Why I Appreciate What Ireland Has To Offer More Now Than Ever
Coming up on 16 years ago, Lief and I arrived on the Emerald Isle with our little family and our business expecting to plug into the kind of infrastructure we were used to back in the States. That didn’t happen because the kind of infrastructure that we take for granted in the States (to do with transportation, telecommunications, banking, credit, etc.) doesn’t exist in Ireland. Trying to run a business in this country, we felt like we were continually banging our heads against a collective Irish stone wall. Finally, frustrated and confused, we had to admit that we weren’t going to change how the Irish lived and did business. We’d have to go along, and we did. Begrudgingly.
Now, years later, I find myself increasingly homesick for this country. With age and time, my perspective has shifted.
One day, after we’d been living in Waterford for maybe three years, a couple of readers stopped by our office. They were Indians, in the country to investigate the possibilities for relocating their software company from India to Ireland. Did I have any advice for them, they wanted to know. The couple represented the contradiction of the day. The Celtic Tiger was roaring loud, attracting investors (like us) from far and wide, entrepreneurs and businesspeople looking for opportunity, but we were all misguided. Ireland was holding out great opportunity, but not of the kind we were in the market for at the time, and that young Indian couple was confused when I warned them away. “Don’t come to Ireland to run a business,” I told them. “You’ll be driven mad.”
I’d stand by that advice today, but I’d add that that advice misses the point. We lived in this country during the apex of the Celtic Tiger, which generated great amounts of wealth, more money than this island had ever known. As a result, the Irish then, like us, were distracted from was right in front of them. They were busy covering their ancient green land with suburban track homes, shopping malls, and fast-food franchises. We watched as pubs were replaced by nightclubs and as car dealerships eventually kept Saturday business hours and banks finally remained open through lunch. Ireland wanted so badly to compete on the global business stage. In that regard, it failed completely.
But now, when I think of our time in Waterford, the things that come to mind have nothing to do with business. I remember the owner of the corner shop across the street from our office and how he and his wife sent us a small gift when Jack was born and inquired after both Jack and his big sister Kaitlin every time we saw them. I remember the cabinet-maker who helped to restore our big old Georgian house to its original glories, shutter by shutter, wood plank by wood plank. I think of the castles and the gardens we explored on weekends. I think of the few times we braved the beaches at Tramore, sitting on the sand in sweaters, shivering and shaking our heads, while, out in the cold Irish Sea, the Irish swam and surfed. I think of cows blocking the roads and of sheep dotting the green fields. These are the pictures of Ireland I carry with me now.
By the time we left, Ireland had gotten very expensive. Today the cost of living is far more affordable and the property market is on par, more or less, with where it stood when we arrived more than a decade-and-a-half ago. As a result, this country makes more sense as a place to think about living and investing than it has in a long time.
The surest bets for real estate purchase are the tourist trails—the Ring of Kerry, the southwest coast, Galway, and Dublin. Pay attention to proximity to amenities that are important to you—the ocean, a nearby airport so you can hop around Europe, or a town so you can walk where you want to go rather than driving (remember they drive on the left).