Who are you?
I am an American teacher-turned-writer living in Dublin. Since moving to Ireland, I have been attempting to maximize this European adventure by traveling as often as possible, meeting new people, and writing about my experiences for other future tourists and expats.
In December 2014, I self-published my first book, The Frugal Guide: Dublin in eBook form.This guide emphasizes the free and inexpensive attractions in the city that are often off the beaten tourist path and don’t have the large promotional budgets of the heavy hitters. I have included guided walking tours (some with audio podcast accompaniments), neighborhood maps, reviews of paid attractions that I think are worthwhile, and additional stories about Ireland and Dublin that give some color and context to the city. The book is available for free in many formats from most eBook distributors.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
In 2013, my wife finished her Ph.D. and received an offer for a postdoctoral position at a prestigious lab in Dublin. Deciding that this was an offer too good to pass up, I left my public school band directing job so we could relocate to Ireland. It was exciting and just a little bit scary—giving up the stability and familiarity of our home state and leaving friends and family behind—but it was an opportunity of which so many dream, yet so few can ever do. In the end, the choice was easy.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Dublin proper has a very high cost of living and a very competitive housing market. Finding a place to live on an academic salary was tricky, and required some thorough pre-move research and some luck upon landing. Once settled with a home address, getting our administrative affairs—immigration papers, tax numbers, bank accounts, and home utilities—in order was much more difficult than we had anticipated, mostly because we weren’t familiar with the subtle rules and cultural quirks involved. We learned the fine Irish balance between being patient and being assertive to get what we needed.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Dublin itself is a very cosmopolitan city. There are large expat groups from Europe and North America. Americans are never wanting for expat meetups and discussion groups, and expats from other countries have similar expat support communities.
What do you like about life where you are?
Ireland is a great cultural stepping stone for American tourists and expats. While certainly a European country, the people here have a strong cultural connection with North America, mostly due to their own long history of emigration. Visitors and expats usually have no trouble connecting with the local people, and culture shock is usually subtle and easy to handle.
The many opportunities for travel also make Ireland a very attractive place to live. The many inexpensive, direct flights from Dublin Airport to Europe’s most famous cities make it easy for we Yanks to take weekend trips with ease. Ireland, of course, is not without its own must-visit attractions and historic sites. Buses and trains make visiting the popular—and more obscure—Irish destinations a breeze.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
The distance from friends and family must be adjusted to and lived with. It is no longer possible to go to every wedding, graduation, or holiday party with those we know and love. We cope with this by maximizing our few visits to our home country, seeing as many of our loved ones as we can, and, of course, inviting our friends and family for a visit to Ireland.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between
your new country and life back home?
Irish people tend to be more laid back and relaxed than Americans; businesses and government agencies work with a little bit less speed, efficiency, and urgency. This is both good and bad for an adjusting American expat. Long lines, slow-moving paperwork, “closed for lunch” signs, and a general “Why rush it?” attitude forced us to uncomfortably slow down to the speed of the locals. On the other hand, this kind of work environment allows expat employees to enjoy more freedom and more vacation time than at a similar position in America.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
If a move to Ireland is in your future, do your employment and visa status homework well in advance. Many prospective expats dream of relocating to Ireland to live a simpler life, but don’t take the time to read the fine print. Long-term visas aren’t generally issued without proof of employment, and regulations for employing foreign nationals are strict. Join an expat network and ask a current expat in a similar situation for help if you are unsure.
What are your plans for the future?
Since publishing The Frugal Guide: Dublin, I have been working on my next book, Five Suitcases. This is a humorous personal memoir of our expat experience, from finding out we’d be making an international move to the first few exhausting days in a new country; from our travels around the island to observations about the unique quirks of the Irish people and their history.
Cory Hanson is on Twitter @HansonCory1, he publishes travel articles at www.fivesuitcases.com, and maintains a personal blog at iowa2ireland.blogspot.com. His book, The Frugal Guide: Dublin, can be downloaded for free from Smashwords and most eBook distributors.