope with any potential changes that you may experience. The average temperature rarely drops below freezing, even in the winter, but if you are used to a sun-kissed environment there may be a period of adjustment to your new surroundings.
Visas and work permits
There are strict laws revolving living and working in Ireland for US nationals. Your life will be made significantly easier if you enjoy some kind of dual citizenship through marriage or heritage, but if you are looking to move to Cork for a new beginning you’ll need to ensure that your employment opportunity fulfills particular criteria.
- Critical Skills Employment Permits, are provided to an employee that will receive a salary of €60,000 per annum or higher (that can be dropped to €30,000 in the event of the job being listed on the highly skilled Regardless of the package, however, certain positions are excluded from this opportunity so be sure to read the small print.
- General Employment Permits are available to anybody that earns a little less, with €30,000 or more qualifying for this permit. This could be entirely salary-based, of a combination of annual pay and a benefits package. Again, however, there are certain rules and regulations that need to be abided by – you will not be provided with a permit if your job is deemed to be in conflict with national interests.
The Visa regulations that surround Ireland are similar to the USA. You can gain access to the country for up to three months for a vacation without the appropriate paperwork, which can be used for job hunting or interviewing for a vacancy, but obviously you will not be permitted to work during this time. If you are looking for a residency or prolonged visit, take a look at the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service website and find the application that suits you best. Just remember that this process could take up to twelve weeks.
Cork does not contain any international embassies, but do not panic – the capital city of Dublin is boasts an American Embassy. It would take around three hours to drive from Cork to Dublin. It may take a while to get there (around 2.5 -3 hours, depending on your choice of transport), but as you’ll see from our guide to Dublin, there will be plenty to amuse yourself in the city when you do so.
You will be permitted to bring a household pet along with you on your relocation (within reason – think cats and dogs here!), but Ireland has strict laws on which of our four-legged companions can enter the country. You’ll have to make sure that you have visited a registered veterinarian and have proof that the animal is microchipped and comes with a clean bill of health, and you’ll have to apply for a pet passport. For more information on how to being your furry family members to Ireland, check out this site. Obviously you should look to fly with your pet, as shipping them by sea could take up to a week.
Shipping and removals
As Cork boasts the second-busiest port in Ireland, and is located on the coast of the country, shipping your possessions should be simple enough and comparatively cost-effective. Don’t waste a small fortune on air delivery unless you are desperate; if you shop around you should be able to find a very reasonable quote for bringing your goods into the county by sea.
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What to pack
Like anything else this depends on what time of year you will be travelling over, but if you are unaccustomed to living by the ocean that should be taken into consideration. Pack clothing that is warm if you are looking at a winter arrival, and waterproofs all year around.
Living in Cork
If you have not already located a job in Cork before planning your move, you’ll have to start taking that into consideration pretty soon – your Visa application may depend upon it. The first thing you should take into consideration are your qualifications – you can compare your educational achievements to their Irish counterparts online.
If you don’t mind commuting and have experience in the technology sector, Dublin is absolutely thriving in that field right now – though you’ll spend a great deal of time on a train if you decide to live in Cork and work in the capital. Local work is becoming increasingly prevalent following a slump when recession in the previous decade, however, and salaries are not drastically different from those found in Dublin – and the cost of living is much lower than you’d find in the big smoke.
There are plenty of students to be found in Cork, thanks to three different universities and colleges.
There are no specialist international schools in Cork – you’d have to look to Dublin for that. However, the state schools will welcome students from all over the world.
Universities and colleges
Cork boasts three universities and colleges, all of which enjoy a fine reputation. The University College of Cork, for example, is listed in the top 2% of such institutions throughout the world, while the Cork Institute of Technology is at the very cutting edge of design and education – fitting, considering Ireland’s burgeoning reputation as the beating heart of Europe’s tech industry.
Once you have been living in Ireland for over a year you will be eligible for free healthcare (and by free, we of course mean healthcare that is funded by the government through the tax contributions that you make throughout the year). There is no shortage of hospitals in the county, both public and private, that will provide healthcare services in such an instance.
This means you will be need healthcare insurance until this year elapses (or you could just use a credit card in a private clinic). It may me more cost-effective to take this out before you leave the States, using a policy with international coverage. If you can maintain this coverage, you should possibly think about doing so – some Irish nationals grow frustrated by long waiting lists for treatment in the country.
Cost of living
Like any location, the cost of living in Cork varies depending on how close you wish to dwell to the city center. Wherever you end up, however, you’ll find accommodation much cheaper than an equivalent dwelling in Dublin. You should be able to find a sizable apartment or house for around €1,200 (circa $1,400 – that’s about a third cheaper than the capital), which is why some decide to live in Cork and commute. Just bear in mind that any money you save on accommodation in such an instance will no doubt be spent on rail fares!
If it’s bang for your buck that you’re looking for, Cork is a strong territory to look into. With the strength of the Euro in comparison of the dollar (and other currencies within similar territories), you will be able to make good use of your earnings. Coupled with the relatively steady job market, and a cost of living that stacks up favorably when compared to major European destinations or US cities, and you should find that living in Cork leaves you with plenty of disposable income.
You will be able to find various methods of transport around Cork if you do not own a car. However, you’ll be able to use your US driver’s license in Cork (and throughout the rest of Ireland), so there is no need to take a new test and re-qualify. Just make sure that you brush up on the Irish national speed limits (which you’ll notice are measured in KM/H as opposed to the more familiar MPH), and prepare for rural driving conditions on occasion.
Cork is well served by buses that run from the outskirts of the county into the city center, which serves as the primary source of public transport in the area. If you are looking to leave Cork and get into the heart of Ireland, however, you’ll also be able to do so by train – daily departures from two major railway stations escort locals to Dublin and other locations (if booked in advance, tickets can be purchased for below €20).
Cork is served by an airport, which is unsurprisingly known as Cork Airport (IATA – ORK), though you won’t be able fly straight into Cork from the USA – this airport is for short-haul flights only. Primarily used by national airline Aer Lingus (though a handful of other suppliers also use the airport, including low-cost specialists RyanAir), destinations from Cork include the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Switzerland and France – perfect for long weekends away while you’re stationed on the Emerald Isle.
The Port of Cork dominates the southern part of Ireland, second only to Dublin in terms of industry. Primarily used for commercial purposes, the Port of Cork does also operate a number of cruise liners for luxury sailing excursions.
There are a variety of different neighborhoods that any new arrival can choose from in Cork. One of the most popular is the Victorian Quarter, which can be found around the vicinity of MacCurtain Street. You’ll find a great many fellow external arrivals in this gentrified part of the county, which has seen significant investment in recent years from local authorities. You’ll also find plenty of shopping and entertainment in the district – though if you prefer to live somewhere that it’s easy to splash your cash in local shopping vicinities, base yourself close to Oliver Plunkett Street.
If you prefer something a little more historical, however, check out Shandon, aka The Old Fort. There’s plenty of culture here, and heritage that stretches back to the Middle Ages, or the Huguenot Quarter, which blends the ancient with all kinds of trendy and popular watering holes and eateries. For easy access to the city center for work, however, don’t look beyond Ballingcollig, Wilson or Douglas – neither are the most exciting locations for tourists and come with a higher price tag for property, but are hugely well-served by public transport.
In terms of areas to avoid, most locals would suggest that Knocknaheeny or Mayfield are best left well alone. These suburbs are a little less affluent and endure a higher crime rate, and could be a little less friendly toward an international resident joining their community.
Does kissing the Blarney Stone count as a cultural landmark? If so Cork has an absolute doozy in the form of this popular tourist spot, which is said to provide the ‘gift of the gab’ to anybody that places his or her lips upon it.
Elsewhere, the culture of Cork relishes and celebrates outsider status – the natives refer to it as The Rebel County. You’ll also find all kinds of live music and theater throughout the area, as well as a wide variety of museums.
Another key element of the county’s culture is the folk song The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee. Learn the lyrics well, as you’ll hear this in a great many locations in Cork, including sporting events.
There is no shortage of annual events to take place in Cork. Perhaps the most important is the Jazz Festival, currently sponsored by Guinness, which cherry-picks the finest freestyle musicians from all over the world and provides opportunities to showcase their musical gifts throughout a number of venues. The Cork Film Festival has always been celebrating local and international moviemaking for over sixty years now, and the International Gourmet Food Festival hosted in the country each autumn will satisfy any rumbling stomach. Motorsport enthusiasts, meanwhile, will relish the arrival of the West Cork Rally every spring.
Leave your catcher’s mitt and ice hockey sticks at home, as you will find no use for them in Cork. Don’t be dismayed if you are a keen sportsperson though, as there is plenty of ways to work up a sweat in the county – whether as a spectator or participant.
The Gaelic games – a collective term for Gaelic football and hurling – are hugely popular all over Ireland, with Cork being no exception. The major stadia of the country are located in Dublin (check out our city guide to the capital city for some insights into what you’ll find in such locations as the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park), but you’ll always be able to find Gaelic games wherever you are in the country.
It’s important that you learn all about these national sports to avoid a disappointing mix-up, as their national leagues go by the names NFL and NHL (National Football League and National Hurling League respectively). If you are hankering for a little piece of home, however, basketball is popular in Cork. You probably won’t find the next Harlem Globetrotter plying their trade in the county, but there will be no shortage of competitive games taking place.
Cork has also produced a number of hugely celebrated figures in the world of soccer (most notably Roy Keane, the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain who is still worshipped as a minor deity in the county) and the sport remains popular, but not as much as rugby, which is a constant presence throughout the region. Of course, if you’d rather have a quiet stroll around the many and varied greenery of Cork you can enjoy one of the many golf courses found in the area.
It’s a good-news/bad-news scenario when it comes to crime in Cork – it has the highest rate of homicides in Ireland, but the lowest crime statistics overall! This cannot be blamed on gang violence, as that is not something that Cork suffers with. Overall, however, Cork is considered to be a very safe place to live, as these reports will testify, and thankfully it’s very tolerant to external occupants moving in – you won’t have to mask your accent to avoid an unpleasant welcome from the locals.
Cork doesn’t enjoy the same reputation for drinking and partying as Dublin – there is no equivalent of the tourist-snaring Temple Bar in the region. However, there are still plenty of places that any resident can enjoy a great night out. Don’t forget it’s legal to purchase and consume alcohol from the age of 18 in Ireland though, not 21, and the servers of many bars, pubs and restaurants will not be as strict at carding customers as you may be used to in the States. This could become important if you have younger family members traveling with you!
Cork is hugely popular with foodies. Being located near the coast means there will be no shortage of fresh seafood to enjoy if such cuisine floats your boat (no pun intended), and the rural locations ensure that you’ll never be short of delicious meat and dairy produce from the local farmers. If it’s a night out on the tiles that you are after, however, then you’ll be delighted by the array of traditional Irish pubs in the region. There is no Guinness brewery in Cork, but if you developed a taste for Stout try some of the alternatives based in the county, most notably Murphy’s and Beamish. You’ll also find a number of microbreweries located within pubs in the area, and if you head to the city center, chain bars and clubs are in plentiful supply.
There may be an element of trial and error involved in finding your perfect watering hole in Cork, as it will be many people’s worst nightmare to stumble into a student-centric locale, but few other territories can boast the same blend of charming Irish hospitality and modern marvels.
Cork has a rich history that has been described in a sizable number of books, all of which are available from a bookseller of your choosing. For a flavor of what you can expect from your new surroundings, check out any of these volumes.
Castle Richmond, by Anthony Trollope – the third of Trollope’s five Ireland-set novels, focusing on the impact of the Irish famine.
The Last September, by Elizabeth Bowen– penned in 1929, this Cork-set celebrated book is based during the Irish war of independence. It’s the most educational fiction you could possibly pick up.
A Swift Pure Cry, by Siobhan Dowd – something a little more contemporary. Targeted to a Young Adult audience – making it perfect for younger members of your family that may be joining you – Dowd’s book, which unfolds entirely in Cork, won a number of awards.
Cork City History Tour, by Kieran McCarthy – brush up on the history of your new home so you have plenty of pub conversation with the locals.
Cork Folk Tales, by Kate Corkery – Ireland has no shortage of mythology thanks to a history that stretches back considerably further than the US, and this book collates many of the famous tales connected to Cork.
A Hard Local War: The British Army and the Guerilla War in Cork 1919-1921, by William Sheehan – if you are going to settle in Cork, it is extremely advisable to brush up on the areas military history. This book is one of many that will help with this.