Expand your social circle in Ireland

Hello everyone,

Moving to Ireland means leaving one's family and friends behind. Creating a circle of friends or joining an existing one should therefore be paramount in order to fight loneliness in your host country.

But how can one develop a social network in Ireland? Where and how to meet people there?

How easy is it to meet locals? What about cultural specificities?

Share your advice and experience!

Many thanks in advance,


It really depends on where you move to and what culture/race you are coming from. 

If you move to small cities like Galway, and if you come from a big city, it might be a reverse culture shock. 

Irish folks are generally very friendly, but it is from my personal experience, very difficult to get into a local Irish group or community, unless you know someone in there already.  They are a very close-knit community.

It took one of my friends who lived in Galway for 5 years, to only get to know 5 people well.  And he is a very outgoing American Irish.    So go figure...

Although my husband grew up in the Parrish where we live,  I found it very hard to meet people, and the first couple of years were very lonely indeed.  After my children were born, I started meeting other women at the local toddler group, but being that it is a very small community here, I always felt I was kept at "arms length". It was very frustrating and I felt very excluded at times.  I met one of my best friends in the school yard one day (she is also a "blow in") and another one at work. From there my circle of friends began to grow.  It has taken years, but I am really thankful to have these ladies as my friends.  Every one of us are from somewhere else!

Another thing that is helpful in meeting people, is to keep active and join groups in what ever interests you.  As I have horses, I joined the riding club and have gotten to know a lot of people from around the country. I am also active in the local walking club.  It isn't easy if you are living in a small place as people are very tight knit, and it certainly doesn't happen over night, but stay busy, take a class, and just get out there!

I think I'm lucky because I came from New England, home of God's Frozen People. You had to have lived in a town for at least five generations before you were considered a sort of native, so I'm used to being From Away (New England term) or a blow in (the Irish equivalent. It really doesn't bother me. Perhaps I have the same level of boundaries as most Irish.

My family here has been most welcoming, but they're on the other side of the country so we don't see them all that much. We chose not to live in the same area so I guess we're not ones for too much chumminess. I do hear over and over from people that "the Irish are warm and friendly, but they don't welcome you into their inner circle." I'm thinking that's a lot like northern New England, actually. It's totally up to you to fit in and no, you'll always be From Away. I'm not sure why that doesn't bother me, keep thinking it should. But it hasn't so far.

If one is used to living a "hermit" lifestyle, seclusion not being an issue, then the life in Ireland is not going to be a problem.
I don' t think there is a right or wrong to enjoying not having to have deeper relations with your neighbours or people you meet in your daily life.

this is a personal choice thing.

But if you are the type that likes to get to know people you meet , better and form friendship bonds, then Ireland will be a challenge. 
And you are right, Boston and overall new england, is the same.  I lived out there for a year, and to think of it, it does resemble Ireland life quite a bit.  Never liked it.  Just my personal perspective, there is so much to miss out on, when you are not able to or choose not to form friendship bonds with people you meet in life.  I can't imagine how one can choose to live a "hermit secluded" lifestyle and be happy about it...  Again ... just my own personal perspective.

Why thank you, Mav. I do know New England is not everyone's cup of tea. I also know that if you need someone to have your back you can't find a better people. But of course that isn't terribly obvious until/unless you've experienced it.

When we moved to Ireland we lived in the mountains 12 miles from the nearest town. We only left that place because of the onset of winter, with rising damp turning our clothes to seaweed.

Some friends of ours visited from the US and mentioned something about how "isolated" we were. I was stunned. Not once had we ever felt isolated. You couldn't see our neighbours from the house, but we knew they were there. And they knew we were there. We didn't meet one of them until two days before we moved, but I always knew I could count on him if we needed anything. And he made it clear he knew who we were and that we were welcome. Country people are kind of the same everywhere.

I cherish my US network of friends, which stretches back for decades, some for over 50 years. Happily, we're able to maintain the threads of our relationships via Skype calls (mostly non-video because none of us like it all that much), e-mail and letters.

When I move to a place I tend to shop in the same small town stores so I get to know people quite quickly. I did that when I lived in Boston and Dublin (40 years ago) and when we moved here to southeastern Ireland. The farmers' market is a major social outlet for me and most of our friends here own small shops or are neighbours who sell at the market.

Moving from the rural part of the county to a suburban housing estate has been the biggest culture shock and adjustment of all. It far outweighs the move from New England to Ireland. But it's warm and dry and that goes far.

Your observations totally put things into place for me. Thank you so very much. You've managed to explain not only Ireland but New England for me. I've heard people criticize New England and its people before, but never had anyone bother to *explain* it. You make perfect sense to me.

Vive la difference!

Wow, Cullin.  Well written response.   

I apologize if I came across as "beating" up on life in New England and also in Ireland.  Like I said, it's a matter of perspective and people's expectations when it comes to settling down in a place.

For me, The somewhat "isolatory" lifestyle of New England and Ireland, is not my cup of tea.   It does not mean it's not for someone else either. 

and yes, indeed, over the 1 year I lived in Boston area, we had made a few lifelong friendships.  And those friends were some of the most helpful and compassionate people I have met.  But that does not mean life in Boston area, especially the suburbs is exciting or engaging either.  My family is used to a more community socializing lifestyle, where we would have barbecues, pot-luck lunches and dinners, karaoke get togethers... all in the spirit of bonding with folks and getting to know them better.
Here in Vancouver, pot-lucks, weekend barbecues within the community, picnic outings with neighbours, is quite the norm. 

You mentioned about how a house can be located such that you probably need a binoculars to see the next nearest house...  yup, that's kind of how we felt when we lived in the suburbs in boston.  Definitely quite the opposite to life in Vancouver, Canada. 

It could be a cultural thing as well.  Some cultures tend to like the more "isolatory" lifestyle, while others, like the asian cultures, love to gather for a meal and we appreciate how a hearty meal can bring closeness and fellowship amongst people.

When people in a place don't gather together or seem to prefer a more isolatory lifestyle, it does not mean they are "bad" people or "uncompassionate"...   I never meant that... 

I was simply stating that, if one was looking for a more community engaging lifestyle, neighbours meet for meals etc... then Ireland may not be quite the place for it...  A place you call home, is one where you find you fit right into the existing lifestyle...

Ireland can be one of the most homely place on earth, if "anne of green gables" lifestyle is what makes you tick... 

Again, just my humble personal perspective...

Oh gosh, I must have sounded insulted. But I wasn't. Quite the opposite. Believe me, I've had to listen to people trash New Englanders--while I was sitting right in the room with them--and that sounds quite different from your helpful explanation. You've explained the differences beautifully.

My sweetie and I were talking about the points you brought up. We both realized that in our families, his of Irish extraction and mine helmed by Irish natives, no one ever socialized outside of the family. I lived in an Irish-Italian neighbourhood in Boston until I was seven. It was definitely a community but no one ever had backyard barbeques, dinner parties, etc. All socializing was family only. I'm realizing that's a lot of why I've been unable to understand what people immigrating to Ireland are missing. It's simply never been part of my background.

So, yes, it is a cultural thing. It's partly a country-city-suburb thing. There is a tight social network in both city and country, but in the country it's often invisible. I've always found it harder to find in the suburbs but that may be due to the fact I've rarely lived there or perhaps not long enough.

My sweetie and I went to a lovely wedding in eastern Europe about ten years ago. In that country being alone seemed to mean having only one or two people with you. It was a very different experience, one that made me realize my experience of privacy really isn't the norm for many people. 

I don't function well without a coherent social network, but an invisible network works best for me. I love to socialize but really need great swatches of solitude.

How lucky we both are to find places to live that meet our needs for community. I've never been to Vancouver, but I sure do love Canada, seriously considered moving there but citizenship would have been an issue there for me. Plus they'd need to heat the place. There's that. {;>)

Thanks, Cullin, for your clarification. 

Yeah, I just wanted to point out that people who is looking for a very vibrant, highly socializing community lifestyle, pot-luck lunches/dinners, parties... then ireland is not going to be your cup of tea.

But if you like going to a pub for a guinness stout, a beer, and have some pub fun,... then you will find the people there to be very inviting to the conversation... but it will all be very superficial, as they don't really let you get any closer in friendship unless you have known them for years or decades...

Having lived there for 2 years, I do appreciate the simple (albeit boring) lifestyle , whenever I think back on those times... For me, it would be a great place to visit for a week, and simply get away from the typical hustle bustle lifestyle... just watch the sheep lazing around in the fields can be really relaxing...   ;)

I was also realizing today that none of the Italians in our Irish-Italian Boston neighbourhood socialized outside of their families either. The women--mostly cousins-would get together during the day to play double solitaire at times. (They'd invite my Irish mother once in a while, to lose the grocery money. They used to bet a whopping ten dollars a game in the early 1950s.) But there were never any sort of social events between families, even within the immigrant groups. Most of the Irish and Italians there were first or second generation at that time.

My ex was from southern US. We lived up in the mountains near the Canadian border, home of some very stoic people, known for their reticence (think Calvin Coolidge). He came home from getting a loaf of bread one day and was upset because the store owner hadn't asked him how he was, how I was, etc., etc. He just sold him a loaf of bread and moved on to the next customer (there were two that day!)

I was totally bewildered. "But isn't that what you went in for, a loaf of bread?" I was puzzled by the expectation of or even the desire for conversation as he was carrying out a task.

He explained that in North Carolina the shop owner would chat you up for several minutes, asking about kith and kin. That sort of thing would drive me crazy. I'm just there to buy a loaf of bread, I really don't want to chat. I already knew how Ed was, how his wife was, how his cows were doing and he knew the same about me. If anything bad happened to either of us the other one would hear about it very quickly through the ever active grapevine. And would totally be there, in an above-and-beyond fashion. No one stands in your corner like those folks.

The social life you describe of low social interaction punctuated by sessiuns at the pub (or the weekly trip to the farmers' market) is exactly how we live. And we love it. It's totally nice to now know why and to know we're not likely to wake up one day feeling unhappy about it because it's what we've had all our lives without noticing.

Thank you for this understanding. I really never realized how similar the social expectations are in Ireland and New England. Good thing I didn't move to some happenin' place! I'd be totally overwhelmed.

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