by Lori Alexander

Lori Alexander is an American mother of two living in Dublin Ireland. She is full time freelance writer, and can be contacted through or

When my husband’s old family cottage on the Irish Sea became vacant, he suggested an odyssey that was to forever alter our destiny. In December, after one excited glance at websites covering the Irish coast, I became hooked on the idea of raising our children in his ancestral village. By the following September, we were living in Ireland.

Compared to travelers looking for independent adventure in a foreign country, we were fortunate. His family and a home awaited our arrival. My In-laws were prepared to help with the Irish-side leg work. Still, we bore the brunt of every moving headache, worry and expense.

I turned to the internet. I studied the Irish Tourist Board’s website to began familiarizing myself with modern-day Ireland. I relied on the Irish online news to get a feel for the social and political climate. I was fascinated by the Letters to the Editor.

Marriage to an Irish national secured my eligibility to live and work in Ireland without fuss. I could choose between a renewable five year visa or Irish citizenship, downloaded all the necessary paperwork, and waited for the bureaucratic wheels to grind forward.

Friends and family were consulted on major and minor subjects alike. Raised within the staunch concept of separation of Church and State, I wanted to know how much religious instruction the boys would receive in school. Could we bring our car? What about crime and cost of living? How cold would it really get in the winter? One well traveled Irishman, presently a Londoner, reassured me that while the island was suffering growing pains, he knew of no other place he’d rather call home.

When I needed hard facts to clarify the organizational differences between American and Irish society, I turned to Oasis, Social, Community and Family Affairs, and Irish Revenue. A realistic impression of what I could expect from my new life as an Irish citizen began to take shape.

Equally interested in a subjective perspectives and the obscure, I checked with expats and grilled Americans posting on internet message boards. I’d already learned a transformer would safely power some of my appliances, but could I get screw-in light bulbs for my American lamps? What did they retrospectively wish they’d shipped? Were American and Irish vaccination schedules compatible?

By March, moving children, pets, and household contents to a foreign country had became a full time effort.

Move to Ireland and Oasis provided clear solutions in plain English to problems I hadn’t considered. Both offered information and contact numbers covering everything from adapters to residency requirements.

We discovered that Irish schools can have long waiting lists, and at worst as few as four or five student openings a year. Oasis provides an excellent general overview of the educational system.

Our preparations weren’t without moments of humor. Locating a school for my eldest, I emailed a request for registration information, and received a brusque reply. The school was full. After contacting their suggested alternative, I secured a place for my son. When I informed my mother-in-law that I had my kindergartner’s enrollment well in hand, and mentioned the school’s name, she burst out laughing. I had unknowingly entered him in a school that taught all lessons in the Irish language.

My mother in law found a National School, and soon the headmistress and I were emailing particulars back and forth, and pen-palling with my son’s new classmates.

Leaving my old cat and dog in California wasn’t an option, despite the outrageously expensive, heart wrenching six month quarantine. I tracked down the import license application and the requirements, and my mother in law inspected Lissenhall, the sole quarantine facility in the country, in an attempt to calm my fears . With a minimum six month waiting list, we hadn’t a moment to lose, and shelled out the hefty deposit.

British Airway’s cargo manager worked with me personally, and most importantly, gained my trust. Although the hold was climate controlled, she suggested we skip tranquilizing our pets. She found medicated animals had a harder time maintaining their body temperature. She advised placing a frozen bottle of water above their water dispensers, to maintain a small, continuous drinking supply that would thwart turbulence. During their six hour layover in London, BA cleaned and fed them, and allowed me to call and check their progress.

I agonized over what to ship, and spent a month of weekend mornings making donations, selling cars, and conducting garage sales. I choose packers locally, using word of mouth. Our boxes disappeared on the back of a moving truck, and we lived out of suitcases for eight weeks. I was able to download every conceivable import form from Emerald Movers, and arrive at the Port of Dublin’s Customs and Excise fully prepared.

With the move imminent, and our excitement and trepidation mounting, few details remained.

I chose Aer Lingus on the basis of an immediate San Francisco-Los Angelas transfer followed by an
uninterrupted eleven hour flight directly to Dublin International. I found cheaper flights, but their departure times and lay overs didn’t suit flying with small children. Tickets in hand, I stocked up on Highland’s Teething Tablets for my ten month old’s inevitably cranky moments. I reserved the bulkhead, which included extra space and a portable baby bed, and prepared to say my good byes.

On September the 8th, we boarded our uneventful flight to Dublin. Our pets were already safely installed Lissenhall, and our worldly goods were steaming across the Atlantic. Our belongings arrived on schedule, cleared customs without a hitch, and our children began adjusting to our new home. The following February, our beloved pets came through quarantine and are now safely home with us. Eighteen months later, we're certain we left no detail forgotten.

While marital status simplified my move to Ireland, citizenship to any EU country provides the same status. Ireland offers a variety of visa, citizenship and work permit schemes.

Move to Ireland
Employment Opportunities
Irish Embassy
US State Department

Social, Community and Family Affairs
Irish Revenue
Irish Schools Online
Irish Tourist Board
Local News and Weather

Cargo Import Forms
Pet Quarantine Info
Quarantine Forms
Lori Alexander