After the Tánaiste said life was not always easier overseas, seven young Irish people reveal why they left the country and what living abroad is really like
With a housing and a cost-of-living crisis hitting young people left, right and centre, it’s little wonder so many have emigrated in recent years.
We might have the world’s best pulled pints of Guinness, and Tayto, chicken fillet rolls, spice bags and mammy’s Sunday roast, but it is no use if you cannot find an affordable place to live.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said, however, that young people may encounter the same problems abroad as they do at home.
“You’re not going to find that rents are lower in New York, or that it’s easier to buy a house in Sydney. Sometimes the grass looks greener,” he told Newstalk last week.
We spoke to seven young Irish people who have left these shores about whether life really is better abroad:
Toni Ann Byrne (26) in Dubai – “When I’m homesick I’ll go on Daft.ie and I get such a shock.”
Former DCU student Toni left her box bedroom in Santry, Dublin, behind to become an account manager in an investment company in Dubai four years ago.
“When I’m homesick I’ll go on Daft.ie and then I get such a shock to the system,” Toni said. “I go home quite often. Even when I went into Aldi, never in my life have I noticed such a difference in a food shop price. I picked up a few little bits and it was €40.
“In terms of rent, I probably pay the same amount that I’d be paying at home. But the standard of living and the standard of my apartment, it’s way better than Dublin.
“I’ve friends at home paying €800 to €1,000 for one-bedroom in an apartment. But I pay the same, I live in a nice area and my bills are included too.
“I picked here over Australia because, God forbid, something happens with your family or you need to get home you can get home in eight hours. The flight is not that far.”
Toni says every time she tries to move back home, it doesn’t make sense.
“There have been a few times where I’ve gotten really homesick and I’ll sit down to look at the salaries in Ireland, then I think how I can justify moving home?” she said.
“I don’t want to go and live in a shared house, probably damp, and riddled with this, that and the other. If I wanted to get an apartment in Ireland, I’d be put on a waiting list, I wouldn’t be able to get one.
“The only thing that’d make me move home is my family and friends. As much as I want to, I can’t move back. The government has just priced young people out of the country.”
In terms of lifestyle, Toni believes there is a lot more going on for people in their 20s compared to Dublin.
“People have that misconception that Dubai is a soulless city but there’s lots of art, music, festivals. There’s so many different things to do. When you go back to Ireland, what’s there to do at the weekend? Drink? There’s nothing.
“The healthcare system over here is amazing too. It’s not expensive. Anything you need you can access; everything is done so fast.
“I know people at home waiting two or three years to see a specialist about something serious that needs to be seen immediately.
“If you’ve a health problem here, you call on a Monday and you’re seen on the Tuesday.”
Evan McGloughlin (24) in Barcelona – “In your 20s, it doesn’t make sense to live in Dublin.”
When Evan started his own business, he decided he couldn’t comfortably succeed in Dublin, so he chose to move abroad.
“In your 20s, it doesn’t make sense to live in Dublin,” the Skerries man said. “You can double your standard of living and halve your cost of living by moving to places like Barcelona.
“I hate saying that, but it’s just the truth. I don’t think Dublin is set up for your 20s.
“Myself and my team run a language company called Weeve. We ran it in Ireland for 18 months. We tried to keep our costs as low as possible but it was impossible in Dublin.
“It was way too expensive to live anywhere near the city centre and a four-bedroom place was not possible. We would’ve had to look outside Dublin to get a place to work, live and not be very cramped.
“We decided on Barcelona and it’s affordable. The cost of living is way cheaper, and the standard of living is way better.
“I’d say the cost of groceries is 75pc of what you’d pay in Dublin. Transport costs are way down. You can walk and cycle across the city.
“The only thing you’d spend more on here is air conditioning, but we don’t pay that now summer is over. The food and drink is much cheaper. We can live the life we want to live here at a cost that is much more affordable. It makes a big difference.”
Evan is enjoying his time living in Barcelona and doesn’t have any intention to move back to Ireland anytime soon.
“There’s festivals all the time, great live music. There’s so many things to do in your 20s here,” he said.
“It’s such a multicultural city too: there’s every race and every language. It’s brilliant. It’s a nice city. It’s going to be hard to leave.
“All of us love Ireland; we love Dublin. I miss Irish food especially. The people too. In terms of the life we want, Barcelona provides all of that.”
Shauna Sheridan Donnelly (26) in Berlin – “I’m homesick but I can’t move home.”
Shauna hopped on a plane to Berlin as soon as she finished college six years ago and she hasn’t looked back since.
The digital designer, originally from Blanchardstown, blames the renting crisis in Dublin for making her emigrate.
“I’ve had some pretty bad horror stories with landlords in Dublin.
People renting out rooms charge way too much for a box room.
“Every summer, I’d go to Berlin when college was finished for three months. I’d friends over here and rent was super cheap.”
Even though Shauna has a better quality of life in Berlin, she misses the people, the craic, and the way of life in Ireland.
“I’ve wanted to come back to Ireland for a long time. The people are different and there’s just a different aspect of life,” she said.Do you have a Dublin story?
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“But the quality of life is better here. There’s security when it comes to jobs: you’ve rights – I didn’t feel like I had that back home.
“Renting over here is a whole different ball game. Your landlord can’t kick you out. There’s more laws and regulations.
“I’ve my own place, my own set up, I’m not paying through-the-roof prices. I can afford to go on holidays and do the things I want. There are opportunities to save here too.
“I’d love to move home but it’s impossible to get a mortgage in Ireland. It makes me really sad because it’s not worth renting in Dublin. I’m homesick, but I can’t move home.”
Shauna believes there are a lot more opportunities for a different social life abroad.
“Parks are big here and they have activities going on all the time, outdoor classes, rollerblading. Doing anything in a park is such a huge part of the community here,” she said.
“If you want to go swimming, you can choose between 30 to 50 different swimming courses and classes. If you want to try a new sport, there’s this thing called Urban Sport where you can try any sport for €20 a month.
“In Dublin, if you want to go to the pictures, there’s only two or three places to go. Or if you want to go out, there’s only one good nightclub. But here there’s something for everyone.”
Joe Monahan (23) in Vancouver, Canada – “I find myself thinking of home less and less.”
Joe studied in DCU and worked part-time as a bartender. With the cost-of-living spiralling at home, he decided to trade life in Ballymun for Vancouver.
“Life in Canada has treated me well so far. The opportunities available are fantastic and there’s a huge amount of stuff to do and see here,” he said.
“Healthcare is free, and overall it’s just a better quality of life. The weather in Vancouver isn’t half bad either.
“I definitely found it tough for the first few months regarding finding accommodation and getting work. There were times I had doubts about staying. Now that I’m set up and settled, I find myself thinking of home less and less.
“The price of things over here is a shocker at first, especially for basic groceries like bread and milk. The tipping culture also takes some time to get used to, but I find it’s important to adapt to the culture of the country you’re in.
“I will come home at some stage to go back to college, but I think I’ll definitely be coming back to Canada or travelling elsewhere once I’m finished.”
Emma Cowley (29) in US – “Every time I go home to Dublin in particular I just find it so pretentious”
Emma left Dundrum in 2018 to live in the UK, then moved to the US this year to become a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Carolina.
Ever since she left Ireland, Emma said has “more discretionary money to spend” and “significantly better accommodation for price in comparison to Dublin”.
“It’s the same for eating out, hotels, car insurance and so on. In the US, the salary is a lot higher, but I need to factor in health insurance,” she said.
“Groceries are mind blowing, they’re so expensive. It’s like $13 for deodorant and $6 for coffee over here.
“Liverpool was easy. Cheap and quick to go home. London is harder because it’s expensive to get home and for family to visit.
“The US is obviously much harder because of connecting flights but I don’t really miss Dublin at all, just my family sometimes.”
When it comes to returning to Ireland, Emma “can’t see it happening”.
“I have better earning potential and quality of life in the UK and US. Every time I go home to Dublin in particular, I just find it so pretentious. Costs are ridiculous.”
Caitlin Grant (22) in the Netherlands – “All my friends have moved away too”
In August, Caitlin moved abroad to do a master’s degree in forensics, criminology and law, her first time living away from her family. The Dundrum woman now lives in Maastricht, near the German and Belgian border, and has a part time job.
“I work in a Spar for €14 an hour. It has no chicken fillet rolls unfortunately, but it’s the same vibe,” she said.
“My rent is €365 in a shared house; it includes all the bills. My master’s was €2,200, the equivalent in Ireland would be around €10,000; so that’s why I moved.
“I think UCD and Maynooth have similar master’s, but you’d never get accommodation for that price.”
Caitlin isn’t considering moving back to Dublin after finally gaining her independence.
“If I move back home, I’ll have to live with my parents in Dublin. There’s a lot more opportunities for jobs here, the rent is cheaper too,” she said. “I’d be crazy to move back. All my friends have moved away too, it’s so sad.
“This was the first time I moved out. It’s quite nice, even the cooking. It’s nice to come in and out, no questions asked or if you’re eating chocolate at three in the morning.”
Molly Ní Ghlaisne (25), in Australia – “The Government has no respect for nurses. The majority from my college course are out here.”
Molly left Stillorgan in September to travel, see the world, and hopefully see that the career path she chose “isn’t as grim as it is at home”.
The nurse believes Australia is a lot more relaxed than home.
“Nursing in Ireland is not good. The Government has no respect for nurses. The majority from my college course are out here,” she said.
“There’s more focus on working to live instead of living to work. The price difference is definitely noticeable. Even though Sydney is considered expensive, I still think it’s cheaper than Dublin.
“It can be hard missing home, 100pc. I miss my family loads, but I talk to them all the time. If I could move my whole family over here I would and happily stay.
“I will move back home to Ireland at some stage but I’m happy in Oz for now. Seeing the world and actually feeling satisfied and valued in work and not just a number.”