Rachel in Belfast: "Everyone is just looking to have a little bit of fun to brighten up a rainy day"

Expat interviews
  • Rachel in Belfast
Published on 2014-10-23 at 00:00 by Expat.com team
It has been a few months now since Rachel, New Zealand expat, moved to Belfast with her brother and her fiancé. She enjoys her leisure time by making trips around the city and blogging.

So where are you from Rachel and what are you doing nowadays?

I'm Rachel, a New Zealander living in Ireland. I'm living in Belfast now, so Northern Ireland. But over the last two years I have lived in a couple of towns and cities around the Emerald Isle.

Why did you choose to expatriate to Ireland?

Well, at first I was bored of my life in New Zealand. A lot of people find that strange because New Zealand is such a beautiful, adventurous kind of place. Ultimately, it doesn't matter where you're stuck in a horrible job, personal life going down the plug hole - you just want out. So I decided to take a break and get a working holiday visa for Ireland. Within three months and with only a small wad of Euros in my pocket, I was setting up life in the small, rural town of Killarney. The Dublin part came six months later.

What were the procedures to follow for a New Zealander national to move there?

This was reasonably simple. If you're a New Zealand citizen and under 25 you can apply for the Working Holiday Program. If approved, you get a working holiday authorisation and that will allow you to live and work in Ireland for 12 months.

How long have you been in the country?

Well, my initial 12 months is well over. I left Ireland in February 2013 and ended up in the Philippines for over a year. I moved back to Ireland in mid-2014. After a month or so in Dublin staying with my in-laws-to-be, I moved up to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I now live there with my youngest brother and my fiancé.

What attracted you there?

It was a bit of a random shot for me. I knew a bit of the history, a bit about the culture, but I didn't move to Ireland because it was my dream homeland. Once I arrived, I fell in love with the country and that's what brought me back. It's a beautiful place to live with friendly people. Although the temperatures may plummet, there is always a warm pub to sit in, next to the fire, with a pint of something.

In which field are you working?

I've worked in tourism and am now in the motor industry. I can't tell you too much about the labour market here, though. My visa options have always been on a more personal level. I now hold a UK Ancestry visa with open work rights, which I earned through my 100 years old Grandmother!

Was it difficult to find accommodation there?

When I first arrived, I spent a week touring the country and staying in hostels. Fortunately, my first job was a live-in role in a hostel. These are pretty easy to come by all over Ireland and are a good place to stay while you're looking for work and private accommodation.

In Belfast, I rent a two-bedroom house in the Queen's University area. The rental process is fairly straight forward and real estate agents are very used to dealing with foreigners.

How do you find the Irish lifestyle?

I love being able to walk down to a local pub and meet my friends. The social life here is amazing. When we're not enjoying the "craic" (fun or good times), there is plenty of Irish countryside to enjoy. Particularly in County Kerry, the people are so lovely and helpful. Everyone is just looking to have a little bit of fun to brighten up a rainy day.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

This was not a challenge for me at all. Ireland and New Zealand are very similar in almost every way. It was just like being at home, only with different accents.

What does your every day life look like?

It's pretty much the same as anywhere. On an average day I will go to work in the morning, arriving home in the early afternoon. My commute is really short and I am normally able to walk to and from work. Ireland is reasonably easy to get around by bus and train, so we rarely drive unless we want to go somewhere on our own terms.

In the afternoons, I hang out with my brother and try to get to one of his rugby games. I also spend time planning blogs, reading and cooking. Then, I do it all again the next day!

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I was pretty well prepared for this trip. There weren't any real surprises or difficulties like one can often have when moving to foreign countries. I had more surprises in the Philippines, where the shear number of people can be quite overwhelming at times, but that's another story!

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Belfast?

When you're coming to Europe from New Zealand, you are always going to lose money. The weak New Zealand dollar doesn't go far, but once you start earning local money life gets a lot easier. In terms of living costs, Belfast and Killarney were much cheaper than my home town of Auckland. Rent in Belfast is half the cost of London, for example, and in Killarney you can buy fruits and veges straight from the farm.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

There's plenty to do here as long as you're not afraid to get outside rain or shine. I like to take short trips around the city, looking for blog post ideas.

What are the differences between life in Ireland and the other countries you have visited?

The Republic of Ireland is just a very pleasant place. I mentioned earlier about people being all too happy to help you out or just have a laugh. It's really easy going. It's that atmosphere and personality that sets it apart from anywhere else I've visited. Belfast can also be very abrupt and unfriendly. But the Republic of Ireland is a very different place entirely.

Would like to give any advice to future expatriates?

If you want to try out living overseas, you should take advantage of the Working Holiday Scheme as a young person. So many countries have those schemes now - you can go almost anywhere. Also, if you have the money or the time, don't hesitate to visit your dream country first on holiday. It will give you a good feeling for the place and let you know if you really want to commit to living there permanently.

What are your plans for the future?

My partner and I are getting married next year, so we'll be in Belfast until then. We'd like to return to Killarney someday.

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