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Dublin: 13°C Friday 30 July 2021

Column: Here’s what you REALLY need to know before emigrating…

Pack a hood, forget the hairdryer and bring more money than you think – recent emigrant Claire O’Keeffe on what anyone following in her footsteps should know.

Claire O'Keeffe

BEFORE I LEFT Ireland to work in Toronto, Canada last November, many wise words of advice were given to me from all the treasured people in my life.

“Don’t marry any foreigners Claire” and “Just grab the experience and then come home” and “Don’t eat yellow snow” and “Take every opportunity and run with it”.

All these kind words and many more, were comforting and great for calming those erratic nerves before embarking on a new and unfamiliar phase of life – but I wish someone told me to bring a coat with a hood.

There are so many fresh and interesting adventures to discover as an emigrant, and there are so many ways to prepare for them before leaving the homeland, so, with a little help from some Irish people working abroad, brace yourself for some necessary and practical advice.

When you arrive, you will be exhausted.

You will be absorbing an entire new way of life in warp-speed time-frame and it is nearly essential to accustom yourself with your country of destination as much as possible before you leave Ireland.

With technology, this is easily done. Use online converters to understand the specific currency and orientate yourself with programs like Google Maps and Street view. It’s also useful to keep in mind that many properties for rent in the US and Canada come unfurnished, so know where to find good furniture and deals.

Natasha Looney (27), “a proud Kerry gal, from Listowel” and now living in Toronto, Canada suggests, “Do your research, and make Google Maps and Craigslist your friend.”

‘Bring more money than you think you’ll need’

Do you know anyone who is already living in the place you intend to settle? Talk to them about the area, the lifestyle and their interpretation of that country’s people. If you don’t know someone, have a look at country-specific internet discussion forums on Facebook, boards.ie or IrishAlien.com and post any questions you may have there.

Research the best-suited accommodation and location for you. Most importantly, research and book the hostel that you’ll be staying in for the first few days or weeks, and make sure it that allows for a low budget, exploration of the area and friend-making.

Julian Fogarty (26) from Swords, Dublin and living in Sylvan, Alberta in Canada says, “Research what job opportunities are available in your field and where. Don’t head out to the oil sands in Alberta if you’re an accountant and the same if you want to be a roughneck on the rigs.  Don’t just blindly head to a city and say ‘I’ll take it from there’.”

You will experience the effects of living in a different environment.

The water in your country of destination may be very hard or very soft and harsh on Celtic hair.

To avoid a brittle frizz-mop bring a hair masque and moisturising hair products with you – because cosmetics are an expense you can do without after the move.

The air could be quite dry too and your skin will either become oily or flaky, so make sure to take a good moisturiser with you.

Also, pack your good clothes and sturdy underpants. At the beginning, it’s important to look the part while trying to find the right job and investing in new clothes is not ideal for a rarely-credited bank account.

Or as emigrant, Lorna Bertles (27) from Cobh Co Cork, advises, “Bring more money than you think you need [to] bring.”

The electrical current is weaker in many countries than it is at home so bringing Irish-bought items like a laptop, hair-dryer or hair-straightening iron will test your patience.

They will have to be constantly plugged in and not as powerful as they would be in Ireland.

Either buy your electrical items in your chosen country, or invest in a current converter.

Upon your arrival, watch the locals and see what they do. Copy them and you can’t go wrong – and when in doubt, follow the crowd.

‘You won’t be as exotic as you think’

You won’t be as exotic as you think. As you have been reading in much of the media, Irish people are emigrating a mile a minute to Australia, Canada, America and England. You will hear an Irish accent on every block and in every industry so order to find the appropriate employment in your field, you must distinguish yourself from the rest.

Emigrant Terri Rattigan (32) from Ballivor, Co Meath recommends, “Network network network . It’s not what you know it’s who you know.”

The charm and the accent will only get you so far so be willing to step out of your comfort zone and socialise with people you would like to work with, who are within the industry you would like to work.

If you are travelling to a country that has distinct seasons, it helps to arrive at a season when it’s possible to comfortably go outside.

But if you do arrive during extreme conditions, do purchase the relevant survival-items – a coat,  neck-warmers, ski-masks, long-johns, snow boots or sun cream, mosquito nets and repellant and breathable clothing – in that country because the people who have long-endured those conditions know how to best tolerate them.

Cathy Murphy is the director of the newly launched Irish Canadian Immigration Centre in Toronto.

“Have a plan,” she advises.

“Know your long-term plan and have an emigration strategy that goes beyond where you live and where you work.”

Meanwhile Ger Gilmore (28) offers advice that someone offered him before he left his native Dromcollogher, Co Limerick over two years ago. He says, “Keep an open mind and try everything once.”

Claire O’Keeffe is working in Toronto, Canada. She writes a blog at Cocklenuggets.

About the author:

Claire O'Keeffe

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