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Living Abroad in Ireland


© Steenie Harvey, from Living Abroad in Ireland, 1st Edition. Used by permission of Avalon Travel. All rights reserved.

Living Abroad in Ireland

Wrapped in a soft green cloak of ancient memories, Ireland is one of the most beautiful and fascinating small countries in the world. Cast adrift in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Britain, this jewel of an island has become one of Europe's most desirable addresses for those wishing to swap the stresses of city life for old-fashioned rural bliss.

Whether you hope to rent or buy a property, it's easy to acquire residency here. The renowned Irish welcome has never depended on the size of a person's bank balance. Maybe your idea of heaven is a little whitewashed cottage, maybe it's a thatched farmhouse, or maybe even an ivy-clad Georgian mansion. A pretty bungalow with ocean views? A centuries-old castle? A city apartment? Somewhere in Ireland you'll find your dream home waiting.

But why does Ireland exert such a pull on the imagination? What makes it so special? After all, anywhere that goes by the name of “the Emerald Isle” certainly didn't get all its lush green meadows through having cloudless blue skies and unlimited sunshine. It has to be said that we can't boast of having the world's most glorious weather.

But constant sunshine isn't everything—most expatriates are enticed here for many of the same reasons vacationers are. Ireland lures expats and visitors alike with its unique amalgam of storybook scenery coupled with space, safe streets, and a far more gentle way of life. Along with an absorbing tangle of history, it also offers colorful festivals and curious traditions. What's more, its vibrant culture of music, dance, and poetry remains wonderfully intact and accessible to everybody. The country is so proud of its literary and cultural heritage that resident writers, artists, and musicians are allowed generous tax breaks. Here you're never considered too young or too old to learn to play the fiddle, take up painting, or write a masterpiece.

In our polluted world, the notion of a clean, green environment is hard to resist. Europe's industrial revolution hardly touched provincial Ireland. Between the bright lights of Dublin and the Atlantic's fossil shores, much of the country remains pleasingly rural, a pastoral haven of small farmsteads, quiet lanes, and rolling pasturelands. Particularly in the wilder reaches of the west, old-fashioned ways stubbornly survive with many communities clinging like limpets to the patterns of the seasons that departed from neighboring European countries generations ago.

Tradition is part and parcel of everyday life, not a tourist sideshow laid on by the heritage industry. Turf, the brown slabs of winter fuel, is still hand-cut from the bogs in many parts of Connemara. Some fishermen continue to put to sea in currachs, fragile hidebound rowing boats that have been used since Celtic times. Visit a horse fair such as Ballinasloe and you'll see deals conducted in old-fashioned style—with spits, handshakes, and the return of “luck money.”

Yet the great paradox is that Ireland is also part of the new Europe, a modern country with good hospitals and top-class restaurants. Its capital, Dublin, is no stuffy museum-piece city but a place where you'll find cybercafés and a club scene as well as all that renowned Georgian architecture, traditional theater, and legendary pub crawls. And if you enjoy outdoor pursuits, there's plenty to keep you busy. The enviable array of activities includes sailing, hill walking, fishing, and riding to hounds (foxhunting), not to mention more than 350 superb golf courses. And although many of you may take a dim view of blasting our furry and feathered friends to kingdom come, shooting is also a tremendously popular country pursuit. Sunday afternoons are a favorite time for gun clubs to go rough shooting, something that remains an almost exclusively male activity. Even under deluge conditions, members of the unfairer sex will happily slosh their way through bog and ditch, potting whatever small game or wildfowl they and their gundogs can flush out: partridge, snipe, teal, rabbits, and so on.

Most Irish people enjoy good living standards and the economy is in great shape, combining steady growth with low inflation. Rather than laboring in smokestack industries, many of the country's young and highly educated workforce are employed in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and computers. Your new Irish neighbors are just as likely to be working at the cutting edge of technology as tending sheep and cattle.

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