Why I don’t recommend Ireland when asked
I have been living in Ireland for the past three years, and when asked about what I think of Ireland, and more specifically when people ask me for my perspective to factor in their decision to move to Ireland or not, I usually don’t recommend Ireland, and here I will explain why.
For anyone who lives here, the slow and carelessness of the bureaucractic system is a familiar fact.
Visa and Immigration
The immigration office has a 1.8 review on Google Maps, which I completely understand, here are some personal experiences dealing with this office:
When I came here first in 2019, I was given a short-term visa that had to be replaced by an Irish Residence Permit (lasting for a single year only). I couldn’t believe the process: There was a website from the government which you would have to keep refreshing at certain times of the day, with the hopes that appointment slots would show up as you refreshed page, and you had to use those buttons, fill out the form as fast as possible to get an appointment. I believe this system has changed since, but it was mostly pushed by COVID to make the change.
The fact that I have to renew my residence permit every year, going through a process that takes at least 2-3 months at a time, is itself extremely painful. When I want to apply for visas to other countries, the expiry date of my residence permit has an important influence over their decision, and as such this is not merely an inconvenience but a very limiting factor. It usually means the last few months of the residence permit and while conducting the process to renew it, I am unable to travel.
When I and two couple friends of mine were applying to get our Stamp 4 visas last year, every single one of us encountered a problem in our process, “mistakes” you might call them, but the frequency of such mistakes is annoying: For me, they gave me a Stamp 4 visa for one year, which is supposed to be two years in duration. They of course did not answer emails or phone calls, so I had to show up to the office and drill the mind of the guard standing in front of the building to let me get my IRP and passport to someone inside to resolve this issue. He accepted (which was nice of him), but when he came back, he only came back with my passport and said “You are right, this was a mistake, we will send you another IRP soon”. “Okay, where is my current IRP?”, and to my astonishment, they had thrown it in the bin, that left me with no residence permit until the new one arrives. This was while I had an appointment at Spain BLS to get a schengen visa, which required me to bring my IRP… I insisted and insisted but they didn’t give me back my current IRP until the new one arrives. To me this is just ignorance about the problems caused for people who depend on their residence permit. My two other couple friends also had similar issues and had to chase the office down to be re-issued correct residence permits.
I started working here on a Critical Skills Work Permit with a company, and I realised the company’s culture at the time was toxic (later the product manager who was creating this atmosphere was fired), and I wanted to change my company, but I was surprised to learn that the Critical Skills Work Permit does not allow you to leave your job before a year, and if you do, you are not eligible for another work permit before the year ends. I felt like a slave that one year.
The process to get a driving license in Ireland is probably the most horrific process I have had to go through ever. Here is the painful journey:
To get a driver license class exemption because I had a driver license in my own country, I had to send my passport, my residence permit and my original driver license with a translation to the NDLS office by post. If it’s not clear, that means I am literally left with no identity document whatsoever. If I am stopped by a Gardai and asked to bring identification documents, I will be unable to provide anything. That’s part of the problem, once they had processed my application (which took months), they sent me back my passport and IRP, but not my original driver license. Of course, they had lost or or forgotten or some other “mistake”. I call them, and chase it down and they say “don’t worry we will send it to you and you should have it next week”. Next week and I don’t get anything, I call them again and they say “Oh no, we had not sent it, but I will make sure it is sent this time.”, I hang up, and again, a week later nothing. I call them again, this time I am not hanging up until it is done. To put it into perspective, each one of those calls took more than 50 minutes because I had to wait behind a queue for about 40 minutes, and put on hold for long times as they were investigating what happened.
After the months-long process of getting the exemption from 12 classes down to 6 classes for having a foreign license, I start looking for instructors to do the classes with and then try to do the test. All instructors are busy and you are lucky if you can get classes in weeks, sometimes they accept students for the next 2-3 months.
Once you do finish your classes, then you can get on the waiting list for a driving test, and that easily takes 8 weeks or more, and once you do get an invitation to book your test, you don’t get to book a test for tomorrow, sometimes there are only slots available for the next few weeks, which puts the actual time from class to test to a range of 8 - 10 weeks.
I think of the Irish driving license process as essentially nepotistic: the system is built on the assumption that people have families with cars, and a lot of time on their hand to practice with the learner driver. If you do not qualify for these conditions, you are bound to have a very expensive, very long and very frustrating process ahead.
You are expected to practice with a driver who has held a license for 2 years sitting beside you (that’s the only legal way to drive on a learner permit), however this is not available to people who do not have a family here (i.e. people who have just moved to the country). This leaves them with the option of hiring a driving instructor, which can cost you at least €35, and given how long it may take you to get comfortable with their car, this can get very costly fast. It is not only the matter of money either, driving instructors are busy, and it means they are not even available to give you a class a lot of the times. I personally was turned down by many instructors because they were too busy.
To hire the instructor’s car for the test is usually more costly, in my case it cost €60 to hire their car, that’s on top of the test price itself which is €85, that means if you want to do a one-hour pre-test, hire the instructor’s car and pay the test, it will cost you around €180 per test!
I wish everyone good luck on their test, because if you fail the test for any reason, you will not be given a re-test for another 6 - 8 weeks at best, and again, you won’t be able to book immediately, and have to arrange with an instructor to see when they are free to lend you their car, etc. etc. All of this means the time between tests can easily grow to 10 weeks.
All in all, if you want a driving license in Ireland, set aside at least a year or more, and a lot of patience and capacity for frustrations.
When I talk about lack of diversity, it’s not only about ethnic groups, but it also includes a lack of diversity in art communities, sport communities, and other communities and areas that benefit from a diversity of population.
According to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, In 2016, Ireland had 82.2% White Irish residents, followed by 9.5% other White backgrounds (91.7% total White), 1.7% non-Chinese Asian and 1.5% other backgrounds (source).
It is different walking in London and Dublin, in London I, as a brown-skinned middle eastern, do not feel I am standing out among the crowd, but in Dublin, and more so outside of Dublin in rest of Ireland, I do.
My main sport for the past 7 years or so has been parkour, a sport that you can find active communities for in every city in Iran, but in Ireland there is a tiny community with no strong facilities (I know of many parkour-specific gyms and parks in Iran). My only option was to use a gymnastic gym’s adult class and just do my own training there using the equipment, which has since been closed and at the moment there is little opportunity for me to train since the small community in Dublin trains during work hours and weekdays. I’m not alone in this though, and I know in general other than specific favourite sports of Ireland, most other sports have tiny or nonexistant community among adults (children have much more facilities for sports, but apparently somehow people drop sports as they reach adulthood here).
I decided to learn piano during COVID, so I bought a piano and started learning the basics on my own, but now that I would like to attend a sort of class or have an in-person teacher in a music academy, there are not many adult in-person classes with slots available. I have emailed and called different centres but was not able to get in-person classes.
This also applies to work opportunities, as much as Dublin may be hyped as a tech hub, I find the work opportunity scene in Dublin to be very limited. Yes, large companies do have offices in Dublin, but there is not a strong startup culture here, and so you are limited to the Big Tech corps, and the small and far-in-between startups.
Ireland is an island of course, and more importantly, it is not part of the Schengen area, so if you do not have a passport that allows you to travel in Schengen area, you need to be chasing visas from Schengen countries to travel in Europe. You also will have to count these days that you travel in Europe and Schengen area as days that may be redacted from your reckonable residence when applying for citizenship, which is in contrast to Schengen countries that do not track days spent in the Schengen area.
One might say getting a Schengen visa is not hard, but I lost a ticket to Iceland I had booked, because embassies and visa offices simply did not have the capacity to issue visas at certain points, and even though I tried to get my visa months before my travel, I was not able to find an appointment to get my visa on time. That’s money lost, but more importantly, a chance to see the active Icelandic volcanos, due to visa issues.
Just too much alcohol, if like me, you do not particularly enjoy alcohol drinking sessions, you will find it hard to socialise sometimes. Everyone’s default activity is going to a pub to drink beer.
I remember when I was in Iran, when we wanted to arrange to go out for a night, it was not for beer, it was for going to a cafe and playing boardgames, or going to the mountain side of Tehran and sitting at the top of the hill and chatting and having tea, or going to an Escape Room, or visiting a gallery or a museum or a theatre, or even gathering in someone’s home and cooking together and watching a movie or a comedy show or something.
These things are not impossible in Ireland, but they are definitely not the default, the default is always the pub, and alcohol. To use numbers, Ireland has the 6th highest alcohol consumption in the world.
I know, I know, racism is everywhere, and in Ireland too. I’ve had racist encounters with the Gardai, I’ve had racist encounters with my neighbours who found my appearance intimidating and had an old lady living in my apartment scream twice at the sight of me walking in the apartment halls. I’ve heard many horror stories of racism in Ireland, and although some Irish people will tell you “Ireland is not racist!”, it absolutely is. I don’t know how it compares to other countries, and I don’t think that’s a good argument, but you will experience racism here, specially if you are not white (being white does not make you immune though!).
When I first came to Ireland I opened a bank account with bank A (I won’t name the bank lest the unreasonable system of law here allows them to sue me for this), and this bank, after a couple of months, sent me a mail in post which said that they are closing my account in 30 days, and I must move my money before then. No explanation was provided, when I called them, emailed them, and in the end, had to go to the branch to ask them in-person why are they closing my account, the branch manager told me “I don’t know”, and I said I need you to ask the reason and clarify it for me. He came back to me days later in email saying “we cannot disclose the reason for closing your bank account”. I was already suspicious since the beginning that this all had to do with my nationality, and by this point I was convinced that is the case. At the time I was very new to the country and didn’t know my rights and my way around the system, I might have been able to sue them for discrimination, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that wouldn’t work either.
I always find it hard to believe how Ireland is considered a “developed” country, perhaps I don’t understand what is meant with that word, but I expect a developed country to have good infrastructure and for systems to work well.
The public transport system in Ireland is very limited and not reliable. That means a bus not showing up will happen at some point during your time here (not very common), a bus being late will definitely happen (very common). The weak public transport system, together with the fact that getting a driving license and a car is so hard, makes mobility a problem. Bicycles are also not as common as some other European countries (looking at you, Netherlands!) and some drivers have no respect for cyclists and think of them as an enemy (quite literally). I know of many people who don’t cycle in Dublin out of fear of car drivers, and I understand it, even though I don’t share the fear myself.
The housing crisis is an ongoing issue in Ireland for a long time, and again, it is intertwined with lack of public transport and ease of mobility. If you want to move out of Dublin to spread out the population, you need a way for people to be able to move around, but public transport outside Dublin is nonexistant in many places, and getting a license is hard and time-consuming, so you are stuck in Dublin with ridiculous rents.
The public health system is just as broken. One time when I took my girlfriend at the time to a public hospital for an emergency, we had to pay €100 “admittance fee”, and after that it took them quite some time to get her a scan and a doctor to look at the scan, after which she was told to wait outside “until called”, when she asked people sitting around her, they mentioned that they had been waiting for 7 hours until now, in the emergency room, waiting for the next step.
The coach in the gymnastic gym that I used to go to to train parkour, had a knee injury, and for the whole 6 months I went to the gym, he was still in queue waiting for a surgery from public hospital. In Iran, my friend who had a shoulder injury got a surgery at a public hospital in a couple of weeks.