As someone who has spent Christmas both in Ireland and here in Canada since moving to Montreal in 2016, I can say that it is the one time of year that I truly feel somewhat conflicted about my decision to set up base so far from home. This year I will not be returning home to Ireland for Christmas and know that despite the fun I will have here, I will be missing out on some pretty special moments at home. However, one thing that I won’t miss is the perennial question that many Irish emigrants often face when they return for Christmas: “Any plans of moving home for good?”
Just to be clear, my family aren’t desperately seeking my return to the Emerald Isle. Sure, they might miss me a little but they are happy that I feel at home here in Canada and appreciate the chance to visit a city that most have never been to before. Truth be told, some are probably relieved that they now only have to see me once or twice a year!
Moreover, I’m also not saying that I will never return home, I don’t want to right now but who knows what could happen in the future – after all, Ireland has got so much going for it at the moment. I just feel that when you return home for Christmas, especially if you’ve been living abroad for a few years, then you really need to think about what your plans are for the coming years as this question will inevitably come up.
Having left Ireland relatively recently, I have seen friends emigrate, return and some even emigrate again. I also have friends in Ireland who never left, and others who departed, never came back and probably never will. With Christmas approaching, I started thinking about life in Ireland, the pros and cons of a move back home, and what life might look like for me if I decided to do so in 2020.
On the ‘pro’ side of the ledger, there are numerous entries. Proximity to family and friends you’ve had all your life, being able to speak as fast you want without fear of incomprehension, and proper fish and chips are all top-tier perks. While there may be others, these are some of the non-negotiable benefits! But what about the other side of things? What, if any, are the issues currently deterring Irish emigrants like me from returning home to Ireland in 2020? One that’s close to the top of my list is accommodation, or lack thereof.
I was recently struck by a report from InterNations which ranked Dublin as the worst city globally for expats to move to in 2020 when it came to housing. It should be noted that this report focused specifically on newcomers to Ireland but there is little doubt that accommodation is also an acute issue faced by Irish emigrants moving back to Dublin.
More than 20,000 people living and working abroad took part in the survey. A total of 86 percent of people surveyed from abroad living in Dublin said they found it difficult to get housing, compared to an average of 32 percent globally. These figures are stark and having spoken to a lot of friends both here in Canada as well as in the UK, US and Australia, worries about being able to find suitable accommodation are close to the top of their ‘con’ list when it comes to moving home.
After digging a little deeper into the report, I was both happy and somewhat relieved to see that Montreal placed 5th in both the 2019 Expat City Rankings and Best Cities for Housing categories. Montreal, although not perfect, is quite unique among North American cities given its relative affordable rental market – a major selling point for newcomers like me. I am pretty certain that the opportunity to live independently, in a good location and for a relatively affordable monthly rent is not something that I would be able to do in Dublin at present.
I know some people reading this will argue that Dublin isn’t Ireland, and that’s very true. It’s probably even more relevant today as remote working becomes increasingly popular. Others will say that although things are bad in Dublin, they’re not that bad and again, maybe this is true. All that said, the issues I would face if I were to return home and live in Dublin in 2020 are minuscule compared to those faced by the thousands of families who are currently classed as homeless in Dublin this Christmas. Perhaps the real question we should be asking ourselves this Christmas is, “How long can this situation be allowed to continue?”
I know that housing is a complex issue with political, social, and economic factors to consider, but surely more can be done, especially as there is a general election looming early in 2020. Ireland has so much to gain from the arrival of newcomers and returning emigrants in 2020, and Ireland has a lot to offer those who wish to make the country their home too. Let’s hope that progress can be made on this issue in the next 12 months.