American Expat Living in Ireland - Interview with Bill and Shari Burke

Published: 21 Jul at 10 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Ireland
Shari is an anthropologist and essayist who is interested in the intersection of culture and everyday life in her observations and writing. She also creates things with yarn. Bill is an anthropologist and a photographer with a keen eye who notices things most other people overlook. He also enjoys walking and hiking. Bill and Shari Burke's expat blog is called Somewhere in Ireland (see listing here)

Main Street
Main Street

Here's the interview with Bill and Shari Burke...

Where are you originally from?
Bill grew up in the United States in the state of Massachusetts, Shari also grew up in the United States living in Illinois and New Hampshire. They met in New Hampshire, got married, moved to Portland, Oregon where they lived for 8 years. Then they moved to Fairbanks, Alaska while both of them attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After living there for 9 years, they then moved to Southern Oregon for 5 years. Headed east after that and spent the winter of 2009 living in Niagara Falls. 2010 brought them to Brunswick, Maine when they resided for 4 years until they moved to Ireland in 2014.

In which country and city are you living now?
Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland

How long have you lived in Ireland and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived there since April 2014 and plan to stay a year. After our year lease is completed we plan to live in either the Ennis area in County Clare or somewhere up north in County Donegal.

The Bower's Walk
The Bower's Walk
Why did you move to Ireland and what do you do?
We moved here to experience a different culture. Shari is a fiber artist who also likes to write. She a;so writes a food blog about simple cooking on a budget. Bill is a freelance photographer who walks/hikes and takes photos of things he likes.

Did you bring family with you?

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
In some ways it has been fascinating and other ways it has been frustrating, mainly due to a lack of information. On a few occasions we were given the wrong information but eventually we found out where and what we had to do.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Being in a rural area there is not a great opportunity to socialize. The people with whom we do interact, like our neighbors and people who we see on the streets in our neighborhood, are all very friendly.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Walking to different places around town. There are maps of trails you can walk around in Ballinrobe. Ruins are a common sight in the area.

What do you enjoy most about living in Ireland?
The peace you experience when walking/hiking, the sounds of birds and livestock. Different is good. We are glad to be able to live without a vehicle. The transportation options are good--even in this rural town there is good bus service to other places, including regular and convenient bus service to Galway. From there we can catch a bus to anywhere in the country.

How does the cost of living in Ireland compare to home?
Overall, things are much cheaper than in Maine, the last place we lived in the United States. We pay less rent for a nicer flat. Food is cheaper as well.

The Ballinrobe Priory
The Ballinrobe Priory
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Ireland?
There seems to be a litter problem. There is a group of people who volunteer for Tidy Towns and they do a wonderful job of cleaning areas around town that are problematic. They also stress the importance of taking pride in the environment.
Living in a rural area without a vehicle is sometimes a challenge when you have to get official stuff done and were given wrong information, which leads you on a wild goose chase.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Ireland, what would it be?
Be prepared to spend a lot of time tracking down the information that you need and getting stuff done. We were told that people are laid back here so be prepared to wait and jump through hoops that may seem silly. Also be prepared for poor options when it comes to broadband. Eircom is basically your only option in some areas and service can be spotty. Pay attention to all your bills. Make sure you're not being overcharged.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Getting used to the way things are done here.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
There are no plans to go back as of now.

The Old Mill
The Old Mill
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be prepared for things to run at a slow pace.
  2. Check local libraries and cafes for free wifi while you wait for it at home.
  3. Getting broadband service at home takes a long time and broadband in rural areas is spotty.
  4. Instant coffee is the norm even in coffee shops, so be aware of that.
  5. When getting a bank account you will need a utility bill as proof of address. A lease will not be adequate.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Our blog uses text and photographs to document our daily life in Ireland.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact us through the About Us link on the blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingBill and Shari Burke is an American expat living in Ireland. Blog description: After 10 years of talking about moving to Ireland someday, in April 2014 we did it. This blog documents our experience.
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