21 Things to Know Before Moving to Ireland
There’s so much to love about Ireland. If you’re moving there, comhghairdeas! (congratulations!)
From the stunning natural beauty to the culture which delights at every opportunity, Ireland has something for everyone – plus it’s still in the European Union.
Oscar-winning actors, Nobel Prize-winning authors, and Grammy-winning singers have all called Ireland home. And what’s more, they had great craic (fun) doing it!
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Ireland has more beautiful landscapes than you can shake a Guinness at
1. Ireland is expensive
Prepare yourself to spend more in Ireland than you might expect.
The country has the second highest price level for consumer goods and services in the European Union, at 34 percentage points above the average.
The UK is expensive, but it’s only 21 percentage points higher than the average.
Obviously, it’ll depend where you live – beware, Dublin is particularly expensive – and Londoners will be used to most of the prices they see, but nevertheless, make sure you can afford life in Ireland before you move.
And prepare for taxes in Ireland with our handy guide.
2. Most of the action happens in Dublin
With apologies to other Irish cities – which all have their own wonderful character and charm – it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
1.9 million people live in the Greater Dublin Area, which is 39% of Ireland’s 4.9 million population. It makes sense then that the capital is the most exciting place to be.
And boy, does it live up to that reputation. Dublin is a vibrant, living organism, bursting with music, art, and new ideas.
The capital – which is a UNESCO City of Literature – plays host to the Dublin Fringe Festival, international festivals of literature, food, and film, and a four-day-long Bram Stoker Festival to celebrate the Irish author of Dracula.
And if you want to get away from it all, you’re in luck. You can visit the National Botanic Gardens, Iveagh Gardens, and Phoenix Park – the largest capital park in Europe, and home to a herd of fallow deer.
3. Wherever you live, you should go exploring
Ireland is packed to the brim with stunning landscapes and man-made structures, so don’t stand still.
The country’s relatively small size makes it the perfect place for weekend holidays, so there’s no excuse for missing out on Ireland’s many wonders.
Walk the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, relax in County Kildare’s Japanese Gardens, and spend a week driving and strolling through the beautiful Dingle Peninsula.
If you’re looking for a thrill, kiss the Blarney Stone (be prepared; you have to hang off the edge of the castle to reach it), and spend the day at Murder Hole Beach – a hidden beach in County Donegal whose ominous name belies its stunning nature.
Then pay a visit to Leap Castle, known as the most haunted castle in the world, thanks to the murderous exploits of former occupants, the O'Carroll clan.
And make sure to enter the lottery to spend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, a gigantic 5,200-year-old passage tomb in County Meath which is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
4. Irish healthcare is excellent
Ireland’s healthcare system is the 11th best in the world, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
That’s 12 places above the UK – and predictably, the differences don’t stop there.
Ireland has a higher average life expectancy than the UK, at 82.1, as well as more hospital beds per person and a lower child mortality rate, according to the OECD and the World Bank respectively.
The Emerald Isle also has a lower avoidable mortality rate, diabetes rate, and rate of self-reported poor health among its citizens, according to a different OECD report.
There are also 30.9 doctors per 10,000 people, placing Ireland above nations including Norway, the US, and the UK, which has 28 doctors per 10,000.
Private healthcare is a large reason why the service is so highly rated in Ireland, with 46% of people taking advantage of this offering.
If you’re thinking of getting private medical cover in Ireland, we recommend Cigna. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
5. Late, late, late
In Ireland, people have a habit of turning up late. It’s bad, we know, but everybody does it – and there’s proof.
An Urban Dictionary entry for “Irish People Time” defines it as “an inability to leave the house, making one chronically late for everything.”
If you’re also perpetually late, you’ll feel right at home. If not, get on board, or prepare to spend long stretches staring at your phone while fuming at your still-not-present friends.
6. Alcohol is part of the culture
This should not be a culture shock for Brits, but still – be prepared for a serious drinking culture.
Don’t feel like you have to chug beers or shots, though. There’s a lot more to drinking in Ireland than getting drunk.
Ireland has a massive variety of alcoholic offerings to sample. With everything from Baileys Irish Cream to Bulmers Irish cider to choose from – along with the ubiquitous Guinness – you’ll never be short of a new drink.
This is the home of the Irish coffee, after all.
On the subject of alcohol…
Drinking doesn't just happen on St. Patrick's Day, we promise
7. It’s whiskey, not whisky – and it’s damn good
You’ll love whiskey in Ireland – just don’t do what I did on one fateful trip to a Dublin distillery, and admit you like Scottish whisky more.
And spell it right, otherwise you’ll be breaking the law. The extra ‘e’ is enshrined in the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, and helps differentiate Ireland’s products from Scotland’s.
So what are the differences? Well, Irish whiskey is triple distilled – unlike double distilled Scotch – and is generally smoother, with its unmalted barley producing delicious notes of vanilla.
There are many varieties of Irish whiskey, so go ahead and find your favourite. Sláinte!
8. But don’t overdo it
Watch out, though. While most boozing is simply good-natured fun, binge drinking is a serious problem in Ireland.
21% of men binge drink at least once per week, according to Central Statistics Office data.
Spirits are also poured to 35.5ml per measure in Ireland, as opposed to the UK’s 25ml. That’s 42% more alcohol per shot – so prepare yourself, and feel free to stop at any time.
9. Tea is life; life is tea
British people love tea – but the Irish love it more.
The proof’s in the pudding: Ireland consumes the second-highest amount of tea in the world, after Turkey.
In total, the Irish drink their way through nearly five pounds of tea per person, per year – half a pound more than the UK, according to Statista.
That takes the biscuit.
10. Get ready to talk about the weather – a lot
Speaking of British customs, if you’re worried about missing out on your regular weather discussions (no judgement; it’s a great small talk subject), then worry no more.
60% of people in Ireland talk about the weather twice per day, and 25% discuss it at least four times per day, according to a survey by Ipsos MRBI.
Just like the UK, Ireland is generally mild but can experience multiple sudden changes in weather over just a few hours – so your Mastermind-level skills will be put to good use.
11. You can move your belongings to Ireland in the least stressful way possible
Shipping is by far the most efficient, least expensive way of making sure all your prized possessions follow you across the ocean in a safe and timely fashion.
Air freight is 12-16 times more expensive than sea freight, according to the World Bank, which makes it much less attractive.
Plus, from 2014 to 2016, ships transported an average of £9.3 trillion worth of cargo across the world – and 99.99% of containers travelled safely to their destination.
Your precious belongings are in good hands – and if you fill in this form, you can get free shipping quotes from specialists who can move your possessions to your new home.
12. Ireland is small but mighty…
William Shakespeare may as well have been describing the Emerald Isle when he wrote: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
Ireland has the 32nd-biggest GDP in the world according to the International Monetary Fund, while lying just 118th in terms of country size.
Global megacorporations including Google, Apple, Facebook, and IBM have chosen Ireland for their European base of operations, and Irish people have won six Nobel Prizes.
And the country also punches above its weight in terms of producing fantastic actors, from Maureen O’Hara and Peter O'Toole to Pierce Brosnan, Saoirse Ronan, and countless others.
The glorious, stunning Cliffs of Moher
13. …as the British know all too well
On a related note, you will no doubt be at least partially aware of the painful history Ireland has with the UK.
Ireland’s struggle for independence was soaked in blood, from the brutally crushed 1916 Easter Rising, in which 450 people died, to the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence, in which 2,000 people died – including 750 civilians.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty ended the war and gave Ireland its independence, but prompted the Irish Civil War (1922), which led to at least 1,600 deaths.
And then there’s the Troubles, a 30-year conflict fought over whether Northern Ireland should remain in the UK, or become part of a united Ireland.
This only ended in 1998, with the Good Friday Agreement, after resulting in 3,500 deaths – more than half of whom were civilians.
Ireland’s two main political parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – are direct descendants from the two sides of the Civil War, which shows how echoes of Ireland’s bloody past still resonate.
Be sensitive to this history – and the UK’s part in it – or get ready for some uncomfortable interactions.
14. It’s a diverse nation
Irish nationals come from exactly 200 countries, according to the 2016 census, and this is reflected in the wonderful diversity of events and food you can find in your new home.
Party at Oktoberfest celebrations, enjoy nationwide Culture Night events, and delight in three days of fireworks, music and dancing that honour St. Patrick every March.
From the Body & Soul Festival in Westmeath and the Waterford Harvest Festival to delicious restaurants from every corner of the globe, you’ll have enough variety to last a lifetime.
15. They’re friendly, promise
Known as the land of a hundred thousand welcomes, you should be able to easily settle in after arriving in Ireland.
The country came seventh out of 33 in that category in HSBC's 2019 Expat Explorer Survey, and Dublin has been voted the friendliest city in Europe more than once.
Ireland is also the second-best country in the world at providing excellent service and hospitality, according to TripAdvisor.
This accepting atmosphere is emphasised by the relative lack of hate crimes. There were 368 in Ireland in 2018 – 21 times less than in England and Wales, according to government figures.
16. LGBT+ rights are protected
Since 1993, when authorities stopped punishing homosexuality, Ireland has quickly moved towards equality.
LGBT+ citizens now enjoy legal protection from discrimination, the right to change their legal gender by self-identification, and adoption rights.
Same-sex couples are also both automatically registered as the parents of their child.
In 2015, the country became the first to legalise same-sex marriage by a popular vote (62% to 38%), and in 2017, Leo Varadkar was appointed as Ireland's Taoiseach (head of government), becoming just the fourth openly gay head of state in the world.
17. You’ll have company…
103,113 people from the UK live in Ireland, according to the 2016 census – one of the largest British expat populations in the world.
More of these expats live in rural areas than urban places, so wherever you go, you’ll run into a Brit.
Try not to just mix with expats, though. When in Rome, make friends with Romans – especially when they’re so friendly.
18. …and plenty in common anyway
You probably shouldn’t say this in an Irish pub, but Brits share a great deal of cultural knowledge with their neighbours across the Irish Sea.
When it comes to sport, Ireland embraces rugby, football, and (increasingly) cricket, and in terms of music, the Irish Top 50 doesn’t generally differ dramatically from the UK Top 40.
In both cultures, people like to get rounds at the pub, generally thank the bus driver (okay, maybe not in London), and enjoy the works of Irish writers Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett – plus, of course, everyone speaks English.
Traditional Irish cuisine also won’t hold too many surprises for a Brit. You should definitely try Irish lamb stew, colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale), and a potato pancake dish called boxty – but your palate will be prepared.
Boxty is one of the many familiar culinary delights Ireland has to offer
19. Eurovision is a big deal
You’ll also be at least vaguely familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest, a cheesy music event that brings together the whole continent (plus Azerbaijan, Israel, and Australia).
But not like this. Ireland has won Eurovision a record seven times, with four of those triumphs coming between 1992 and 1996.
Unfortunately, luck has deserted Irish entrants in recent times, with the country making the top 10 only once in the past 13 contests.
Nevertheless, if Ireland makes it to the final, you’ll be swept up in a storm of glitter, pyrotechnics, and various interpretations of Europop.
20. Dive into Ireland’s unusual customs
On your travels, you’ll encounter plenty of surprising traditions. Lean into them, and you’ll have a whale of a time.
For example, for more than 400 years in Killorglin, County Kerry, locals have held the Puck Fair, in which a wild goat is captured in the mountains, brought to the town square, and crowned King Puck by a local schoolgirl – who is herself known as Queen Puck.
The goat’s subjects celebrate this coronation for three days, before the monarch is released back into their natural habitat.
And on Halloween, barmbrack (a sweet bread with sultanas and raisins) is traditionally baked so it contains a pea, piece of cloth, ring, stick, and small coin. Symbolic meanings are drawn from who receives which item in their slice.
Where else in the world can you enjoy customs like these? Nowhere. Enjoy it.
21. Leprechauns don’t exist – but superstitions do
As well as these customs, you’ll also come across multiple unique superstitions in Ireland. Obviously these aren’t universally believed, but they live on.
An itchy palm signifies that money is coming your way, while an itchy nose is seen by some as indicating that a fight is on the horizon.
Don’t worry though, you can take precautions against danger. Bakers historically cut a cross into their loaf to let the devil out of the dough – and still do this, to produce a more even bake.
And we’re sure it won’t come up, but whatever you do, don’t cut down a lone hawthorn or ash tree standing in the middle of a field. In Celtic folklore, they’re fairy trees – the gateway between our world and that of the wee folk.
If you feel ready to move to Ireland, you can take the next step by filling in this form for free shipping quotes from trusted experts who can move your belongings to your new home.