Expat FAQ

We here at Narc Ex HQ are often asked by potential tourists and expats about our trip to and life in Ireland. We love questions and feedback, so don't let this FAQ stop you from sending us a note via the Contact page.

Please remember that these observations are all based upon our personal experience and situation, and are not meant to be universal or applicable to everyone. Just like everything on the internet and in life, your mileage may vary.

How did you choose Ireland?

Sara had a wonderful job opportunity after finishing her degree at Iowa. We didn't have Ireland in mind specifically, we were just open to the idea of moving anywhere in the English-speaking world.

How did you get all your stuff over there?

Well, the short answer is we didn't. In the move, we downsized from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment. Most of our furniture was sold or given away, as it wasn't top-grade to begin with. The important things we couldn't bring but couldn't replace are currently being stored in our generous parents' basements. We looked into both transport and commercial storage possibilities, but both were fantastically out of our price range.

When we moved, our cheapest option was maxing out our airplane luggage allowance and paying the bag fees. Each of us had one carry-on, one personal item, and three checked suitcases. We paid for four of the suitcases at $50 each- much cheaper than freighting over baggage to a country wherein we had no address.

Luckily for movers like us, most apartments in Dublin are furnished. We didn't have to bring any furniture or appliances, not that the electrical appliances would work here. Remember, with a furnished apartment, the furniture has to stay with the place, whatever its condition or level of nastiness and smell-itude.

Many small things we couldn't bring had to be purchased here. Most of these for us were kitchen tools and utensils. Sadly, there aren't large thrift stores like Goodwill here that can be a cheap one-stop shop to furnish a whole house. Charity shops here are in small storefronts and mostly sell higher-quality (and more expensive) second hand clothing.

How did you find a place to live?

At the time of our move (July 2013) the apartment market in Dublin was moving pretty quickly. We did some research on websites like daft.ie and rent.ie in the months before the move to see what we might be able to get with our monthly budget. Because most apartments in our range didn't stay on the market very long, we weren't able to actually set up any showings from Iowa.

When we moved, we had lined up a temporary place to stay until we found a suitable apartment. On our first day of arrival, we bought a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, pulled up the apartment listings, and made the calls to set up showings. We found and leased our apartment the next day. It was only on the market for a few days before we moved in.

What is your work permit/Visa status?

 Since 2009, the Irish government has tightened restrictions on non-EU citizens living and working in the country. I don't blame them, as they need to protect the few jobs available for their own citizens, many of whom are still unemployed from the 2008 economic slowdown.

For specific answers about your own situation, please check with the appropriate Irish government bodies. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation handles work permits and hosting agreements. There are a number of employment permit applications depending on the type of job and type of applicant. The work permit page of Citizens Information is also helpful.

In short, a non-EU citizen must meet a number of qualifications to work in Ireland. Most importantly, this person must have a job offer in hand before applying for an employment permit. I didn't know this about work permits before arriving in Ireland, but this means that an applicant must find a company willing to employ them and pay a steep yearly fee to the Irish government for the privilege of doing so.

The job itself must meet a number of qualifications as well. There is a minimum number of weekly hours and a minimum yearly salary to apply. There are also a number of employment fields that are excluded from work permits- most of them are unskilled jobs in the service, labor, and hospitality industries. This policy reserves these jobs for unskilled and unemployed Irish (or EU) citizens.

For anyone planning a move to Ireland, read and carefully consider the job restrictions for non-EU citizens. Generally, those in certain high-demand fields will have more success finding work in Ireland than those in careers with less specialization.

Our visas are also tied to Sara's employment application. We must register (and pay a hefty fee) yearly to stay in Ireland. Without the application, we would have a much more difficult time proving to the Irish immigration board (GNIB) that we won't be an economic burden for the already strapped government. With proof of legal employment in a high-demand field, we can show them that we will be a net gain for the country.

Is it expensive?

Yes. Our cost of living has increased greatly in moving from suburban Iowa to Dublin. We expected this and were ready, but we have had to change our lifestyle to fit our new financial reality. Home utilities, food, housing, transportation, and entertainment are all very expensive.

We do not have a car, we visit most of the city by bicycle or on foot to avoid using the silly public transport system in Dublin. This means that there are no quick trips to the supermarket or big box store for that forgotten item. Everything we buy, including groceries, is expensive and has to be carried home. This has changed our shopping habits. We now buy more dried beans and grains instead of heavy and expensive cans. Meat used to be a staple for us in Iowa, now it is something of a luxury. That famous Irish lamb and beef? Great stuff, but very expensive to raise and process in an island economy.

How did you get money to Ireland to set up?

When we first moved, before the first paychecks came in, we were relying on our savings in USD. Our home credit union fortunately had good rates on using ATMs internationally, so we pulled out our daily ATM maximum every day for the first week or so. The daily maximum was an amount set in dollars, so we had to calculate our daily limit in the stronger Euro currency. It was a bit disheartening to see our American savings with such little spending power here.

We did bring some USD cash over to change in case of emergency, but the exchange rate on cash was less favorable than that of ATMs in our situation. Thankfully, we didn't need it the first day, but changing it did help us pay our apartment deposit when we signed the lease.

Did you experience culture shock? Homesickness?

Irish culture is unique and special, but they are familiar with and welcoming to Americans and other foreign visitors here. We have yet to find ourselves in a situation where we truly don't know what to do or how to act. With that said, there are a few things that required us to change our attitudes or expectations, particularly when dealing with stores, utility companies, and government offices.

Customer service outside of the hotel/hospitality industry is not that one would expect in America. Store clerks are often very short and impatient with customers who have questions or are unfamiliar with the merchandise. When asking questions at a customer service window, it is common for the attendant to interrupt with what they think is a satisfactory answer and then literally turn around and walk away or to the next person in line.

We do miss the comforts of home and family. Sometimes we get a craving for a sale on a family-size bag of nacho cheese Doritos to eat in one sitting, or a jar of ridiculously large and mushy dill pickles. Regular communication with social networks, video calls, and (ahem!) blogging help us keep in touch with those we love.

Can you help me? 

Yes! I would love to unofficially give help or advice to potential or current expats. I might not be able to specifically advise on complex legal issues like visas and work permits, but would be more than happy to share my experiences. If you have questions, submit a message on our Contact tab with your email address and I will answer your questions personally. That is, until this blog becomes a worldwide expat sensation!

...that means I will always answer your questions personally.


  1. Thank you for thus write up. ;)

    1. Hope it was helpful. Let me know if you have more questions!


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