‘I’m surprised Irish people are still smiling given how expensive it is here’
New to the Parish: French national Clément Imbert and his Russian wife Yulia love life in Ireland but say high tax, expensive housing and childcare costs will drive them away
Yulia and Clément Imbert: ‘Here is so different, people are very welcoming and kind’. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Despite not knowing where to find Cork on a map and having heard bad things about the weather, the couple decided to make the jump.
For Clément, this was a valuable opportunity to change career paths after his time as a journalist in France had left him burned out.
He had not taken any holidays during his three years as a sport reporter for RTL, formerly known as Radio Luxemburg, a national broadcaster in France.
“Journalism is not really a stable career, I wanted to get a normal life and I thought IT was a good choice.
“I had lots of very good moments (as a journalist), but I just felt this is not what I want for my whole life, especially not for my family.”
“I did very big things when I was a journalist and that’s why I don’t regret it, it was a good experience.
“I could do that for another 20 years, but I wanted to buy a house and to be honest the wages, even for national radio with four million daily listeners, were not even that good.
“I needed to do something else. IT is a Monday to Friday job and it is interesting too.”
Clément now works as an engineer for a cyber security firm in Cork, a job which he says bears many similarities to journalism.
“Digital forensics and cyber criminality have a similar approach as journalism because you have to investigate. You try to find out what people are doing, what group they are part of.
“It has lots of similarities to journalism,” says Clément.
‘You are welcome’. That was the very first thing I ever heard in Ireland
Having already studied business and journalism at third level in France, Clément was reluctant to go back to college and start all over again.
Ireland, however, gave him an opportunity to change career without having to retrain, something which he says would have been very difficult to do in France.
“I reached my goal of moving from journalism to IT without any diploma. I just learned by myself, in the evening, always practising,” he says.
One of the main differences he found was the attitude of the Irish people to foreigners.
“The first thing the taxi man said to me when I was leaving the airport was ‘You are welcome’. “That was the very first thing I ever heard in Ireland, which really surprised me,” says Clément.
“French people tend to be not very welcoming with foreigners, we treat them with suspicion, like they are taking jobs off the French people. Here is so different, people are very welcoming and kind.”
Yulia, who is originally from Russia but had been living with Clément in France, agrees with her husband on that point.
“For the first time in my life I actually felt like I was welcome,” Yulia says of her arrival to Ireland. “When I was living in France, even though I speak the language and I know the culture very well, there was still some sort of invisible wall between me and the French people.
Why is childcare so expensive in Ireland? It is the most expensive thing I have ever seen in my life
“They are very closed society and you need to spend multiple years to enter their company, which was strange for me”.
Yulia is originally from Tobolks, the historic capital of Siberia, and despite their minus-25 degree winters, she says the climate there is easier to handle than ours.
“You get used to it [in Russia]. It is a very dry climate, unlike Ireland which is humid. I never managed to put my hair normally here. It is impossible to curl it or straighten it, it’s so humid.
“In Russia it is cold but it is dry. You can put multiple layers of clothes on and it’s fine. Here, you can wear more clothes but you’re still not fine.
“The humidity feels like it’s going straight into your bones,” says Yulia, who works in the same cybersecurity firm as Clément in Co Cork.
I’m shocked how bad the quality of some of the apartments to rent are
Although they have enjoyed the many advantages of living in Ireland, such as the “fantastic” food and parties, she thinks the high tax and expensive housing and childcare will drive them away.
“Why is childcare so expensive in Ireland? It is the most expensive thing I have ever seen in my life.
“I’m shocked how bad the quality of some of the apartments to rent here are; for a developed country like Ireland, I was so surprised.
“The price of the cars and the cost of insurance is so expensive. I’m surprised that with all of this Irish people are still smiling,” laughs Yulia.
The reality of rising house prices, crippling childcare costs and little State help means Clément and Yulia will likely move back to France next year to settle down.
“When you sum up the big decisions like buying a house, getting a car, having children, here it is too expensive.
“It is much better to raise children in France because you are really backed up by the government. You get medical insurance, retirement and other benefits – like unemployment money.
“Here, I was surprised that the tax is quite high but you get nothing in return. It is a bit depressing.
“Even a year ago I thought I could stay here, but when you sum up all the benefits, I know it won’t be perfect in France but you have to check your priorities,” says Yulia.
Despite the high cost of living, the pair say they will find it hard to say goodbye to Ireland.
“I know when we will leave we will miss many, many, many things. It was a fantastic experience,” says Yulia.
That said, I’m sure the sunshine and affordable childcare will help ease their transition home.
Sorcha Pollak is on leave