5 May 2017

Melissa - Expat in Dublin, Ireland

Melissa - Expat in Dublin, Ireland

We’ve had the chance to talk to Melissa, 25, a Finnish expat who has moved to Ireland with her boyfriend. Ms. Melissa who has been living there for ten months now, is a Postgraduate student. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I’m originally from Finland, but previously lived in UK and Canada. That’s where I moved from.


Q: What made you move out of Finland?

A: It’s a combination of many things. It was a pretty spontaneous decision I made in the end, but I felt this need to exit my comfort zone and explore the unknown to get to know myself. At the same time, Finland felt too small and stale to establish a life in there in the long run.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Nowadays I live in Dublin, Ireland. My partner and I needed to find an English-speaking country to study in, and Ireland’s tuition fees were reasonable. And here we are, 1,5 years after the decision.


Q: How long have you been living in Ireland?

A: It’s been ten months now.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my boyfriend. I wouldn’t say he has gone through this without a struggle: moving to Europe has been a much more of a culture shock for him than moving to Ireland was for me. We met while living in the UK a bit over three years ago, and one of the first things I remember him complaining about was the lack of door knobs. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about since I had never been to North America.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss my friends and family sometimes, Finland not so much. There’s something quite relieving in the idea of not living there anymore. I might have some occasional cravings for local seasonal food, but they pass along with the holiday. Sometimes I like to listen to Finnish music and feel nostalgic, but I’m content not living in there anymore.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Irish people are truly peculiar. They’re extremely friendly, very talkative and crazy witty, but really hard to reach out to. Befriending Irish people has been the biggest challenge of my stay in the Emerald Isle: they’re not very good at arranging get-togethers or gatherings, and seem to wish for more casual encounters instead, like running into you on the street and spontaneously going for a coffee.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Ireland? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I have a lot of expat friends thanks to my very international postgraduate program, but like mentioned earlier, the Irish have been a bit more tricky to reach out to.


Q: How does the cost of living in Ireland compare to your home?

A: Ireland is slightly cheaper than Finland when it comes to food and other everyday needs. Same goes for alcohol: I’m used to paying much more for my pint back in the north. When it comes to other aspects, like public transport, Ireland beats Finland inexpensiveness big time.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Depends if it’s a casual takeaway coffee or a fancy coffee shop, but I’d say 2 to 3 euros.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 12 euros or so.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Never been to one in Dublin since the diet of a student consists mostly of noodles and toast, but I guess it’s something between 25 and 40e?

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Depends on a wine bottle, but 11e is what I’m used to paying for one. I don’t smoke, so never bought a pack.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Ireland?

A: Do your research. There are many options in Ireland: Bank of Ireland, AIB, KBC, Bank of Ulster and so on. Not all of them have ATMs available, and service charges vary. Also, make sure there is a bank office somewhere close to your home since Irish banks are not that used to dealing with stuff online. You might need to make a few visits to the office every now and then.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: As an EU-citizen, I didn’t have to go through much hassle to establish myself in here, but I can’t say the same about my Canadian boyfriend. The Immigration Bureau renewed their booking system for immigration cards just in time for his appointment and we went through quite a struggle to get an appointment on time. The queues in the bureau are also incredibly long. Then again, as opposed to my experience with immigrating to Canada, he wasn’t asked to prove even half as many things about himself as I was. Ireland doesn’t use the point-system in their immigration policy, so the list of necessary documents is shorter.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Ireland is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: No, no and no! If I remember right, Ireland’s healthcare system was just ranked the worst in Europe – no offense Ireland! The queues are crazy. I went to an emergency because they suspected an appendicitis, and I still had to wait for 10 hours. Nowadays I go to a private clinic called Custom House Square Medical Centre. They’ve been absolutely wonderful, and I always get an appointment within 24 hours from booking.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Finland or Ireland?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I admit I’m living on the edge right now and don’t have a health insurance. I had one from Finland in Canada but never got myself around buying one in here. It’d be well worth it though, because like mentioned, the public healthcare is pretty cramped and there’s often a need for private clinics with more urgent matters. Make sure your health insurance covers at least the most general appointments to private doctors.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Ireland? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: The climates in Canada and Ireland are really different, so it was quite a project to spread all of my clothes on the floor and only pack those that would be useful in Ireland - in other words, goodbye thick coats, winter pants and summer dresses! Ireland’s weather doesn’t change that much between seasons, whereas Canada can go from -40 degrees Celsius to +40 from winter to summer.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: I’m pretty adaptable to new environments, so haven’t really experienced culture shocks in that sense. In general, I think facing the crazy amount of stereotypes people have of Finland has been quite a journey, despite my location. You can’t believe how many times I’ve heard “But you’re from Finland! How can you feel cold?” or “You must really know how to hold your vodka since you’re all pretty many alcoholics, right?” Occasionally I wish it was possible to shut down your expatness and just be one of the locals instead, free from representing your whole nation.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Ireland?

A: I absolutely adore the outdoors in Ireland. Nature is breathtaking and since the country is really small, it’s fast and easy to get from coast to coast. I recommend every recent migrant to Ireland to take their time to visit some of the rural regions before forming an opinion of the country. As for the negatives, many people move to Ireland in the belief it’s just like any other developed European country. However, there are still many societal issues related to Ireland’s problematic past and incredibly fast economic growth. Homelessness is a serious issue in Dublin, and the rental market is ruthless for the poor.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: I think the best thing about Dublin is how fast you can get away from there – and don’t get me wrong here! There are many lovely rural towns around Dublin just a 30-minute train ride away. Places like Malahide, Howth and Bray are definitely worth a visit.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: We have discussed this with my Canadian half and came to the conclusion that Ireland might not be the place to be for us. We have talked about the possibility of moving to Belgium or UK, as well as going back to Canada. Time will show us which one it’ll be but there is something about Ireland that never quite won over our hearts despite us really trying.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Arrive with no expectations. Embrace the culture past the touristic stereotypes of leprechauns and crazy drinking. Be prepared to fight for your paperwork and above all, be patient. Irish people are not known for their efficiency and things can take a time to be sorted. Enjoy the Irish accent – unless you’re about to move to Cork, for you, I can only say “good luck”.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Ireland?

A: I haven’t come across any blogs about Ireland, but I’m writing one myself: http://land-incognita.blogspot.com. I blog about all things related to Ireland, Canada, multicultural relationships, learning languages, and travel. Feel free to pop a visit!