I spent five years living as an expat in Ireland, all of it in and around Dublin City. Before moving, I did what everyone does: I Googled. Extensively. What I found were countless photos of the River Liffey and Temple Bar, of Riverdance and the Dublin Convention Center. Useful stuff if you’re traveling, I guess, but not so much if you’re looking to settle down. So here’s a bunch of things I wish I knew before I moved to Dublin. This is, of course, based on my own lived experience (or that of close friends who shared theirs). As always, YMMV. Renting in Dublin is insanely expensive My starting salary when I moved to Dublin was €24,000*. Since I had no point of reference other than “this is above minimum wage, I guess”, I figured it would be fine. To clarify: my definition of “fine” was somewhere along the lines of “a one-bed in an okay part of town”. What my pay worked out to, in practice, was a three-people apartment share, with the rent working out at around €530 per person, excluding utilities. This was back in 2015, and Dublin rent prices have been soaring since then. The last place my husband and I rented together was €1600 per month. We got lucky; similar one-bed apartments in the same area went for €2000 or more. Now. If you’re young and starting out, you might be okay sharing a place with strangers (or co-workers, but I do not recommend it). If, however, you want to rent on your own, have a look around daft.ie or similar rental websites to get a general feel of how much a place you’d like typically goes for. If you’re moving to Dublin for work, especially from abroad, have a think whether the salary you’ve been offered covers it. * If anyone’s wondering, the €24,000 salary was for a games translator position with Keywords Studios. A colleague who had a master’s in translations was offered €20,000. We were both working on League of Legends. In other news, Keywords Studios pays their translators shit money. Landlords are picky because they can be Housing discrimination was lowkey okay back in 2015-16. Was it illegal? Yes, very much so (see: Equal Status Acts). And yet, some Irish landlords refuse to rent to Romanians. I was told as much to my face once (in fairness, the letting agent placed the blame squarely on the landlord and seemed mortified by the whole thing; but still). I’ve also read about landlords discriminating against Polish and Brazilian nationals, as well as people who “look foreign”. Lots of studios are advertised for single occupancy (meaning no couples allowed). In practice, this means you’ll be competing against a horde of prospective tenants for a very limited supply, and there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get picked. However, you can improve your odds of renting a place if you: have references from previous landlordsbring a letter of reference from your employer, especially if it’s a well-known companyprove that you have enough money in your bank account to pay the deposit and rent for the first month on the spot And, speaking of paying the deposit and first-month rent: in 2019, some landlords had gotten brazen enough to charge two months’ rent as deposit, which meant an upfront expense of three times the monthly rent (for a typical Dublin place, that could easily go up to €3-4000). I’m not sure whether that’s changed since, but unless there was some manner of government deterrence from doing it, I doubt most landlords would have up and decided to be decent people on their own. Bow St. in Smithfield, Dublin. The Jameson Distillery is ahead and to the right. Some areas are much rougher than others One fine day in 2018, at a team lunch, it occurred to me that every person sitting at that table had been robbed or burgled at some point. One colleague spoke of how they’d been punched in the face and had their phone stolen while out on a stroll along the Liffey. My own place had been burgled two years before. A colleague who lived in one of the wealthier neighborhoods reminesced about the time they’d woken up to find a man creeping in through their window. Grim stuff, considering that colleague was all of 5’3 and as gentle as they come. Violence was a constant in many conversations I had with folks around me, regardless of wealth or gender. I lived in some places where it would be comon to see an assault happening in broad daylight. That, or someone injecting themselves with stuff, eyes vacant, pants down. One time, myself and two other colleagues found a man who’d overdosed sprawled on the corner of the Jameson Distillery and had to call the gardai to come get him. You’re not meant to be touching people in that state, one of my colleagues (who was Irish) cautioned me at the time, because they might turn on you. Having once seen a man try to brawl with a bus on the quays, I believed them. What does that mean for you, as someone who’s looking to move to Dublin from abroad? Do your research. Here’s one write-up that’s pretty good; I’m sure there are more. Head to Reddit and do a search on /r/Dublin or /r/Ireland for the neighborhood(s) you’re looking at. If there’s one place where people are raw and honest about sh*t they don’t like, that’ll be it. Of the places I’ve lived, I would recommend Leopardstown, Glencairn, and the greater Sandyford/Dundrum area. If you’re crazy rich, Donnybrook, Ballsbridge or the Docklands might interest you (these were way out of reach for a mere mortal like myself). I’d advise against Dun Laoghaire, as the last recession seems to have hit it pretty hard and I doubt COVID did it any favors (antisocial behavior was also a regular thing, feral kids especially; friends who worked at the local McDonald’s had Stories). I’d also caution against Smithfield, which is where the aforementioned drug-related incidents have taken place and is home to some pretty dodgy types overall (you might be fine if you live on the square, but things can get fairly grim as you move farther away). Again – just my own experience. YMMV, do your homework, etc. Owning a car is a luxury, not a necessity There are some cities where not having a car would put you at a disadvantage. I’m about as pro-car as it gets, but even I have to admit that Dublin is not one of those cities. If you’re able-bodied and live anywhere within city proper, public transport is generally decent. Is it expensive? Yes, rail services especially. Does it get stupid crowded at peak hours? Sure does. All in all, though, Dublin has one ofthe better public transport systems out of everywhere I’ve lived, and I’ve been around a fair bit. Any foreigner coming to Dublin and hoping to own a car will find themselves dealing with predatory motor insurance companies pretty much straight away. When I bought my first car in Ireland in 2018 – an unassuming Volkswagen Polo with a tiny engine, few bells and no whistles – I was quoted €4200 by an insurance broker who swore up and down that this was the cheapest I was going to get. Bear in mind, I’d had my license for close to a decade at that point, and had driven across Europe with 0 (zero) incidents. In the end, I was able to get insured for €2400 (AIB credit for the win). And here’s the kicker. Soon after, my car was damaged and I had to use my insurance. The excess was €300. When the time came to renew my policy, they wanted to penalize me another €300 for having made a claim in the past year. “Predatory” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Far less pleasant words come to mind. (In contrast, insuring the same car in the UK cost around £740 for the first year.) Insurance aside, there is, of course, the issue of parking (good luck finding a spot anywhere in or around city center), petrol (pricey), and the fact that most roads are so narrow, and so tight with parked cars and eejits who ride their bikes like they own the road, and you might be better off taking the bus until you can save enough to move to the suburbs. Another day on the quays… Healthcare is expensive, but it’s also top-notch In Dublin, I used to pay €60 for a visit to the GP. Healthcare in general was expensive, even with the decent insurance my workplace provided. That said, I also never had to wait for check-ups, let alone treatment. If I needed to see my GP, I could give the surgery a ring and she’d see me on the same day. When I needed preventive surgery, and I got it within two weeks of the concern first being raised. This is slightly off-topic, but medical services in the UK are gatekept by GPs who are overworked, underpaid, and (in my experience) tend to treat you like you don’t know what you’re talking about. I had to beg my GP on three separate occasions to refer me for an x-ray. In Dublin, I could (and I did) walk into a clinic, state what my problem was, and have an x-ray done on the spot. I’m not sure if that means my British GP is particularly obtuse or there’s some systemic power trip BS going on. All I know is that dealing with the NHS is more frustrating than Irish healthcare by an order of magnitude. Would I still move (back) to Dublin, knowing what I know today? Absolutely. Dublin is an amazing city and I spent some of the best years of my life there. It’s got everything, from career opportunities (even more so in the wake of Br*xit) to good craic, good food, and people who are, on the whole, much nicer than their neighbors across the Irish Sea. That said, I’d only move if the pay was good for Ireland (not in general). I’m getting a little too old to be paying off someone else’s second mortgage so. 🙂 Cover photo by Diogo Palhais on Unsplash. Other photos by me.