Business Irish

Sunday 19 August 2018

Black clouds hanging over Ireland as a place for expats

Ireland rates 45th overall in a survey of countries by expat workers for Malte Zeeck’s InterNations organisation
Ireland rates 45th overall in a survey of countries by expat workers for Malte Zeeck’s InterNations organisation
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

What's the biggest turn-off about Ireland as a place in which to work and live? Property prices? Patchy public transport? High taxation? None of the above: think weather. For anyone trying to tempt City workers here, or interested in leaving Ireland to work abroad, the latest Expat Insider survey by InterNations is interesting reading.

InterNations was co-founded by globe-trotting German journalist Malte Zeeck a decade ago. "I used to work as a television reporter - I was living, for instance, in New Delhi - and every time I moved abroad I found it a little bit challenging to start from scratch, especially in a place like India. It was different culture, a different language. I felt a little lost and lonely." The organisation aims to bring expats together in cities, and provide advice and information on local life. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Zeeck added: "Today we have about 2.7 million members on our platform in our community, organised in 390 cities around the world. We have now 6,000 events taking place every month giving members a chance to meet up."

With a huge database of members, mainly American, British and German, with "close to 200 Irish people", it set up its first survey of their experiences in 2014, and has just published the latest update, based on the responses of 13,000.

So where's the best place to live as an expat? Interestingly, it's Bahrain - which has shot up from 19th place last year. Foreign workers rated it for the friendliness of the locals and the ease of doing business where English is widely spoken.

So how about our Brexit jobs-hunting nation? "Ireland is doing quite good," said Zeeck.

"A huge topic which seems that most expats worry about is the weather - 'rain, rain and more rain', as one expat put it." He added that "only 15pc rated Irish weather positively, it is seen as the biggest potential drawback". But there are pluses: "82pc of expats rate the quality of their environment in Ireland positively. One expat told me, 'I love that simply with a short trip by car, bus or train you can get away from the hustle and bustle. You can find greenery and nature to let go and rest your mind'. Bad weather but great nature."

But financial issues are a major turn-off, too, he said, adding: "Some 69pc rate the affordability of housing in Ireland negatively and that's probably connected to the fact that housing prices rose by 11pc in 2016." The price of healthcare was also a bugbear. Still, Ireland ranks among the top 20 expat destinations in terms of settling in, and is seen as a safe environment, but overall ranks a below-average 45th place, way behind Taiwan, New Zealand, Malta, Colombia, Singapore and Spain.

Our near neighbour has plunged in popularity this year. "We see a strong decline when it comes to the state of the economy in the UK because of the Brexit … and also the political stability has dropped dramatically," said Zeeck. "Last year 77pc rated the political stability positively; this year it's only 47pc. That's a massive dip." Across the Atlantic, it's a similar picture. "Almost half of the participants judged the political instability negatively in the US - last year it was a lot better and that's definitely due to the Trump effect."

But spare a thought for a downtrodden EU neighbour: "In the last position we have Greece. Though it's a great place to go on a tourist trip it's very different if you move abroad. The Greek economy is still a major concern - 53pc say it's very bad." Surprisingly, Zeeck said the survey found that Denmark is the most difficult place for settling in, followed by Austria, Kuwait and China. "The Scandinavian countries, also Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the people are not perceived as being friends in general, and especially towards foreigners." And at the top? "Bahrain, Mexico, Costa Rica and Portugal. Very easy to make friends."


If Michael O'Leary ever considered a change of career, he'd be a credit to the priesthood. The Ryanair chief executive's eulogy at the memorial for former Ryanair board member, and friend, the late James Osborne, was a heartfelt mix of respect, emotion and showed a new side to the ceo.

Lines like: "James is the kind of man who would be easy to dislike... the brains, the talent, the easy raffish charm. If Carlsberg made 68-year-old grandfathers…" Or this: "He didn't have those skills necessary to be a good solicitor - after all James had personality. James had common sense. James was good with people."

O'Leary told the Dublin funeral congregation James managed to escape the "dark side" of the legal world "into the sunshine of business". "In 1996 he agreed to join the board - 21 years ago, no one wanted to join the board. We had no money, we were being beaten out by Aer Lingus and we were struggling to survive. Much of that growth would not have taken place without James's leadership."

O'Leary added: "James was no workaholic", he lived for a time in France, "where James knew he was the only one in the entire country doing any work". But as he finished the eulogy - made longer by constant laughter of an entranced crowd - the emotion showed as he spoke of his own six-year-old child and a poem that summed up the mood. A fitting, and funny, send-off for an old friend.

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