Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tent Camping in Eyeries: Meeting Folks from Around the World

Dutch Dad & son sharing a loving
moment at sunset in Solas Mor
tent camping
Six years ago, we decided to allow people to use our back garden as a tent camping site. Since then, we've been visited by folks from all over the world. 

Fortunately, life has never been the same.

"You Really Should Let People Camp Here"

It all started six years ago. As usual at mid-Spring here in the very southwest of West Cork, it was pouring. Bucketing. Rain coming down in humongous sheets. On that early afternoon I was lazing on the couch with my nose stuck in a book, when a knock on the front door.

Opening it, I discovered a poor fellow who resembled a drowned rat. Utterly soaked. Shaking with the cold. Water dripping from all extremities. He held onto a bike, in a similarly distraught condition, and I wondered what the hell this poor fellow wanted.

"Would you mind," said he through clacking teeth,"if I camped in your back garden?"

Turns out the poor fellow had just finished cycling from Cork City all the way to our tiny village of Eyeries. He had intended to camp along the seashore. While it would have been a stunning location in which to set up a campsite, the rain and gale-strength wind proved too daunting.

Thinking he would die of pneumonia at any moment I of course agreed. Mind you, I'd never had anyone camp in our backyard before. It seemed a sort of - odd - request. However, with introductions quickly made, and as I put on the kettle for a cup of tea in hopes of warming the visitor, he wheeled his bike to the back yard and as I watched from the shelter of the back room efficiently pitched his tent. 

Magically, at that very moment the rain stopped. The clouds and mist parted. His gaze turned toward the stunning horizon: blue seas, the silhouette of the Kerry Mountains and Ring of Kerry to the north; the finger of the jutting, craggy hills of Beara Peninsula to the south; the islands of Eyeries, Inishfarnard and Scarrif directly west.

And nothing but the Wild Atlantic Ocean beyond.

As I came out of the house to join him, my camper turned slowly to me. "Wow, what an amazing view," he said. "You really should let people camp here."

Camp? In our garden? Like all the time? I'd never considered such a thing. But he persisted. and as it turned out, I did.

The Plan

My camper - the first of many - had bicycled all over Europe. He had stayed in any number of back gardens - space which homeowners had turned into campsites. I grilled a hamburger for the fellow, and as we ate together beneath a cloudless sky he told me exactly what needed to be done to turn our wee little back garden overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic into a welcoming location to pitch a tent.

We followed his directions to the letter.

Today our visitors can pitch a tent anywhere in the back yard. They have use of the downstairs toilet and shower. In poor weather they can hide in the back room. They have use of our WiFi. If they're good folk, Carm - my erstwhile partner - will often throw in a morning cup of tea and slice of toast. 

We don't advertise (other than a listing on AirBnB and a mention on Google Maps). Rather, we welcome anyone who happens to tromp by and needs a place to pitch a tent.

When we set up six years ago we didn't think we'd get anybody. But since our first visitor from Cork, we've been delighted with the number of people who have visited us from as near as the next county and as far away as New Zealand. 

Stories from Abroad

We don't get many visitors to our little camp site, and for a very good reason: the Beara Peninsula, upon which our little village of Eyeries rests, is one of the most isolated spots in all of Ireland. Most people coming to set up a tent in our back garden are hikers (walking along the absolutely stunning Beara Way) or cyclists determined to knock their legs off on the steep, potholed roads you find here. 

But those that do visit us are some of the best people we've ever met. Carm and I have talked about it, and we're guessing that it takes a special kind of person to make it all the way down to Eyeries. Invariably, these people seem to be looking for some stunning views; a bit of peace and tranquility; a place to unwind and enjoy each other's company.

That sums up what Eyeries and the surrounding Beara offer. 

We've had folks from the UK, Scotland and Wales; France, Germany, Spain and Portugal; Dutch folk, Finlanders, and Swedes. People from North America and South America, Australia and New Zealand.  Iceland and the Isle of Man, as well as Israel, also spring to mind.

Each of the people we meet has a story to tell. If we're lucky, and if the weather is fine, Carm and I will sit outside and chat with our guests over a beer or cup of tea. And as they relax and their minds become filled with the peace of the area - as they listen to the early morning cuckoo that nests down the hill, or watch the gulls soar squaking above, or breath in the smells of the distant sea and its shoreline, they'll share their lives with us.

I particularly remember a German lad who visited us a few years back. He was 18 and built strong as an ox. He was here with five other buddies, all German, all about the same age. For some reason or other, we started talking about the War. And for reasons I don't understand, we began chatting about the lad's Great-Grandfather.

In World War II, his Great-Grandfather had been a sailor on a U-Boat which was interesting. But more interesting than that was the fact that his relative had survived to tell the tale. 

However, when the lad mentioned  that he was ashamed of his great-grandfather, my heart broke for him.  "My great-grandfather was a member of the Nazi Youth," he said grimly. "He idolized Hitler like so many of them did back then. I never like talking about him."

Gently, I mentioned a fact he had never heard: over 70 percent of all German submariners were killed during the War. His great-grandfather had survived.

"If he did not survive, you wouldn't be around to share your story with me," I said quietly. "What he did, and what he believed, were also believed by most Germans at the time. You should be proud of your Great-grandpa. He served his country, and by doing that, gave you a future. 

"It's been 70 years since the end of the War. Don't you think you can forgive him? And be proud of his bravery at sea? And his survival?"

I saw a change in the lad's face. Later, I met him at our local pub, Causkey's, just up the road. He bought me a pint and smiled hugely at me. The next morning, when he and his friends broke camp he shook my hand. "Thank you," he said. "You have made me think differently."

And he made me think differently too: Of how all of us are only here because of the brave  survival of our relatives, and the heritage they give us so freely.

But the lad's heartfelt tale is only one example of the many stories people share with us. We're grateful for these simple gifts of trust and friendship they give us, having come so many miles to stay.

The Serenity of Beara

I've lived in this neck of the Irish woods and along a stunning coastline for almost eight years now. Of all the places I've lived - and I've lived in many parts of the United States and a number of locations in Ireland - I've finally found home. 

There's something special about Eyeries and Beara. It has to do with the people here: their warmth and welcoming character, and the laughter often hidden behind kind eyes. It has to do with the setting sun on a glorious summer's day, or the sweeping seas during a winter's gale. It has to do with the peace found midst barren rocks, or the song of distant bleating lambs, or the stunning view of a falcon hovering over a field hunting for prey.

We've named our small tent camping site Solas Mor - the Place of the Sun. No matter what the weather, the spirit of Sol's warmth seems to shine through.

With campers from all over the world, we can now share the welcoming warmth of Beara's serenity.

For more information on Solas Mor Tent Camping check out Google Maps

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Drowning the Shamrock on St. Paddy's Day

For those of you not in the know, St. Patrick's Day is Ireland's equivalent of July 4th. Only without the national anthem or the nationalism. In Ireland, we don't get all soppy when waving the flag. We don't sing the Irish National Anthem in the middle of a parade. In fact the Irish Anthem, "Amhran na bhFiann" (go to YouTube for a great version: isn't exactly conducive for such use. 

Unlike the US or UK national anthems, with their bold scoring and  rousing lyrics, the Irish Anthem is - well - gentle.

Play the Irish Anthem in a parade and the soft heart of its music and lyrics will be lost in the coughing roar of rusting tractors used to pull tiny floats created by locals for tuppence and flouting the benefits of the town's insurance company, or the raucous out-of-tune pipe and drum band that never quite gets the beat right, or the reams of kids crying to go home because it's cold and lashing rain and why would anyone in their right minds want to stand watching a boring old St Patrick's Day parade in the roaring rain anyway?

You see, it is always cold and rainy on St Patrick's Day. We count on that. The March sun might be blazing in the morning, but by the time the parade starts and as entire communities  throughout Ireland pour down main streets to attend their local parade, dark thunderous clouds will have rolled in. The temperatures will plummet, the sleeting rain will set in, and we'll all be miserable. Kids' smiles will turn to tears and parents will desperately try to rescue the situation with a little gentle coaching as in, "Ah fer feck sake, Johnny. We came all the way down here to watch the parade. Now watch it or we're going home and you won't be allowed any Telly tonight." Which only results in the kids crying even harder.

The Hardship of Lent

Ah St. Patrick's Day. Honestly, you'd think it to be a time of misery. We've the weather to contend with, of course, but then there's the matter of Lent which contributes to everyone's general distress. If you're not Catholic, you might not know what Lent is. Most have possibly heard of Fat Tuesday made popular by the Mardi Gras. That day is one of feasting, knowing that we're going to be deprived of something or other for the next forty days. On Fat Tuesday in Ireland, everyone eats pancakes. Now these are not U.S. pancakes. Rather, they're Irish pancakes - skinny little things that might look a bit like crepes only they're not. The shops sell plastic bottles of inadequate Pancake Batter in the weeks coming up to Fat Tuesday. When poured, it turns out to be a watery mixture that doesn't come close to the hearty pancakes that my mother used to make.

The Irish pour all sorts of stuff over them: jam, lemon juice, some sort of maple stuff that aspires to be maple syrup but isn't. Then they hoist them to their gobs, often hating the damned things, but it's tradition so what the heck and at least their stomachs are full.

Thee next day being Ash Wednesday, everyone troops down to the Church for Mass. They emerge an hour later with dark ashes in the shape of a cross dobbed onto their foreheads. It might be a blessing, but it's a desperate one because we all know that we're now staring 40 more days of penury in the face.

Penury is, of course, what you make of it. It's not like the old days when people had nothing to give up but were taunted by the Church to give up even more. Today, it's more of a reminder: Jesus suffered 40 days in the desert. So now it's your turn. The Church hands out cardboard Trocara boxes. These sit on coffee tables throughout the country. Irish folks everywhere throw spare change into them - change that many might ill afford - and at the end of Lent the money is sent overseas to help those even less fortunate. We're also encouraged by the Church and tradition to give up something. Many give up their mother-in-law. Some give up cigarettes. But many more throw caution to the wind and give up what they hold most dear:

The dreaded drink.

Drowning the Shamrock

So is it any wonder that parents across the country are so dour during the St Patrick's Day parade? Many are probably still suffering from the DTs and are close to madness due to Lent and abstinence.

BUT, and here's the thing. They're also cross due to anticipation. And what do they anticipate? Why Drowning the Shamrock on St Patrick's Day, of course. And here's how it works.

After the parade, everyone troops home. There, they'll sit down to dinner which consists of mashed potatoes with bacon and cabbage (another time honored St Paddy's tradition) that's been on the boil for the past 20 hours and sits on the plate like some sort of appalling sludge. Then, with bellies full, and while it might be only 2 in the afternoon or so, they'll walk out the door and make their way to the local pub.

For reasons I have never understood, Lent's fastings are shelved on St Paddy's Day. So it's no breach of abstinence to have a good few pints on the day. Which makes the day even more fun because we all behave rather like kids mitching from school for a free day off: we're all getting away with something. We take this break from dourness to make sure we don't all go around the twist before the real end of Lent some three weeks hence.

So we'll walk through the rain to the Local and there we'll sit back and join in the revelry. We'll have a pint or two. A hot whiskey or maybe three. An Irish Coffee or maybe five. We'll sing songs and laugh and enjoy each other's company. And for a moment, we'll forget about being soaked to the skin at the parade, and of the Lenten fast that we've all endured, and the fact that it's still raining buckets outside and Spring isn't set to truly start for a good few weeks yet.

And having drunk what we've drunk, and at the end of the night, someone might yet break into a soft gentle version of the Irish Anthem. In the quiet warmth of the local, you can hear the warming words sung by Irish everywhere. Words that only now, on this day of nation's pride, can be fully appreciated.

Happy St Patrick's Day. And do yourself a favor: drown the Shamrock this coming 17th March, will ya? Before ya drive everyone around ya completely around the twist.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ireland's Full Employment Will Spark Jobs Demand

Just when we all thought things couldn't get much better in this fair land, yesterday's Irish media was chock full of local achievement:

Ireland's economy is heading toward full employment.

If you consider that this country had an unemployment rate of well over 15 percent only a few years back, this startling news shows the magnitude of the economic turnaround. It also  demonstrates the resilience of the Irish people, the effectiveness of agencies promoting Ireland as a great place for international companies to set up shop, and the success Irish exporters have had in gaining market share internationally.

Yesterday's news highlights as released by Ireland's Central Bank report:

  • 89,000 jobs will be created over the next two years, bringing total employment to 2.3 million
  • Irish economic growth will surge to 4.4 percent per annum, one of the highest in the European Union
Strong Demand for Wide-ranging Skills Drives Visas
And if you're a 'foreigner' hoping to work here, you could be in luck. A strong jobs market should spark opportunity for would-be immigrants.

Increased demand for employees by a slew of companies and organisations across the country may not be met by available supply. The local workforce may need to be supplemented by 'foreign' talent to take up the slack. Winners in the race to work in Ireland will, of course, continue to be made up mostly of other EU nationals who have existing employment rights to work in all EU member states (including the Irish Republic).

However, the high demand for talent across many skills should also drive up employers' willingness to hire non-EU nationals to fill positions. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, employers must apply, and pay, for work permits when hiring employees from non-EU states. 

Which means, of course, that if you're a foreign national who is chomping at the bit to move to, and work in, Ireland - now is the time to start planning and reaching out. 

Employees are being sought in a wide range of disciplines to fill burgeoning demand:
  • Nurses and Doctors
  • Other Health professionals
  • IT professionals
  • Tourism
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • General Business
If you, as a would-be immigrant to Ireland, possess skills that are deemed 'critical' to the Irish economy, you have an outstanding chance to gain a work permit (see Irish Highly Skilled Occupation List for more information). 

Now What?
Truly thinking of moving to Ireland? First, find out if you're eligible for a work visa. Click here to see Visa rules.  Next, take a hard look at the true cost of living in this fabulous country. And yes...depending on where you live it can be very expensive. 

Next, take a look at the jobs market (see the links on the Right Hand side of this blog, or simply Google Ireland and see what happens).

Then start reaching out.... by email and phone. Come over for a visit. Keep your eyes open for Jobs Fairs. Shake hands. MEET PEOPLE. The Irish are a personable bunch of folk, and the best way of getting a job is to put in a little face-time. Then - keep on networking. Use LinkedIn, for instance. Keep it up and who knows? You could be surviving here just like I have.

The demand for skilled employees over here is strong. The economy is growing. Ireland is full of opportunity. 

Now is the best time in years to make your dream of living and working in Ireland a reality. Good luck!  Tom

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Monday, January 8, 2018


A Survivor’s Guide to Living in Ireland 2018 Edition lets you follow in the steps of Tom Richards, an ex-pat who has lived in Ireland for over 35 years.

Come for a week – stay for a lifetime! That’s the lure of Ireland. Essential reading for anyone considering a move or visit to Ireland. 6th edition! Over 14,000 copies already sold!

A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2018 Edition gives you the low-down on this wonderful country:

Will the continuing political melees of Brexit and Trumpism affect your plans to move and work in Ireland? Are you entitled to an Irish Work Visa? If so how can you get one? Is Ireland the land of your dreams? Have you ever thought of staying for a prolonged visit, establishing residency, or creating an Irish business? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Ireland? Find out in this rich volume of almost 90,000 words devoted to the ever-changing tapestry of living and working in Ireland. This fun, easy to read book contains (among other things) a brief history of Ireland, the opportunities present here for would-be immigrants, and tips on how to get a work permit, become a citizen, buy a home, cope with taxation and the cost of living, and enjoy this amazing country for yourself. As an added bonus, a Dictionary of Irish Slang and Phrases is also included! 

In 1982, American Tom Richards, fresh out of UCLA, took a four-week holiday in Ireland. He’s been here ever since. Witty and insightful, Tom tells how he overcame the culture shock of living in the Ol’ Sod, learning to twist his middle-class American thinking into a more European point of view while managing to pay his bills at the same time. Along the way, he’s learned some practical lessons that he now shares: From how to understand the Irish to how to drink a perfect pint; from finding a job to how to get a work permit; from purchasing your fist dream home to learning to take soaking walks on a soft Irish day. 
Here, he reveals that to survive in Ireland all you have to do is discover the magic of this wonderful country for yourself. A Survivor’s Guide to Living in Ireland has already sold over 14,000 copies. With it you can learn to Talk like the Irish, Drink like the Irish, Work like the Irish, and Live like the Irish. Essential reading for anyone considering a visit or move to this fabulous country.

If you're thinking of living and working in Ireland; if you think you're entitled to citizenship or a visa to move here; if you're considering a visit and want the low-down on how to best enjoy the Irish and their staggeringly beautiful country, this book is for you.

Buy A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2018 Edition now. Click to find out more.

Friday, November 24, 2017

"No, Victoria, They Do Not Celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland."

"No, Victoria. They do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland."

This is my oft-quoted response to many of my American friends who are convinced the entire world celebrates Thanksgiving. But they don't. Particularly in Ireland.

Thanksgiving is an uniquely North American affair- a day of gratitude born from the sweat of a new nation. Yet many Americans - and Canadians too in that both countries celebrate their own holiday - continue to believe Thanksgiving is marked globally.

Yet despite the distance, this day-of-days continues to be one of my favorites. And as an immigrant gone now for over 35 years, it is one that I miss most deeply. I miss it for its (usual) simplicity; for its lack of commercialization that has hijacked other holidays such as Christmas; because it is a day of family - of overeating, over-loving, and perhaps too many football games. 

In my posts I have often remarked that the life of an immigrant can be a daunting one. If you're thinking of uprooting your life, do remember that you'll be leaving behind many of the threads that form your cultural tapestry.

Thanksgiving is only one of them.

Yet You Can Still Celebrate the Day

Yet here in Ireland, far from my nation's shores, I find that re-creating this day - while not completely satisfactory - can be done. In fact, many American immigrants I know work hard to celebrate Thanksgiving as they would back home. 

Yes, the Irish raise Turkeys. Lots of 'em. Which means getting your hands on a large feathered friend is quite easy. Stuffing might be a bit different - some ingredients you treasure may not be readily available here. But we do have bread here, and sage and thyme, and the good ingredients that make up the basics for great turkey dressing so who's to know the difference except you?

Yes you can get Yams here. But never ask for a Yam. In Ireland they're known as Sweet Potatoes and they're abundantly available. The country is, of course, also chock-full of Spuds so basic carbohydrates to fill a Thanksgiving (Irish style) dinner plate will never be a problem. And yes, they sell cranberry sauce in many stores (cranberry is loved by Irish folk at Christmas time and it's usually in-stock by the fourth week of November).

Appropriate pies can be a bit of a problem. Libby's Pumpkin Pie filling is not easily available (though some specialist shops stock them in Dublin). But apple pie can suffice just as well, if not better, and we've piles and piles of cooking apples available in store.

Coming up with a Traditional North American Thanksgiving Dinner is, therefore, not a real problem. In fact, the Irish eat pretty much the same meal at Christmas. (Which means, of course, that if you've a mind to, you can have Thanksgiving Dinner twice in Ireland: once on the day itself, and again at Christmas. What a bonus we immigrants enjoy here!)

And yet - some elements of the holiday can be sorely lacking.

No, you won't see the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (NBC, which broadcasts the Parade, simply is not available at least not as part of my Sky Cable package). While you can catch parts of it over the Internet, NBC does not stream it in its entirety in real time on this side of the pond, and even if you try to access it, you can't for legal reasons. (There's a work-around if you use certain secure IP infrastructure but often it's a pain).

No, you won't be able to see your favorite football games, though you may catch highlights a few days later, and well after you've digested your turkey.

But most importantly: no, your North American relatives and friends will not, in all probability, be paying a visit (unless they've chosen to fly in especially for the day). This can be a source of great sadness because after all, Thanksgiving is about family. You can, of course, fly over to see them. But it's not exactly like climbing into your erstwhile Jalopy to go visit Grandma a few hours away. Distance can bring heartache to immigrants, particularly on a day like Thanksgiving.

And yet: the American immigrants I know in Ireland - including yours truly - do our level best to keep the day. Most of us, anyway. We do so because, no matter how long we've been in Ireland, we are at heart still American or Canadian. We do it because we treasure the memories of years gone by when we were 'midst loved ones in our own countries.

We do it to keep this tradition alive, and we do our best to hand it down to our Irish-American kids and grandkids.

So no, Victoria. Ireland does not celebrate Thanksgiving. But on the fourth Thursday of November, tucked away in cities, towns, and villages country-wide, you'll find those that do. And they celebrate the day with the same sense of thankfulness and gratitude that those in North America do.

And perhaps our celebration resonates on an even deeper level. Because like the original Pilgrims, we too are recent immigrants. We too have had to discover new ways to survive. We too are thankful that we've somehow managed to safely make the crossing.

After all, Thanksgiving was originally celebrated by immigrants as a way of expressing gratitude for life in a new country. In Ireland, those of us who are immigrants do the very same thing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Monday, October 9, 2017

Just in Time for Trick or Treat: The Ancient Irish Festival of Samhain, the Origin of Halloween

Carved Turnip -
a Jack-o'-Lantern Irish style
Recently, a dear American friend of mine - a wonderful woman who also happens to be absolutely crackers about all things Halloween - sent me a puzzling question. She asked:

"Tom, do you have Halloween in Ireland?"

I had to laugh. Not only do the Irish celebrate Halloween - in fact Halloween has its very origins in ancient Irish lore and pagan practices. So, for my friend Jackie and all who love Halloween, below find a bit of a primer on this spooky holiday, its origins in Ireland, and how the Irish celebrate it today.

The Gaelic Festival of Samhain

Let's go back, shall we, before the Celtic Tiger, before Irish Independence. Back to the day of the ancient Celts approximately 2,000 years ago. In those days the peoples of the world hoped to explain the inexplicable with a variety of traditions. As the days turned darker, the ancient folk of Ireland had much to celebrate but also much to fear. They celebrated a good harvest knowing it meant survival during the winter months. But they also dreaded the long nights following Equinox when the division between day and night was at its thinnest.

During this season of Samhain, dreaded spirits as well as the souls of the departed could pass through from the Netherworld into the present world threatening ancient Irish peoples with all sorts of mischief and mayhem. While the Irish invited the ghosts of their ancestors home to be honoured, they did what they could to ward off the evil ones, hoping their actions would protect them from harm.

The ancient Irish donned costumes to confuse the spirits.They lit massive bonfires to light the darkness and cleanse the air from terrorising ghosts that populated the night. During the Festival of Samhain - the feast of the dead - malevolent spirits were appeased with gifts. Those who did not offer such sacrifice were sure to be visited with bad luck in the coming year. 

During this time of darkness, this close divisional boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living, and almost any boundary, was deemed dangerous. People avoided crossroads and even the boundaries to their neighbour's land. During this time, devilish magic was also at hand. Should an Irishman visit a graveyard and walk three times around a plot they may be given a vision of the future but risk being captured by the Dark Spirit. Similarly, a woman looking in a mirror might see the man she would eventually marry but could also be caught up in the claws of darkness.

With the rise of Catholicism in Ireland, the Church - hoping to absorb pagan traditions - made this period of Samhain its own. Today, All Hallows Day (now known as All Saints Day) is celebrated on November 1st. All Souls Day closely follows on November 2nd. Both days honour the dead - a reflection of ancient times.

Fortunately, many of the traditions and customs of the Festival of Samhain have been incorporated into the contemporary version of Halloween which many enjoy to this day.

An Irish Halloween

Today many of the ancient traditions of Samhain are still practiced in Ireland (and around the world) though few know it. "Trick or Treat" is a modern derivative of the ancient Irish practice of warding off dark spirits with the benefit of gifts. Bonfires are still lit throughout Ireland though today this is usually part of general merriment rather than an attempt to clear the skies of unwanted ghosts.

Yes, the Irish today carve pumpkins though in times recently passed they carved turnips into Jack-o'-Lanters (try it - it's almost impossible due to the dense texture of the turnip but most Irish households did so nonetheless. Pumpkins simply were not available in Ireland until recent times).  

An Irish Bonfire brings light into Halloween darkness
On Halloween night, kids rush through Irish cities, towns and villages, collecting treats from friends and neighbours. Today they wear expensive costumes, much as they do State-side, though when I moved here most people dressed their kids in black bin-bags which had the benefit of being much less expensive but just as fun.

Throughout the day some people try to avoid walking on sidewalk cracks (much as they avoided 'divisions' such as land boundaries in the old days), fearing bad luck. Children will attend Halloween parties. There they will revel in ghost stories and duck for apples. A Halloween Brack (a dense cake) will be served. Hidden within are a variety of treasures.The lucky one who finds a coin will have a year's good luck. If you find a ring then marriage is imminent! 

And at midnight, a few brave and hardy souls will foolishly venture to the graveyard in hopes of welcoming home the ghosts of their dear ancestors while doing all they can to avoid Satan himself.

So to answer Jackie's question: Yes, Jackie, we have Halloween in Ireland. In  fact, your love of this season - this dark division between night and day, and good and evil - is due to the practice of long ago Celts.

As it turns out, if it hadn't been for the Irish there would be no Halloween at all.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Can You Find Happiness in Ireland? Find Out with The Ireland Happiness Index Quiz

Rather recently - in fact since the results of the last US presidential election were announced as well as the UK's decision to leave the European Union - I've been inundated with reader questions about moving to Ireland. 

"Can I qualify to get a job and live in Ireland, and how?" is possibly the most frequent. This is closely followed by "What are the employment prospects for (enter professional trade or other qualification here)?"; "How do I search for a job in Ireland?"; and "Is Ireland as cheap to live in as I think it is?"

While these are all logical, well-formed questions, no one has ever asked me what I consider to be the most important question of all which happens to be:

"Will I be happy in Ireland, assuming I'm allowed to live and work there?"

That, I think, is a good question. It's one I never bothered posing to myself before moving to this grand country and I suffered a variety of consequences as a result. But if you're truly thinking of moving to Ireland it's a question I hope you'll spend some time considering.

After all: it's one thing to climb on a plane and come over for a visit. Quite another to climb off that plane knowing you've made a life-changing decision.

Will you be happy living in Ireland? Let's find out.

What Makes You Happy

Everyone has a different definition of personal happiness, of course, but oddly I find that few people truly think about it. Or if they do, they rarely write those thoughts down or verbalise their dreams. 

However, what makes you - and all of us - happy will significantly impact on your ability to live the life of an immigrant. Therefore, before you spread your wings, it truly is important to figure out your 'Hierarchy of Needs', as Maslow puts it.

So what makes you tick? What's your personal profile? What, after all, really makes you happy?

Does your life revolve around a particular trade / career path? Does making  a pot full of money matter to you, or are you a "Less is More" kind of person? 

What's your risk quotient? That is, are you fairly conservative when it comes to planning for your future, or are you willing to throw caution to the wind to get what you want?

How old are you meaning: are you a young buck with years stretching in front of you and enough time to make a few mistakes - and recover - if things don't go to plan? 

How material are you? Okay, be honest. How important is it to you to have a big house, a big car, a big - almost everything? Do life's 'little pleasures' make you happy or are you in it for the big payoff?

How flexible are you? Are you willing to do almost anything at all, or does adapting to new and sometimes challenging situations scare you silly?

Do you have kids? Have you considered how a move abroad will affect them?

How important are local relatives and friends? Have you considered how life will be living far away from them?

How important is your local culture / customs / traditions? That is (assuming you're an American, as an example): would you go nuts if you could no longer celebrate Thanksgiving the way you have for years? Would you be willing to adapt a bit? 

How good are you at listening? Do you enjoy listening to learn new things? Are you a quick learner? Are you adaptable, or do you get frustrated and impatient when confronted by something new and unknown?

Having considered the above let's start the quiz.

The Quiz

(Warning: the following quiz is written as a bit of fun and is in no way scientifically constructed. Enjoy it!)

Part 1

Directions: mark each question 1 (do not agree at all) to 5 (highly agree)

1. I have traveled extensively and thoroughly enjoy new peoples and cultures

2. If I left the country of my birth I would be able to cope very well without friends and family

3. While I love the country of my birth I will be able to get along just fine if I move away

4. If I have to pay high taxes it won't bother me, though I'll grouse about it all the time just like everyone else

5. Having a lot of savings in the bank isn't too important to me

6. I'm willing to take a pay cut or adapt my skills to fit new opportunities

7. I'm willing to go back to school / college / university to succeed and survive

8. I'm willing to take huge risks to succeed and survive

9. I'm adaptable. I can fit in with just about anybody and anyone's way of thinking and believing

10. I'm a good listener. I can learn quickly 

11. Though I love what I know about Ireland, I won't be disappointed if I discover when I live there that it's not exactly what I thought it would be

12. I have children and education is a very, very important consideration no matter where I live

13. I've spent a great deal of time researching Ireland: its history, culture, peoples, and opportunities there

14. Right now - right this second - I know what jobs and skill-types are in demand in Ireland

15. I currently have friends and / or family living in Ireland, or I'm married to an Irish citizen

16. I'm the child or grandchild of an Irish citizen

17. I think I am a very, very open-minded person and willing to accept and adapt to change

Finished? Okay, add up your score. Now continue to Part 2:

Part 2

Answer the following questions (and no fair looking at Google for the answers):

A. The Republic of Ireland is a) a politically independent country or b) a principality of Great Britain

B. The Republic of Ireland is composed of how many counties?  a) 10  b) 26  c) 32

C. The Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union a) Yes b) No

D. The Republic of Ireland is a) more expensive  b) less expensive  to live in than most other European countries

E. The Republic of Ireland is currently experiencing a shortage of homes to buy and homes to rent    a) Yes  b) No

F. The HSE is the government organisation that manages what?  a) Housing  b) Health c) Schools

G. Who is the current Taoiseach of Ireland?  a) Leo Varadkar  b) Charles Haughey  c) Myles Dungun

H. The Republic of Ireland uses which currency?  a) the Irish Punt b) The Irish dollar c) the euro

I. Northern Ireland is part of a) The Republic of Ireland b) Great Britain

J. What is the Republic of Ireland's official language? a) English b) Irish c) both a and b

K. What does Muinteoir mean in English?  a) Men  b) Lavatory c) Teacher

(answers below)

Give yourself 1 point for each correct answer, above. 

Now total all of your scores from Parts 1 & 2. That's your Grand Total Score. Your Irish Happiness Index, if you will. 

Your Results

Frankly, the results don't really matter. All I was trying to do was to get you to simply THINK about what would happen - what you may encounter, experience, and feel - if you moved here. As I've written elsewhere in this Blog, being an immigrant is often a trying, complex, and challenging experience. Moving to Ireland without thinking about it - which is what I did - makes immigration that much more difficult.

In other words: you may have a great deal of trouble simply coping. 

That said: it's decidedly unfair of me to give no guidance on a score. So with that in mind have a look at the following:

Total available points: in total, there are 96 points available. That is, if you gave yourself a maximum of '5' for all questions 1 through 17, and answered all 11 questions correctly, your total would be 96 points. So ... here we go:

Your Score:

80 - 96 points - welcome to the club. You'd be able  to Survive in Ireland  just as I have. That said, if you move here you will still experience occasional periods of doubt, loneliness, and downright insanity. But don't worry! If I did it you can too. After all - I didn't think about my move here. You have! 

50 - 79 points - okay, life is going to be somewhat more troublesome for you if you move to Ireland. You'll be more likely to get homesick. You may not be able to adapt to the country as well or as quickly as you'd like to. You may be troubled by its expensive economy, and grow frustrated by the seeming lack of opportunity into the highest echelons of this country's working environment. Too, you may be unwilling  to take the risks required to survive in Ireland as you'd like. That said - if you're determined to move here I suspect you'll do just fine as long as you work your bloody arse off and keep your nose to the grindstone.

0 - 49 points - Stay home!

Answers to Questions:

A - a
B - b
C - a
D - a
E - a
F - b
G - a
H - c
I - b
J - c
K - c

Discover More
Do you qualify to work and live in Ireland? Find out here.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom