Coming Home? Reverse Culture Shock for Returning Irish

If you’ve been gone a few months, returning to Ireland won’t be such a shock. Students returning from a year abroad or people who have finished a one-year work contract overseas will probably experience a few hiccups slotting back into their social circles. Loved ones will have welcomed new babies, changed jobs, moved house, gotten married and the like. But for those who have been abroad for years, coming home to Ireland can be difficult. That’s especially true for those who haven’t been able to return for regular visits.

Most returning Irish come back home to be near family and to raise their children here. About ten percent of returning Irish surveyed in 2017 said they were coming home because their permission to be in the other country expired. The USA is cracking down on undocumented immigrants, and the general climate for all immigrants there is changing. Everyone’s personal experience is different of course, but many Irish people in the USA are considering whether or not this is the time to return to Ireland. And those who do return will experience some degree of re-entry shock. They will have some reverse culture shock, and the longer they have been away, the more severe it will be.


Tips for Returning to Ireland

Living abroad changes you. But the hard part is that everything back home also changes while you are away. Obviously, the degree depends on how long you were away. Those returning after less than five years won’t find as much change as those who left in the 1970s and ‘80s and now want to retire at home.  A couple of weeks visiting every two or three years doesn’t really prepare you for the shock of returning.  Those visits are holidays, and you don’t have to navigate the huge annoyances such as car insurance or finding rental accommodation that are proving hardest for returning Irish. But you can take a few steps that will help.

  • Gather all documentation of your driving record and contact details for your car insurance before you leave the country where you’ve been living. Many returning Irish have been very unhappy with the offers they’ve received for car insurance as some insurers were not willing to consider their driving record overseas. Shop around and have solid documentation of your driving record to hand.
  • Start looking at housing listings online before you arrive. Do not expect to find reasonably priced accommodation in Dublin or other cities. Mentally prepare yourself to commute. If you are moving home to be near family, don’t assume you can find a good rental near them. Instead look at areas that are convenient to them but further from the city.
  • No, Irish public transport has not improved massively since you left. It has improved a bit, but chances are your expectations are higher after living abroad.
  • Research the situation with your specific career beyond job opportunities. Have you acquired new qualifications? Expect a lot of red tape and expense in getting them recognized here. Do you have your own specialized tools and equipment? Check to see what tariff you’ll pay to bring them home. (And of course make sure you send them with a shipping company that will take excellent care of them in transit!)
  • If you are returning with children, remember you will need to get them tax ID numbers, apply for child benefit, and find school places for them. All of this will can like more hassle than you expect.

One thing about returning is the same as settling into a new place: it is tiring. Pace yourself when you return. You will face a lot of demands to get yourself re-established in Ireland, and it will be tiring. Make sure to get plenty of rest and eat well. Be good to yourself, and you’ll be at your best navigating all of the emotional and logistic challenges of returning to Ireland after living abroad.


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