Ballina, Ireland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Ballina, Ireland

Ballina, Ireland 08/14/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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2. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Usually travel Aer Lingus, Chicago to Dublin - 3.5 hour drive to Dublin and 8 hour flight.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Moved to be closer to family. I am originally Irish, but left as a child and have been in the US ever since. Married an American and consider myself American.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Usual Irish row housing, lots of farmland and a growing number of nice detached bungalows - but VERY pricey for what you get at home!

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Quite pricey, but if you get your basics at Aldi and Lidl and then the more gourmet things at Tesco or Dunnes you can save a lot of money.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Mac and cheese, washer and dryer (You can get 220V ones in the US to bring), big fridge/freezer.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A good variety - the closest McDonald's is Castlebar, but can't say I miss it!

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards all have pin numbers instead of signatures - interest rates are higher than in the US, with a lot less benefit (i.e. no rental car insurance). ATMs are good, but won't let you make deposits or transfers, yet you can top up your phone!!!

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's English speaking.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sidewalks are bad. I have trouble with a stroller, can only imagine the difficulties of a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, very accessible.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Insurance is extremely hard to get if you bring an American car, and if you do get it, be prepared to pay a lot! It's also very hard to pass. Everyone I know who has done it seems to regret it!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Getting better I pay €9.99 a month for broadband.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The 3 network. They are new to the market and highly competetive.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

We use TalkTalk it's 3 cents a minute to the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Absolutely. Although the culture is a little nepotistic. People who are related to someone, or know someone in the company, have a much better chance of getting a job. It's a society dependent on who you know... you may find people very nosy, but in actuality they are probably trying to figure out who you know that they do.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is questionable. There was just a big MRSA scare. I am confident in the care here, but if I had a choice, even though it's free here, I think I would rather be sick in the States. The hygiene standard is pretty bad, even in doctors offices.

I had planned a home birth on my second child (first born in the US) because of the horror stories I'd heard about childbirth here), but it worked out that I had to go to the hospital and they were wonderful, had a completely intervention-free natural birth exactly as I had planned. I didn't like the pre-natal visits though. They have everyone come at the same time and then you wait wait wait to see some student doctor. Frankly I would much rather see a midwife, as they are better qualified and are probably the ones going to deliver the baby anyway!

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Moderate. around 50 F. all year, peaking or falling at times, but rainy, windy and pretty temperate. Think Seattle. You don't come to Ireland for the weather.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

None - not necessary language is English here and the education system/curriculum is rated second best in the world after coincidentaly Northern Ireland. The only thing some expats have trouble with is the requirement to learn the Irish language. Although if you went to France or Germany you probably wouldn't complain about said requirement.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Depends on the area. Best to check with the citizens advice bureau.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. Hard to find daycare for infants here and most daycares close in the summer. I decided to stay at home after the last baby, so it wasn't an issue, but Iwonder how working parents cope?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not big out west, but substantial in Dublin.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. You need to allow for culture shock to end, usually after a year before you can really be objective.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Pubs / Traditional music.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

YES/No - We have found that people here get married very late and only start having children in their late 30s, early 40s. As late twenty somethings with two kids, we don't really fit in anywhere. People our age are all single and have completely different priorities and the people with kids our age seem not to be interested in meeting us.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is farm country - Dublin or Cork or Galway would be much more tolerant.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Definitely. There seems to be animosity towards Eastern Europeans who are coming here to work menial jobs that Irish folk won't do. Yet instead of looking at how their presence has boosted the economy, there seems to a mentality that they are stealing Irish jobs! Black and Arab people are few and far between here in Ballina, but you do see some Indian and Asian people around. I would say the problem is more ignorance than prejudice.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Historic sights, fishing (deep sea and river), Street Festival in July, Pubs, Traditional music, local unspoiled beaches, surfing, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Musical instruments, woollen items? I'm not too into all that!

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9. Can you save money?

The cost of living is much higher here, but there are some tempting schemes to help you save.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe... I'm not 100% sold, but having just been home to the States I was saddened by the pace of life and the rushing around and the commercialism of the place, and that is the true difference out west here. I would not recommend Dublin to anyone; it's too expensive, dangerous and not friendly at all.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Summer clothes as another poster said!

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3. But don't forget your:

Anything electronic that will convert to 220V, as it's much cheaper than buying here.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


The Quiet Man

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Some of the posters have only lived for a year or less in Ireland and I really don't think you can judge in such a short timeframe. I lived in Belgium for five years and hated it for a year or so, but once I got over the initial culture shock, I didn't want to leave. So read things with a grain of salt. I feel that I am not completely positive or negative, but have highlighted the pros and cons of living here. I would definitely recommend coming to the West of Ireland if you plan on moving out here. The pace of life is incredible, the standard of living much higher than Dublin, cost of living much lower and the people so incredibly friendly and welcoming, not to mention the sheer beauty of the area.

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