Is the Grass Greener in Ireland? A Croatian Expat View After 5 Years Abroad

Total Croatia News

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October 26, 2019 – With so many Croats in Ireland, and many more making the move, is the grass really greener? Some Croatian reflections as a 5-year anniversary in Ireland approaches. 

Croatia’s entry to the EU back in 2013 brought many changes to the country, one of which was easier access to job opportunities in other EU countries. With initial UK restrictions on jobs for Croatians, many Croats headed to the only other English-speaking EU country, Ireland. A trickle turned to a wave, and the Emerald Isle has seen thousands of Croatia move to Ireland in the last few years. 

Among them is occasional TCN contributor Lidija Ivanek SiLa, who has been writing for us since 2016. As her 5 years in Ireland approaches, I asked her what it was like for Croatians moving there, and was the grass really greener. Some great responses, honestly pointing out the positives and negatives, which will hopefully prove useful one way or the other for those contemplating the move. 

1. Firstly, tell us about your own Irish journey. How long have you been there and why did you move?

It is almost five years that we live in Ireland. Me and my husband moved to Ireland on Valentine’s day 2015. How romantic, you would think, right? Little did I know that this is a time of the worst storms in Ireland. Did I mention, we drove all the way from Croatia to Ireland and were taking a ferry from Wales to Ireland? So, crossing the Irish Sea in the middle of the night with waves up to 10 meters, not for the faint-hearted.

Why did we move? Job, plain and simple. Well, my husband is in a sought-after business, the holy grail – IT. When he posted his CV online, headhunters spotted him and interviews start coming. But, before all that, there was a decision to move out of Croatia. You have to know that I was born in Zagreb and the type of person who thought would never move out of Croatia, one who fought for and believed in Croatia, while my husband was born in Germany and spent his early childhood years there. He was more inclined to move.

In the end, our decision was based on the situation around us, falling economy in the country, inability to live a normal life and the general feeling of depression and all-in-all negative attitudes. To work in Croatia you have to be tough, everything is more complicated and people are disheartened and lose courage. That and a few more things were the reasons to move. When the decision was made, the wheels started rolling. A job that was interesting to my husband was offered to him and he accepted it. We even managed to rent the house in Ireland while still in Croatia.

Why Ireland in particular? My hubby already had a colleague in Cork who was telling him that this is the best place to be if you are in IT. There are plenty of IT companies and they are constantly on the lookout for new talent. So we moved to County Cork and we are living in Kinsale, a small town at the beginning of the majestic Wild Atlantic Way.

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2. Cast your mind back – what were your expectations back then and have they been realised?

We didn’t have any grand expectations. It was more of an adventure. We had hopes that it will be better than the one we were leaving behind. It was the idea that if we don’t do something now, soon it would be too late as we are not in our prime years anymore. I would say, we did get more than expected. My husband advanced in his work. He is respected at work. I am an artist, I can work and create anywhere in the world. But even for me it is more “normal” to be artist here than in Croatia. In Croatia there is a general feeling that what you have studied is what defines you. It is almost impossible to change your profession multiple times in life and not be considered odd. I was a doctor of veterinary medicine once, but not anymore. I am an artist, printmaker, painter, digital artist, photographer, and writer now. But that doesn’t define me. That attitude is more normal in Ireland than in Croatia. If you are happy, and can make a living from what you do, it’s ok. That’s Ireland.

3. What was better about moving to Ireland, and what was worse?

Life is here less stressful than in Croatia. We are not bombarded with political news every single day. If you only read Croatian newspapers it seems that every day in Croatia some terrible and horrifying news is happening. In a way it looks like the media didn’t move far from war journalism and is constantly hungry for drama. We don’t have that feeling in Ireland at all. The only drama we have here is when we have Atlantic storms and people freak out about the shortage of bread in the supermarkets, lol.

We’ve met a lot of wonderful, inspiring people and they are from all over the world. The experience of different cultures in one place was a bit frightening at first, but then it became one of the best things here. The Irish tax system is a blessing after you have experienced the Croatian one. It is just easier to work. If the Inland Revenue owes you tax at the end of the year, they will return it immediately. In Croatia you need to beg, wait, and hope to get your money back.

That was all good, but here comes the bad stuff. Of course there is bad in Ireland too.

The Health system is a disaster. Really, no kidding. Expensive and not effective like it was in Croatia. Roads here are mainly for rally drivers. Narrow streets, potholes and the worst of all are the drivers. I mean Irish (not all of course) are in general poor drivers.

If you want to go on a vacation outside Ireland, you have to fly, but yes, flights to a lot of popular summer destinations are inexpensive. Sadly Croatia is not one of them.And last, but not least – the housing crisis. There are not enough apartments & houses for all people wanting to live here. Prices are on the rise. Rents are horrendous.

Buildings are poorly built. Insulations are often non-existent. I mentioned the weather a bit before. Well, my hubby is fine with the cold, damp, windy weather. I am not that keen on that. Winters for me are the hardest, when we have one storm after another and often can’t see the blue sky for weeks. But then when it is sunny, then it is really nice and beautiful and you would never consider living anywhere else.

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4. How has your view of Croatia changed with your new viewpoint from abroad?

Oh dear, that is a tough one. We are trying to visit Croatia twice every year and I can see that some things did change, but not a lot. Depending on what area we have visited, we heard different stories. We moved with the idea to return to Croatia eventually. We still plan to return, I just don’t know when. While so many experts moved out, soon it will be a perfect time to come back. Companies will be forced to rethink their behaviour and offer better deals. That’s a bitter joke circling around. The sad truth is, they’ll probably hire cheap, and less educated people just to fill the spots.

5. Let’s look at the huge influx of young Croatians coming to Ireland in the last few years. Without reverting to stereotypes, how would you categorise them? What kinds of people are coming?

I mean, what is a huge influx of young? The truth is all age groups arrived in Ireland in the recent 4 years. When we arrived in Kinsale, there was only one Croatian woman here before us. Now I don’t know them anymore. It is that many. They are coming from all professions, with different plans and ideas. Some are coming only during the tourist season and work in the hospitality business. Some are coming and staying, getting married here, buying houses, having kids. I hate categorising people. How can you categorize different life stories? They are all people with hopes, plans, ideas, coming here to improve their own life, the best way they can.

6. For those thinking of making the move, tell us about the process. How easy is it to find work, a place to stay, a support network?

These days it is more difficult to start a new life in Ireland. Brexit just worsened an already difficult housing situation. A lot of people have moved from the UK to Ireland in recent months. The Government’s “most optimistic statement” on the housing crisis reveals that the problem will get worse at least until 2022, Focus Ireland has said. If they still want to move, the best way to do so would be to have someone here already, so they can stay with them till they find their own place. About jobs, to the best of my knowledge there are still open positions in IT, the pharmaceutical sector, the always needy hospitality sector, and nursing homes.

7. Finding a job may be easy, but how about a job to match the qualifications of the new arrivals?

As in any country, there is a demand for certain qualifications while others not so much. If you are willing to work, it doesn’t matter that much here that you are not holding a certain certificate or diploma. Speaking the language is a must. I did hear about some people washing dishes in restaurants without speaking any word of English, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Croatians still hold a respectable title here, which is that of a hard-working and positive people. How ironic, knowing that at home the same people weren’t treated with that kind of respect.

8. Weighing up everything, do you think the grass is greener in Ireland?

We didn’t regret our move. For us it was the best thing that we could do in the given moment. The Republic of Ireland is not a paradise on Earth. It is a society with very colourful people, a place of optimism and growth, but still in constant change like the weather.

You can read more from Lidija Ivanek SiLa via her TCN profile.

Have you emigrated from Croatia in the last few years and interested in sharing your experiences, good and bad? Contact us at [email protected], subject title Greener Grass. 


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