Catherine in Kerry: "Ireland is a great place to live if you love horses!"

  • Catherine in Kerry
Published 3 years ago
Catherine, US expat, moved to Ireland 22 years back, after working as an "au pair" in Germany. Later on, she settled in Kerry with her husband, a Kerry-man, and their two sons...


Back in 1992, I left my home of Medford, Oregon to be an au pair in Germany. After my assignment ended, I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to work as an au pair for 6 months, with the idea to return to the states after that. It certainly didn't ...

Where are you from, Catherine, and what are you doing nowadays?

Back in 1992, I left my job as a data entry supervisor in Southern Oregon to become an "au pair" in Germany. After my year there, I decided to go to Dublin as an "au pair". My plan was to stay for 6 months and then return to the States, but it didn't quite work out that way! Long story short, I married a Kerry-man. We have two children and we live in on a farm in Co. Kerry. For the most part, I've been a stay at home mom.

Why did you choose to move to Ireland?

It's funny. When I first came to Ireland, I really didn't know much about the country, and I had only intended to stay for a few months. The attraction at the time was my now husband. After living here for a while, I came to appreciate the easy going pace of life and the beautiful scenery.

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

At that time, I was able to work as an "au pair" for 6 months, and this was arranged by the agency through which I had got my job. I had to present myself to the "Alien's" office to obtain permission to stay. Even after I got married to an Irish citizen, I still had to present myself to the local immigration officer every few years to get my passport stamped. I have since become a citizen, and hold dual citizenship.

How long have you been in the country?

I'm here for almost 22 years! I have two sons, one who is 18 years old and off to university in the autumn, and a 15 years old who enjoys playing soccer.

What has attracted you to Kerry?

My husband grew up in Kerry. When we lived in Dublin, we would spend most week-ends in Kerry. Before we got married, we purchased a farm neighboring the farm where he grew up. In my opinion, Kerry is the most beautiful county in Ireland.

Are you currently working?

I am not working for the moment, but now that my children are nearly grown, I am very eager to get back out into the workforce. However, it is very difficult to find anything due to the current economic climate, and our location. There is not much employment in Kerry, unless it is seasonal work related to tourism.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there?

When we lived in Dublin, we shared house with a few other people who were all from different parts of Ireland. We were just fortunate when our house came onto the market.

How do you find the Irish lifestyle?

I find that here, in the rural part of Ireland, people are very much attached to the land, and communities are very tight. This can be both good and bad. However, I think it's great that everyone knows their neighbors, and if you ever need help with anything, they are happy to do so.

Over the years, have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

Yes and no. There are some things that I do like, such as the slower pace of life, and I believe my children are getting a very good education here. Sometimes, living in a small, rural, village is not easy. Even after all these years, I'm still considered a "blow-in". I have found it really helps to get involved in clubs and societies in order to meet people who share the same interests. But I think you could apply that to any new place you move to.

What does your every day life look like in Kerry?

I believe my every day life is much of what it would look like in the States. I'm up early in the morning getting the kids off to school, doing the "mom's taxi" run to soccer training and after school projects, doing the grocery shopping, etc. We have three horses which I look after, and sometimes you might find me out standing in the road while we herd sheep into a new field. In the in between time I do some writing. I try to keep busy and stay social with my friends because when one lives in the wilds of Kerry, it's very important to get out and not become too isolated.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I arrived in July and I found it very cold for the middle of the summer. The surprising thing was that people kept telling me it was "sweltering"! There I'd be in a big heavy sweatshirt and shivering, and they were fanning themselves. I've since then been acclimated and am "sweltering" with them in the summer. I will, however, always find clothes which are blowing in wind and rain while on the clothesline a true oddity!

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

Oh, where do I start? There have been so many. One thing that makes me laugh, is when tourist season approaches. The moment I open my mouth in a shop, they ask me if I'm enjoying my holiday! It's been a very long vacation.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Kerry? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

Ireland can be an expensive place to live. Food and clothing compared to other EU countries is quite high as is electricity, petrol, and heating fuels. Also, since the economic downturn, it is not easy to find employment. Living out in the country, one has to be prepared to drive long distances for very simple items. Also one must consider the lack of a dependable ambulance service if one is needed.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

Ireland is a great place to live if you love horses! For a long time, I was involved with a local riding club and I participated in different events such as dressage and an equine sport called "trec". Now, I have retired myself of riding due to back problems, but still have horses. I enjoy painting, writing, and anything crafty. This is also a wonderful place to be for hill walking. I always say, on a sunny day Kerry is pure Utopia.

What are the differences between life in Kerry and in the US?

I find that some people's beliefs can be a bit old fashioned. They are a little bit behind when it comes to women issues, such as equal pay. I have never once seen a woman on a road construction crew, like you would in the US. I noticed that in school, when students are starting to get career advice, they really push nursing and teaching towards the girls and engineering towards the boys. They are at last beginning to address this issue.

Do you miss your home country?

I miss Oregon, and I miss my family immensely, but I do go home to the States every summer. My children have no living grand-parents in Ireland, so I think it's very important for them to have lots of time with their Grand-mother in Oregon.

Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

Research is one thing, but it can never fully prepare a person for actually living here. I would suggest living here on a temporary basis first, since there are so many things a person has to experience to understand it. Also, for a retired American citizen, remember the exchange rate can fluctuate. I know of retirees who were really hurt by the recession.

What are your plans for the future?

I would eventually like to return to the U.S., but for now I would like to see my children through their education. My friends predict that if I return to the States, I will yearn for Ireland! They may be right.

3 years ago

Catherine - what an interesting , informative & factual feedback .As a native of Kerry,although currently residing away from the County, I would fully concur with your broad comments.I think that you are spot on with your observations & no doubt your feedback should prove very valuable to others who are contemplating making a move to settle in Ireland.Best of luck for the future.!

3 years ago

I have yet to meet a woman working in a trade Paul. As far as football is many times has Kerry brought home Sam??? Cheers!

Paul tk
Paul tk
3 years ago

Interesting what you had to say. Not sure that I would agree with all of what you said .For example woman have been working in the trades for a long tome now. But either way I respect your opinion and hope you have a long and fruitful stay in Kerry One thing though you need a good football team to support Cheers from Saudi

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