Credit to Feivelyn.deviantart.com for the image.
I’ve been gone from Ireland for 4 years but looking back through most of my last few posts. They’ve been about my struggling with the way of life over in the US. I thought, I would post something about some of my concerns with Ireland. For the last 2 years, I have been really stressed and anxious about whether to move back or stay here. This post is about some of my concerns around moving back to Ireland. It might be good for those of you who view and comment on the moving to Ireland posts. Which is a lot of you!! My anxiety isn’t about me moving back. My anxiety is around moving back with my Americanized other half…there’s some things I think she will not like over there. Here goes nothing!
Ireland is currently seeing a big boost in the jobs market. As of this posting (November 2015) unemployment is 9.3%. How is this figure calculated? It’s based off the live register. I only know the American and Irish systems so to give some perspective. In the US unemployment is calculated off a similar system, the main difference? In the US (differs on the state) after a couple of years or months, your unemployment benefits get stopped and you’re no long counted on that list. Bernie Sanders estimates that unemployment is closer to 11.5% in the US…not sure if that’s true but it’s probably closer to that then the actual current figure of 5%.
Despite this fact the jobs in Ireland are a little tainted. The majority of the jobs are in Dublin. So most opportunity is in the only real major city in the country…which sucks. I like Dublin but having to go there for a career is shit. It’s the reason why at one point around 1.8 million people lived in the greater Dublin area…this in a country with 4.6 million! The other thing is the jobs usually require a certain level of experience and education. The starting rate is much lower than the US equivalent and the taxes you pay is likely to be higher. My fiancé would need to accept less career opportunities and less money. Not everybody would be cool with that.
Americans seem to think Socialism = Communism. My fiancé is not one of those people but at the same time both through her Thai parents and through growing up in America she believes in people earning their living. Her perception is that many in Ireland live off welfare as a lifestyle choice. It’s an easy perception to develop. Hell, some of the Irish media themselves report it that way because riling people up sells. In actual fact, at one point when Ireland had close to 5 million people, we also had an unemployment rate around 4%. Much like pretty much every country in the world If, there are good opportunities out there, people will take them but there will always be those few that are happy being bottom feeders. That’s the downside of living in a higher tax economy…you will know people that milk the system and live a pretty comfortable life for themselves while you’re just about able to make a somewhat comfortable living.
I should say. Ireland also has one of the highest standards of living for it’s citizens in the entire world. The thing about a welfare system that doesn’t cut off after a certain amount time is that if you’re an Irish citizen you have great security. You might fail and land on your arse but hitting rock bottom in America vs hitting rock bottom in Ireland are two very different things. You will fall much harder and faster in the US than you will in Ireland. Having that peace of mind itself, is worth the higher taxes.
We live in Arizona. It’s hell on Earth here for 6-7 months of the year but she’s still a little weary of the Irish weather and that’s with, just cause. It rains a lot! If you’re not use to rain or cold. You may really struggle BUT you’ve got to keep that in context with the rest of the world. One of the great things about Ireland is that it’s pretty mild…it drizzles a lot. It could drizzle all day. Heavy rain happens too but it’s usually a drizzle. Where as, if you go to Oregon or Washington there’s a lot of very, very heavy rain. Ireland never gets too hot. It also doesn’t get too cold. There was 1 year in my 26 years there that it got properly cold but it’s usually nothing compared to the Eastern or Midwestern US states or most of Europe. BUT if you don’t like rain or think you can’t handle a lot of grey skies and rain…think again!
Isolation is a concern for her; obviously this would depend on where you choose to live. If you live in a city, it won’t be very isolated. If you live outside of a city, it still likely won’t be too isolated. If you’re living in a village, it’s a small community but there’s still a community. It can still feel isolated, though. When you go outside on a cold winter night and you can’t see anything, Just pitch darkness, that can have a major affect on people. Ireland has a pretty high rate of mental illness. Personally, I believe that may be one of the mitigating factors. If you live in a city or suburb in the US right now and are thinking of moving to a small village in Ireland…maybe you should rent first. You may have a tougher time adjusting than you think.
I was a little surprised by her having this concern. She’s not familiar with Irish law and thinks that might be a problem. Honestly, Ireland is a little more lax than the US. Gambling is not only free, it’s not taxed either. Once you turn 18, you can drink. Tenants in Ireland have so many rights! Consumers also have so many rights. The laws in Ireland, for the most part protect the Irish citizens to a much greater degree than the US laws. The US laws in many cases seem to protect companies to the detriment of citizens, as far as I can see.
I’ll list off some of the legal concerns one might have or that come off the top of my head. Blasphemy is illegal..that’s also a recent enough law BUT it has not been enforced…it’s a really strange one and it’s likely to be repealed soon. I mention it because if you see it mention somewhere, you’d probably think: What the fuck!?..it has not been enforced. It’s just a strange honey catcher law.
The one case many like to point to as an example of the poor Irish justice system is that of a man who imported tonnes of garlic and had them labelled as Apples. Apples incurred a lower tax so it was seen as massive tax fraud up to the value of 1.6 million. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Which was then reduced to 2 and I believe he got out in less than 1. People were livid because as they saw it, this guy ducked paying some taxes by doing something a bit cheeky, meanwhile the bankers that destroyed the country got off scot free. Personally, I think he deserved his sentence. I also don’t believe in pointing to the bankers and politicians and saying why should so and so get that punishment when banker x and politician y haven’t gone to prison. I believe it is a travesty but you can’t justify breaking the law like that. That’s a dangerous mindset.
Something which is truly troubling is how juvenile offenders are handled. If a kid is under 17, for most crimes they are pretty much untouchable. They will be picked up, arrested and returned to their parents. The Irish prison system is not sufficient and as such the criminals usually get off with much lighter sentences. Unlike Norway and some other Nordic countries, our prisons are also not heavily funded with a keen focus on rehabilitation…unfortunately. We do have a high rate of repeat offenders, just like in the US. Which can get frustrating and create a bit of a divide.
This is a big difference, unless you’re in Dublin. There’s not many 24 hour grocery stores or shops in the country. A few opened during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ phase in other counties but many have changed their hours..even when they were open it was nothing to the level of the US. If you want something, you need to make a point of getting it when the shops are open. That can take some adjusting.
My fiancé rightly points out that Americans ask a lot of questions while the Irish don’t. She seems to think it would be more difficult for her to adjust to that then it is for me in a country where people always asks questions. She might be right. I’m not sure but maybe some in Ireland would just get annoyed if somebody asks a series of straight forward questions. I know I have friends that thought some of the American students were annoying for asking what they perceived as dumb questions. Don’t know about this one.
This is the toughest hurdle! There’s no real counterpoint. If you’re close to your family and want to be near them. There’s no saving grace. I will say, If you are close and you do end up moving. In Ireland you get a minimum of 20 days paid time off for a full time job. So you would have plenty of time to take off to go home or entertain visitors. Ireland is also a door step to Europe so you are your family could use it as a cheap jumping off point for low cost airfare to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Germany etc. etc. But this criteria or decision maker is usually weighted pretty heavy on the scale of decision makers and can be the tipping point. If you always want your parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents etc. to be in close proximity…there’s no saving grace and you should really think hard about your decision.
With some of her concerns out of the way, let me spit lyrical about some of my own worries.
One of my own big concerns is the current economic state. Irelands unemployment is under 10% which is a big improvement but to me (I’m not an Economist) when I look at the country and the way it is, I worry. The cost of rent in my home town of Galway barely budged during the down turn. Some businesses closed down for the simple fact that the landlords refused to adjust their rent during the dip in their sales. This was notable in the price for rent of houses and apartments too. During the downturn, building of new homes slowed down which has now resulted in high demand and low supply for rentals. Which means the price of rent is now going up.
What’s concerning about that? Surely, that will encourage more building of new homes to meet the demand and it’s a sign of encouragement…Not, so fast. In my opinion, Ireland didn’t hit the bottom or as low as we could or probably should of in the last downturn.
Though many fell into arrears with their mortgages e.g. some bought homes for 400k+ and got an 80-100% mortgage and then lost their jobs. The banks did not evict people in arrears with any type of urgency. Some people have been evicted or have had their homes come under full ownership of the bank in some capacity BUT more people are still in their homes and still in massive arrears. When you have people with massive arrears still in their 400-500k house. What does that lead to?
There’s people hanging on and keeping the price of their home unjustifiably high. They aren’t pressured into selling because the banks are not seriously threatening eviction. The banks are working with people and negotiating payments based on whatever they can afford but many of these people are keeping a high evaluation of their home and are unlikely to ever completely pay back what they owe. They are also not acting like the money has been lost (which it has or should be!)…they may think that eventually, things will swing back and the home will be worth 400k again and they will be in positive equity again…it’s crazy.
There’s a horrible knock on effect for people my age or younger. Those who didn’t live beyond their means by buying an overpriced home. We got jobs either just before the downturn, or maybe during or after. Those who got just before and managed to keep their jobs, likely started on a pretty good salary but had that salary frozen for 4+ years. Those who got jobs during, started off on a much lower salary than those who started their careers in the late 90’s, early 00’s. Those who are getting their jobs in this new economic upturn..’The Celtic Phoenix’ are on even less money than those who got hired in 2009 or 2010. The money just isn’t there any more. But guess what…the rent is still high. Home prices are still high. How can somebody who starts on 21k a year ever hope to save up for a house, if they can barely afford to live from pay cheque to pay cheque?
Clearly, this current upturn is a bubble. A new bubble that will eventually burst. It’s even worse than that. There’s even more looming outside factors this time which can burst the bubble this time. If the US takes a shit again, so will Ireland and the US economy will likely take a knock when they increase interest rates. They must increase interest rates but have been reluctant to do it, so far as they know it will pack a punch. Basically, the traders that fucked the world, now have the US treasury by the balls…we didn’t learn a thing!
The US economy is also reliant upon the US dollar being the universal currency for trading and it’s future as that looks uncertain. Ireland is riding the crest of the Tech wave. Most new jobs created in Ireland are in the Tech field….they say don’t put your eggs in one basket… Our current Government is doing just that and bending over backwards to accommodate these companies while they are at it. The PC hardware business is dying, the chatter in Silicon Valley right now is about saturation of the market from small startups and speculative investment (Similar to the .com bust). Will investment in Tech remain steady or will it taper off?…it’s looking like the latter.
Ireland is in a bubble. I believe that bubble will burst. Personally, I think Ireland is much better equipped to handle such a downturn. So, I would still rather be there than here. Of course these last few paragraphs are based on my own speculation and such an impactful decision should not be based on speculation but I figure it’s good to share this possible extra factor. I’m not an economist at all but to my dumbass, there’s a lot of recurring trends and history has a tendency of repeating itself. I hope I’m wrong, though.
P.S. Vote Bernie Sanders…Socialism is not Communism.
Peace and Love,