Friday, August 31, 2018

Five Reasons Why, Even After 36 Years, I Still Choose to Live in Ireland

Scariff Island, off the coast of Eyeries
Recently, during a visit with my father in a Sun City, Florida, active retirement community, a rather nice woman approached me. We chatted for a bit and as inevitably happens my foreign residency came up:

Her: "It's so lovely talking to you, Tom. But you haven't told me where you live."
Me: "Ah, somewhere  overseas."
Her: (eyes twinkling) "Really? Are you in the military? Where are you posted?"
Me: "No Ma'am. Actually, you see, I live in Ireland."
Her: "Oh I love Ireland! How long have you lived there?"
Me: (gulp) "For thirty-six years."
Her: (after a shocked beat of silence) "Is someone forcing you to stay there? Don't you want to come home?"
Me: "Actually, Ma'am... I'm an Irish citizen now. You see, Ireland is my home."

She studies me closely. 

Her: "How can you say that? You told me you were born in Chicago." (she bristles a bit). "Don't you like America anymore? It's the greatest country in the world. We're making it even Greater! (glaring hard at me). "If you're a REAL American you'll come home right now!"

Then she turned on her heal and walked away in a huff. And all I can do is sigh.

This sort of conversation comes up with my fellow Americans again and again: when I'm in the States visiting; on airplanes when I'm travelling; even in my local pub where I'll be having a quiet pint and engage in conversation with an American tourist or two. 

So why have I stayed in Ireland for all these years? The answer is: because I've fallen in love with it.

Five Reasons Why This Yank Stays In Ireland

Many Americans I meet simply cannot (or choose not to) understand why I continue to call Ireland my home. It's about time I came clean:

1. A Future for my Children and Grandchildren

When I first moved to this country in 1982, Ireland was just shy of a banana republic. The country was in the depths of a horrific recession. Over 17 percent of the workforce was out of a job. Infrastructure was non-existent. Interest rates approached 20 percent. Hell, I couldn't even get a telephone. The plight of the country made me think I'd made the biggest mistake of my life.

And frankly, I was worried for my children. I wondered: Would they ever be able to carve out a future in Ireland?

Over the years, however, Ireland has pulled its socks up. Today, it is one of the most successful countries in the world. Unemployment is at an all time low. Infrastructure (at least near major cities and towns) has been fully modernized. The country is renowned for its diversified industry. It is a center of excellence for I.T., pharmaceutical, food, agriculture, and a wide range of other industrial segments. The country's artistic endeavors (everything from painting to creative writing to the film industry) are flourishing. 

Today, I can even get a telephone!

But back in 1995, desperately homesick for America and fed up with my life as an Ex-pat, I came very close to loading my family onto a plane for a move back home. Before taking that irreversible decision, however, I compared notes with friends living in the United States. What I found changed my life.

Ireland has some of the best education in the world. The country's primary and secondary schools ensure that students become truly literate in the fundamentals to succeed. As importantly, they begin the process of learning how to think for themselves. Ireland's universities and technical colleges offer students a wide range of first-rate subjects that are crucial for success in a growing world economy. Depending on the major, they also receive practical, hands-on education and training. 

Since making the decision to stay permanently in the country (like forever) my children have fared well: a daughter with a degree in business studies; another daughter with a degree in marine science; a son with a PhD in the Irish language. My kids' success are a reflection of the educational opportunities available to anyone living in this country.

And the cost? Recently I had a conversation with an American friend of mine who is facing the daunting financial task of putting his own children through college.

Him: "We've been saving forever and we're almost there. By God we can afford to send the kids to college!"
Me: "Why that's terrific! Do you mind if I ask: what's it costing?"
Him: "Well, one of the kids is going to an Ivy League college. The second will follow in two years. They'll attend an in-state school where tuition is a bit cheaper. So..." he breaths in deeply, "it should only work out  to 250 or so."
Me (impressed): "Two hundred and fifty dollars a year, each? That's terrific!"
Him: "No. Two hundred and fifty thousand. For the lot! Of course that's only for the tuition and fees. We'll have to work on room, board and spending money.  Fortunately, the kids are both eligible for student loans. We'll take a 2nd mortgage on the house. But at the end of it," (I can hear him grin victoriously) "the total debt will be less than a hundred grand. Which is amazingly low compared to many."
Me (shocked): "Well hey Fred, that's just terrific."
Him: "Sure is. Ah, Tom, do you mind if I ask... what did it cost you over there in the Emerald Island?"

I think hard, trying to figure out how not to destroy him. 

Me: "Well, you know, all the kids have finished college now. But it was pretty affordable."
Him: "Affordable. As in?"
Me: "Well, ah, er, about 10K per kid per year."
Him: (a moment of deep silence) "Do you mean like three kids x four years x 10k per year? That's a total of $120 k for them all? But that's just tuition, right?"
Me: "Actually, Fred, that's the whole taco. Tuition, room and board, spending money..."
Him: (getting a bit ridiculous) "But, and I'm not saying anything bad here, the colleges were sort of, what, sort of third rate? They're a bit dumb?"
Me: (my turn to bristle): "Actually, Fred, they're some of the best around."
Him: "What kind of loans do the kids have? What kind of loans do you have?"
Me: "Well, we don't have any loans. None. Nothing. Nada."
Him: "Oh."

And he hung up.

2. You Ain't Going to Go Broke if You Get Sick

A few years back, Dad had keyhole surgery. Obviously, he went to hospital. What was supposed to be a simple out-patient procedure grew a bit more complicated: he was force to stay two nights.

A month later he received the bill. I saw it and was astonished: $80,000. Fortunately, Dad has excellent medical insurance. 

In Ireland, we all bitch and moan about our health system. However, seeing Dad's bill got me thinking. I checked with a local medical practitioner and asked the question: "If I had to go through the same procedure as Dad, what would it cost me in Ireland?"

The answer: A little less than $1,500. And that includes everything. 

Like the UK, Ireland has socialized medicine. We pay a great deal in taxes for this privilege, and the down-sides of public health can be frustratingly cruel (complete disclosure: we have a very high incidence of troubling 'trolley-times' - meaning that those coming into hospital can wait days for a bed and are forced to wait  on a trolley, often in a public area. It's an outrage that health professionals are trying to address - but it will take forever). However, despite this I have the comfort of knowing:

Drugs - no matter what I'm prescribed, it will cost me a maximum of a little less than $200 per month

GP visits - average approximately $70 per visit.

Hospital visits - on public health, max out at about $1000 per year no matter how many days I may have to stay in hospital.

Public health services have many challenges. For instance, Ireland would not have the most advanced healthcare sciences or procedures in the world. For those, by all means go to America!  But here, and particularly as I grow older, I know one fact:

No matter what my body or mind might face, I know I will not go broke. 

3. It's Safe Here

Open an American paper or any online News site and you'll invariably find a report of the latest daily shooting, with scores of people - often children or teens - dead.

In Ireland we don't have that problem and for a simple reasons: most weapons are outlawed. 

As a gun owner in the United States, and a used-to-be fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment,  it took me years to get my head around this. However, as the years passed I grew up.

While Ireland has murders (and the murder rate is increasing), most assaults do not involve guns. Certainly, Ireland has never experienced a mass school killing. No one walks into a newspaper office with an assault rifle. Here, guns are the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, you can apply for a permit to hold a shotgun or small caliber rifle. But automatic weapons and handguns of any kind are verboten. It's that simple.

Here, I don't have to worry that my grandchildren will die when they attend school. Here, I will in all likelihood never be assaulted by a thief holding a Glock. 

Here I know that my loved ones are safe. 

As time goes on I find I simply do not understand many American's obsession with guns, or their die-hard attitudes of protecting so-called rights associated with extreme views of the 2nd Amendment. For me it's simple:

Kids first. Guns decidedly second. In Ireland, our gun laws uphold this simple value of protecting life. 

4. The  People

It's true. The Irish are probably some of the most friendly bunch of people in the world. I like these good folks. Heck, I've come to love the Irish.

Their good humor, welcoming nature, intelligence, and caring attitudes entranced me years ago. There is a gentleness in these people that is hard to describe or define. 

All I know is I'm comfortable with these folk. And while I am not Irish at all (except by naturalization), and have no Irish blood in me, I can finally say:

I feel one with the people of this country because they have given me my home.

5. The Beauty of Finding Home

Eight years ago I moved to Eyeries, a small village of just over 60 souls located on the Atlantic coast, way, way down in the southwest of Ireland.

It is magic. 

Each morning I sit at my dining room table, sipping a cup of coffee, gazing out at the serenity of Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic beyond. If I sit at the outside table I can hear the surf crash onto the rocky coastline only a half-mile away. I hear gulls scream as they search for their morning meal, and smell the fragrance of salt spray mixed with budding gorse and fuchsia. 

I close my eyes and take a breath. I feel the sun on my brow and the wind in my face. I'll spend the day writing upstairs then eat with my partner and go out for a pint or two with my mates up in Causkeys. 

Here, there is little divisiveness over political issues. Here, we do our best to listen and make a bit of room for each other because most are reasonable creatures. Here, we do not call each other names (except in jest) and do not embrace hate.

Yes, Ireland continues to face many challenges. Its housing costs are once again astronomical. Its debt mountain intolerable. The cost of living is once again soaring.

But... and a big but...

Here, I think I've finally found a little corner of the world to call my own. A place, me-thinks, that approaches heaven. 

Here, I have found my home.

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

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