Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Coming home can be as hard as moving overseas, you feel like an outsider' - Irish ex-pats on the reality of moving back to Ireland

Michelle, Doug and Liam Thompson pictured as they left New Zealand
Cian Patrick Doorley said moving home to Ireland can be just as hard as emigrating
Michelle Thompson with her husband Doug and their son Liam while they were in Asia
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

More Irish people are now moving home to Ireland than emigrating for the first time since the recession.

The Central Statistics Office has said that more than 90,300 people moved to Ireland in the year leading up to April 2018 - 28,400 of these were returning Irish nationals.

Just 56,300 people moved out of Ireland during that time and 28,300 of those were estimated to be Irish.

While many feel that there's no place like home, others have spoken honestly after the difficulties of trying to put down roots in a country you haven't lived in for years.

We spoke to two Irish nationals about their very different experiences:

Michelle Thompson: 'I think I'm a very positive person but moving back to Ireland was hard for my husband, it was all very new for him'

Michelle Thompson with her husband Doug and their son Liam while they were in Asia

Having a support network as they raise their young son is what lured Michelle and Doug Thompson back to Ireland.

Michelle (38) left her home, job and loved ones in Dublin as she moved to Auckland in the hope of a better quality of life.

She told Independent.ie: "I'd a mortgage on a house but I decided there wore more opportunities for me overseas than there were here.

"It had been two years since the crash started, when it first happened we were full of optimism that we'd be out of it in a few years but by 2010 the reality started to hit home that it was going to last for another three or four years.

"I thought to myself, 'I'm single, in my 30s, I'm well educated, I have a mortgage that would pay for itself if I rent it out', so I decided to take a leap and went to New Zealand, where I'd never even been before.

"The idea was to get a job, start a new career and create new opportunities for myself."

She found work in a government entity in Auckland and it was during a three-month placement in Sydney that she met her husband, Doug (39).

The pair welcomed their son Liam in December 2016 and it was then that her desire to move home started to become more pressing.

"I always saw myself coming home, I never saw myself leaving Ireland permanently.

"I think it was on the second date with my now-husband that I said if he didn't see himself every living in Ireland than there was no point taking it any further," she explains.

"I think the real clincher for us was when we had our son, we realised that since his family are from Sydney and mine live in Ireland we just didn't have that support that we needed.

"It was great living in New Zealand when we were double income, no kids and could take advantage of everything the country had to offer but once we were becoming more grounded we knew we wanted that family support network.

"We knew it wasn't going to be cheap but a big draw for us was that I had maintained my home so we still had that to go back to.

"We were both working full-time and we weren't spending a lot so we had built up quite a lot of savings."

The family left Auckland in March, they spent the next six weeks visiting family members in Australia and travelling through Asia before they arrived back in Ireland in mid-May.

Michelle said she was taken aback by how long it took to settle in Ireland again.

"I think I'm a very positive person but it was hard for my husband, it was all very new for him.

"There were tenants living in my house and it needed to be freshened up so we stayed with family for a while and as we were living in a rural area we felt like we were lacking independence and certainty, we couldn't even get car insurance for a few weeks.

"Then there's the administration involved in coming back, we knew what we had to do and what we had to provide, we had prepared but it is a very confusing system.

"You can't expect to move a family to the other side of the world and not expect paperwork, that is par for the course but the reality of implementing a person in the system is a difficult experience."

Michelle, Doug and Liam Thompson pictured as they left New Zealand

Michelle, who lives in Churchtown in Dublin, said she was relieved to settle back into life with her friends and family again quickly.

"In the seven-and-a-half years I'd been away I had been home about three times, I expected that life would be different and not to expect our group of friends to be the exact same, some had gotten married, had kids or moved careers.

"Nothing had changed from that point of view for me and it was just fantastic to com back into that personal sense of belonging again," she said.

Michelle, who is setting up a business as a consultant, said that they aren't sure whether Ireland will be their home for good yet.

"It was heartbreaking to tell my husband's mother who lives in Sydney that we were moving 18,000km away.

"I don't know if we're settled here, I think when you marry someone from another country you're never sure if you're permanently settled.

"We feel settled in our home and day-to-day lives but we have to think of our family in Sydney too, it's a reality in the back of our minds.

"You can never be sure if it's the right thing to do but if you've been thinking of  moving home for a long time maybe it is for you.

"You're not going to do it on a whim as it is expensive but I don't think I could have stayed in New Zealand with that nagging feeling, wondering what if.

"It's important to know that nothing has to be forever, for us this is for raising our family but if we can't get the quality of life we know we can experience in Australia or New Zealand, than we would have to think about it again and weigh up our options."

Cian Patrick Doorley: "I missed my friends, my family, I missed Irish culture and I decided I couldn't see myself becoming a Canadian"

Cian Patrick Doorley said moving home to Ireland can be just as hard as emigrating

Demand for rental space in Dublin in "crazy" and soaring car insurance is a "robbery", according to a man who has found moving home to Ireland difficult.

Cian Patrick Doorley (40) has said that he found that his personal and professional life changed and he is still trying to adjust to life in Ireland after moving home last December.

Cian, who comes from Carrigaline in Cork, explained that career opportunities were the motivation behind his move to Toronto in September 2012.

"I left originally looking for employment, at the time Canada were sending over a lot of trade delegations to try to get skilled workers from Ireland to move over.

"I packed a bag, got a one-way ticket and moved over without any friends or family, I went solo.

"I ended up staying for more than five and a half years, I got permanent residency and I enjoyed my time over there."

He said that after living in Canada for five years he reached a crossroads and felt he had to decide he wanted on a more permanent basis.

"From my experience and from talking to people who move permanently, there seems to be a point of no return around the five or six year mark and that's when you start to put down roots and decide to become a citizen or else the emotional ties and pulls that bring you home kick in.

"I suppose that's what it came down to for me - I missed my friends, my family, I missed Irish culture and I decided I couldn't see myself becoming a Canadian," Cian said.

After moving home just before Christmas, he did say he felt like an outsider at times.

"I came home just before Christmas last year, initially I found that my circle of friends and even my family had moved on, their lives had completely changed and I felt completely on the outskirts.

"My friends had bought houses, moved to different areas, they might have changed their jobs or gotten married or had kids.

"Plus you're not in on the in-jokes any more, you've missed out on things, that social circle you had has moved on so you just have to start afresh again.

"But for social occasions and things, it's nice to be able to just drop down to Cork.

"I like being able to spend time with my parents., my brothers, my friends and I like being around Irish people in general, we've a unique way of interacting with each other and I missed that," he said.

Cian moved to Dublin and got a job in marketing but said he was taken aback by how different things were economically compared to when he left.

"Economically there was a lot more happening, Dublin seems absolutely booming, that definitely wasn't the case when I left.

"I did my research before I left Toronto, you have to have a plan  - I think if you get homesick and decide over a month or two to move then you're setting yourself up for a harder time when you come back.

"I had decided to move to Dublin and moved into an Air BnB for a month while I got set up I was well aware of the housing crisis but I still wasn't prepared for how crazy renting here is, the demand for any bit of rental space is just incredble.

"I've never seen the likes of it and it only seems to have gotten worse in the eight months I've been back.

"I've changed houses twice since I've been in Dublin and rooms that were going for around €700 then are going for €850 now, it's crazy, it really does seem to just go up and up every month, it's distressing," he said.

"I haven't needed to get car insurance since I've gotten back but some of the quotes I've heard being offered to people are just robbery.
"I think the insurance companies just seem to see you as a premium once you've been outside the country for a few years, you're just a walking euro sign to them.

"I still haven't found full-time work in my field, I have a masters degree and other qualifications but I'm still looking, it's very frustrating.

"Even in Dublin it can be hard to form a social circle that you can rely on, I haven't quite settled in but it is getting easier."

He has warned others Irish ex-pats who are considering moving home that things may not be easy initially but he feels it will pay off in the long-run.

Cian issued this advice: "You have to have a plan, I knew what I wanted to do and I had done a few job interviews over Skype before I left Toronto and loads set up with recruiters for the week that I came home.

"If you don't have a plan you'll probably end up wallowing and reflecting on the life you left and questioning if leaving was the right thing.
"You need to focus on the reasons you left, I think I'll stay here now but it definitely isn't easy to decide to come home, it took me about six months to decide.

"In many ways it's harder to come back than to move, when you're leaving you have a blank slate, it's an adventure, coming back you know exactly what you're returning to.

"Coming home can be equally as hard as being an immigrant abroad but I definitely do think it gets a lot easier."

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