Debunking the Myths: Living in Ireland 2

Lahinch Beach, Co Clare

A great amount of traffic I receive on this blog is from Americans curious to live in Ireland.  I hope you enjoy this, on dispelling myths and imparting a sense of what its really like to live in Ireland.

1) This is not the Ireland your Famine ancestors left.

Not only are we a highly educated & technologically advanced country but we are much less homogenous than we used to be (I would argue that people have always traveled and migrated). According to our 2011 census, 766,770 people residing in Ireland at the time of the census were born abroad (myself included!).  That's out of a total population of 4,588,252 (over 16%). There are more Polish nationals (122,585), Nigerian nationals (17,642), Indian nationals (16,986), and Filipino nationals (12,791) than US nationals (11,015) living in Ireland.

We are (wonderfully) becoming more and more diverse. At my daughter's school I have heard other parents speaking to their children in Farsi, Polish, Hebrew, French, Italian and Korean.   This is a rich multicultural environment.

2) English is the most spoken language in Ireland. 

Upon a recent visit to the US, a waitress asked where my daughter and I were visiting from.  I told her, "Ireland", to which she responded 'Oh.  Your daughter speaks English quite well.' When I commented that we speak English in Ireland she looked at me dismissively and said, 'Yes, but as a first language?' Um.  Yes. In fact, it is the first language of this country.  I thought the whole conversation was highly strange but as a few other Irish born & bred peops have confided they've had similar convos (in the US) I think this should be addressed.

You might not understand people when you arrive here, but I can assure you, English is being spoken,  its just not your variety of English.  Over 130,000 high school students (mostly from the continent) come to Ireland each year in order to learn/perfect (their) English.

Irish is now the third most widely spoken language, after English and POLISH.  Although learning Irish is obligatory for every child through our school system, getting people to speak it outside of school hasn't yet proved successful. To put this into perspective, we have 56,430 families speaking French at home, while only 77,185 people in Ireland speak Irish on a daily basis, outside the education system.

3) You'd want a fair bit of money to be able to afford living here. 

I stopped in a shop on Dame St last week to hear an American Tourist giving out (to anyone willing to listen) about how expensive everything was and how she wasn't going to pay USD$1.40 for a small bag of potato chips.  Living here is great but its not cheap.  We are a small island population that can pay up to three times the cost of goods available in the UK.  I suppose we're more like Hawaii in that living here will give you sticker shock.

But how expensive are we really? A report from 2010 looking at household expenditure places Ireland only behind Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden & Finland in terms of household expenses.  Our prices for alcoholic beverages and tobacco are the most expensive in the EU.

4) Do we have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world? Yes. 

Sunrise in Killester, looking towards the Dublin mountains

Glasnevin Cemetary

View from Sean O'Casey bridge on the River Liffey, looking East

The (hidden) Iveagh Gardens

Campanile, Trinity College Dublin

Howth Harbour 

Ruined church & round tower, Monsterboice

Looking Southeast from top of Howth Head

5) Although we might appear socially conservative from a US perspective, we are politically very progressive and European. The US far-right is routinely condemned here.  I have yet to meet a single Irish person who thinks of Sarah Palin as anything but a joke.  Even those on the right think the US Tea Party types are bat sh*t crazy.  That's not to say we don't have our own right-wingers.  The Libertarian Party of Ireland does exist and currently has 91 'likes' on Facebook.

6) Americans have the reputation of being loud. Please feel free to disprove this stereotype.

While you are visiting us don't forget to drive on the left.  Be sure to book your automatic rental car in advance, we mostly have manual transmissions.  We won't expect you to tip as much as you do at home but check the restaurant menu to see if a gratuity is automatically added.  Otherwise tipping 10-15% will be greatly appreciated.  Be prepared to laugh, a lot. The wit and witticisms you will encounter here are the best bar none.


  1. Lovely piece. And tourists shouldn't bother asking for "potato chips". Crisps, yes, or even "crips".

    - Mel


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