Irish Times Abroad newsletter: How we spot our fellow Irish abroad before they even open their mouths

We would like to hear from people who have returned to Ireland or are planning the move

Welcome to the September Abroad newsletter of The Irish Times. This month, Molly Furey writes about her move abroad to Amsterdam and how during work she tries to spot other Irish people walking into the cafe. “Every shift, I serve at least one Irish customer,” she says, “and [I] attempt to identify them before they open their mouth”. The exclamation of “you’re Irish” from a stranger makes you a recognisable face in an instant. For Molly, these everyday experiences chime with Dylan Moran’s description of Irish people, they “look like they’re just about to pull a ham sandwich out of their pocket, and it doesn’t actually belong to them”.

Laura Kennedy reminds us of the adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, in her piece about moving to London and then to Australia. “Irishness is something that happens when you leave. It is the lens through which other people see you once you’re gone from home,” she writes. Laura is one of the many thousands who have chosen to emigrate and because “returning home to Ireland didn’t feel like a viable option”. 68 per cent of people aged between 25-29 in Ireland still live at home, according to Eurostat, something that Laura sees as a reason that “people are leaving Ireland to obtain the basic elements of a dignified and independent life”.

At the same time, data released by the CSO shows the highest immigration figures since the Celtic Tiger, pushing the State population to almost 5.3 million. We would like to hear from those who have lived abroad and recently returned to live in Ireland. Or Irish people who are seriously considering moving back. The big question is: Why? What are the reasons and motivations behind the move home? Share your views through the form in this article and some of the submissions may be published, and/or a reporter may be in contact for more information.

Working abroad has become a popular option for an increasing number of people in recent years. Peter McGuire looks at the different options for people if they are considering working abroad and what should be their primary concern when deciding to make the big move. “Visas, jobs and work permits, finding accommodation, adjusting to a new country and culture, figuring out a different language and getting a bank account are all part of what’s involved in starting afresh,” he says.


Conor Wilde’s story captures the benefits of working abroad as he talks about leaving Ireland and moving to Spain to set up an estate agency, Found Valencia. The agency sells about €20 million worth of high-end residential property a year. “When I came here first, all of my friends were Spanish and there was no internet,” Conor says, so seeing an Irish football jersey was a reminder of home.

London Correspondent Mark Paul spoke to author Morag Prunty about Irish identity in Britain. He writes: “everything about Prunty is Irish, apart from her accent and place of birth”. She said: “I was brought up in London as an Irish person. I never felt English, but there is always this slight remove from other Irish people”. She spoke about a kind of “mockery” that people in her position face.

Paul Bennett writes about emigrating to England in the 1970s. “Having left school in Dublin in June, 1973, with insufficient points in my Leaving Certificate to get into university, I decided to move to England for two years to study A levels with a view to going back to Dublin,” Paul writes. A journey that started 50 years ago, Paul describes life in England as a culture shock “but also as an adventure”.

Kate Ashe-Leonard writes about what began as a sabbatical that has now turned into a way of life. For Kate, she intended on going on a three-year break to sail around the world with her partner but after five years they’re still going. The introduction of work from home because of the pandemic allowed Kate and her partner to get freelance work while continuing their travels.

Sally Teehan, a 92-year-old woman from Borrisokane, brings us through her life’s adventures when she left her hometown and travelled to London. “I was born in Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, and in those days the furthest you were ever likely to go was to Nenagh,” she says. After leaving Borrisokane, “I loved London immediately. I met my first husband, a Pakistani law student, and we had two children.” Sally wanted to travel farther though and in 1972 decided to move to Pakistan. Now living just outside Islamabad, Sally talks about her memories in Pakistan: “In 1981, my husband was posted to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, so we packed up and moved. It was an interesting few years, and I am glad of the experience, but I was delighted when it was time to return to Pakistan.”