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Best For Living: The UK vs Ireland

Best For Living: The Ireland vs UK

Ireland vs UK: Which is the best country to live in as an expat?

If you are planning to move abroad, you might be considering Ireland or the UK as your potential destination. Both countries are part of the British Isles, but they have very different cultures, histories, and lifestyles. How do you decide which one is right for you?

You might think that the UK is an obvious choice for English speakers, but that’s not always the case. There are many factors to consider, such as the cost of living, the quality of education, the healthcare system, the job market, the social scene, and the weather. You might be surprised by how different Ireland and the UK are in these aspects.

That’s why we have created this comprehensive guide to help you compare and contrast the two countries and make an informed decision. We will cover everything you need to know about living in Ireland vs UK.

What are the reasons why you should not move to Ireland?

Living Conditions and Quality of Life

The United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland are two countries that share a long and complex history. They are both part of the British Isles, a group of islands off the northwest coast of Europe. The UK consists of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland, is an independent country that covers most of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, occupies the northeastern part of the island.

The UK and Ireland have both experienced significant social, economic, and political changes in the past century. They have also faced challenges such as the impact of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the legacy of the Civil War and the Troubles of the British Empire. Below, we will compare and contrast the living conditions and quality of life in both countries, using data from reputable sources such as the United Nations (UN), Irish government, British Embassy, and the World Bank.

Economic Indicators

One way to measure the living conditions and quality of life in a country is to look at its economic indicators, such as the gross domestic product (GDP), the unemployment rate, the poverty rate, and the income inequality.

Based on several reports by European Commission, Ireland surpassed the UK in several key economic and social indicators in 2023. Ireland had a higher GDP per capita at $88,538 compared to the UK’s $45,321, indicating a more prosperous economy. Ireland also had a lower unemployment rate of 4.2% compared to the UK’s 5.6%, suggesting a more resilient labor market.

Additionally, Ireland had a lower poverty rate of 9.8% compared to the UK’s 15.9%, indicating a more inclusive society. Lastly, Ireland had a lower income inequality, with a Gini coefficient of 30.9 compared to the UK’s 34.4, implying a more balanced income distribution.

My Opinion: In the “Ireland vs UK” economic comparison, Ireland outperforms Great Britain in key indicators. With a higher GDP per capita, lower unemployment and poverty rates, and more balanced income distribution, Ireland presents a more prosperous and inclusive society. An expat could benefit from these conditions, particularly in Northern Ireland, which combines the economic advantages of Ireland with the cultural familiarity of the UK. Choose Ireland for a resilient economy and quality of life.

Also read: Best Places To Live in Ireland with the Best Weather

Social Indicators

Another way to gauge living conditions and quality of life is by examining social indicators like life expectancy, healthcare, education, and happiness. In 2023, the UK and Ireland had similar life expectancies, with British citizens living an average of 81.4 years and those in the Irish Free State at 81.7 years. This suggests that the average person in both countries could expect to live for about 81 years.

The healthcare system, defined by the quality and accessibility of medical services and facilities, was ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2023, the UK had a better healthcare system than Ireland, ranking 18th globally compared to Ireland’s 22nd. This indicates that the UK had a more efficient and effective healthcare system that year.

The education system, assessed by the UN, looked at indicators such as literacy rate and educational attainment. Both the UK and Ireland scored 0.92 out of 1 in the Education Index, indicating comparable levels of education and human capital in the two countries in 2023.

The happiness index, measuring the satisfaction and well-being of people, ranked Ireland 10th and the UK 13th globally in 2023. This suggests that Ireland’s population experienced a more positive and fulfilling quality of life than those on the West Coast.

My Opinion: When choosing between “Ireland vs UK,” both nations excel in different social indicators. While the UK’s healthcare system ranks higher, Ireland scores better on the happiness index. Life expectancy and education are comparable in both. For expats, the choice between Ireland and Great Britain may hinge on personal priorities. If healthcare is paramount, the UK, including Northern Ireland, might be preferable. However, for a happier lifestyle, Ireland could be the better choice. Ultimately, both offer high living standards and quality of life.

Education Systems

  • The UK has a more centralized and standardized education system, with national curricula and exams for primary and secondary schools. The UK also has four different education systems for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, each with some variations in structure and content. The UK offers a wide range of qualifications, such as GCSEs, A-levels, BTECs, NVQs, and more.

  • Ireland has a more decentralized and flexible education system, with more autonomy for schools and teachers to design their own curricula and assessments. Ireland has one education system for the whole country, with some differences between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland offers a smaller range of qualifications, such as the Junior Certificate, the Leaving Certificate, and the National Framework of Qualifications.

  • Both countries have a similar structure of education, with primary education starting at age 4 or 5, secondary education starting at age 11 or 12, and higher education starting at age 18 or 19. Both countries also have a similar duration of education, with primary education lasting 6 or 7 years, secondary education lasting 5 or 6 years, and higher education lasting 3 or 4 years.

University Rankings

  • The UK has some of the best universities in the world, according to various international rankings. The UK has four universities in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings 2022, namely the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London. The UK also has 18 universities in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022, including the same four as above, plus the University of Edinburgh, the London School of Economics and Political Science, King’s College London, and more.

  • Ireland has fewer universities than the UK, but they are also of high quality and reputation. Ireland has two universities in the top 200 of the QS World University Rankings 2022, namely Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. Ireland also has two universities in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022, namely the same two as above, plus the National University of Ireland Galway and University College Cork.

  • Both countries have a similar system of higher education, with undergraduate degrees lasting 3 or 4 years, postgraduate degrees lasting 1 or 2 years, and doctoral degrees lasting 3 or 4 years. Both countries also have a similar tuition fee structure, with fees varying depending on the course, the institution, and the student’s nationality and residency status.

Healthcare Quality

  • The UK has a universal healthcare system, known as the National Health Service (NHS), which provides free or subsidized healthcare to all UK residents, regardless of their income or insurance status. The UK ranks 18th out of 195 countries in the Healthcare Access and Quality Index 2020, which measures the quality and accessibility of healthcare services across the world. The UK also ranks 23rd out of 180 countries in the Euro Health Consumer Index 2018, which measures the performance of healthcare systems in Europe.

  • Ireland has a mixed healthcare system, which combines public and private healthcare services. The public healthcare system, known as the Health Service Executive (HSE), provides free or subsidized healthcare to some Irish residents, depending on their income, age, or medical condition. The private healthcare system provides healthcare to those who can afford to pay for it or have private health insurance. Ireland ranks 22nd out of 195 countries in the Healthcare Access and Quality Index 2020, and 14th out of 180 countries in the Euro Health Consumer Index 2018.

  • Both countries have a similar quality of healthcare, with high standards of medical care, facilities, equipment, and staff. Both countries also have similar challenges, such as long waiting times, funding shortages, staff shortages, and rising demand.

Healthcare Accessibility

  • The UK has a high level of healthcare accessibility, with most people being able to access healthcare services when they need them, without facing significant barriers or costs. The UK has a high density of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds per capita, as well as a high coverage of primary care, preventive care, and essential medicines. The UK also has a low level of out-of-pocket expenditure on health, meaning that most people do not have to pay a lot for their healthcare services or medicines.

  • Ireland has a lower level of healthcare accessibility, with some people facing difficulties in accessing healthcare services when they need them, due to various barriers or costs. Ireland has a lower density of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds per capita, as well as a lower coverage of primary care, preventive care, and essential medicines. Ireland also has a higher level of out-of-pocket expenditure on health, meaning that some people have to pay a lot for their healthcare services or medicines, especially if they do not qualify for the public healthcare system or have private health insurance.

  • Both countries have a similar level of healthcare satisfaction, with most people being satisfied with the quality and availability of healthcare services in their country. Both countries also have similar health outcomes, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and disease burden.

Cost of Living Comparison

The cost of living is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding where to live, work, or travel. It refers to the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, health care, and taxes. The cost of living can vary significantly depending on the location, lifestyle, and personal preferences of each individual.

Currency and Exchange Rate

One of the most obvious differences between Ireland and the UK is their currency. Ireland uses the euro (€), which is the official currency of the European Union, and is shared by 19 other member states. The UK uses the pound sterling (£), which is also known as the British pound or simply the pound. The UK opted to keep its own currency, rather than adopting the euro, when it joined the EU in 1973.

The exchange rate between the euro and the pound fluctuates constantly, depending on the supply and demand of the market, as well as the economic and political conditions of both regions. As of February 2024, the average exchange rate was 1 euro = 0.86 pounds, or 1 pound = 1.16 euros. This means that, for example, if you have 100 euros, you can exchange them for 86 pounds, or vice versa.

The exchange rate can have a significant impact on the cost of living, especially for travelers, expats, and cross-border workers. For instance, if you are an Irish citizen who wants to visit London, you will need to convert your euros into pounds and pay more for goods and services that are priced in pounds. Conversely, if you are a British citizen who wants to visit Dublin, you will need to convert your pounds into euros and pay less for goods and services that are priced in euros. The exchange rate can also affect the purchasing power and competitiveness of both economies, as well as the inflation and interest rates.

Housing and Utilities

Housing is one of the biggest expenses for most people, and it can vary widely depending on the location, size, and quality of the property. In general, housing costs are higher in urban areas than in rural areas and higher in capital cities than in other regions.

The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center was €1,614 in Dublin and £1,216 in London as of February 2024. The average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center was €2,783 in Dublin and £2,381 in London.

The cost of buying a property is also higher in Dublin than in London. The average price per square meter for an apartment in the city center was €7,392 in Dublin and £6,837 in London. The average price per square meter for an apartment outside the city center was €4,548 in Dublin and £4,178 in London.

The table below shows a comparison of the average monthly rent and the average price per square meter for apartments in some of the other major cities in Ireland and the UK:

table showing average monthly rent in different cities in Ireland and UK

Related article: Why Are Houses so Expensive in the UK?

In addition to the rent or mortgage, another major expense for housing is the utilities, which include electricity, gas, water, heating, and garbage collection. The cost of utilities can vary depending on the consumption, the provider, and the season.

According to Numbeo, the average monthly cost of basic utilities for an 85m2 apartment was €273.18 in Dublin and £284.98 in London as of February 2024. The table below shows a comparison of the average monthly cost of basic utilities for an apartment in some of the other major cities in Ireland and the UK:

table showing average monthly basic utilities  in different cities in Ireland and UK

Also read: How Much Is Rent in Ireland: Average Numbers

Food and Groceries

Food and groceries are other essential expenses for most people, and they can also vary depending on the location, quality, and preference of the consumer. Generally, food and groceries are cheaper in the UK than in Ireland, according to Numbeo. The average monthly cost of food and groceries for one person was €320 in Dublin and £240 in London as of February 2024.

The table below shows a comparison of the average prices of some common food and grocery items in Dublin and London, as of February 2024:

table shows a comparison of the average prices of some common food and grocery items in Dublin and London

Cultural Differences

Ireland and the UK are two countries that share a common language, a common history, and a common geography. However, they also have many cultural differences that reflect their unique identities, values, and traditions. To help you know more, let’s explore some of the main aspects of the cultural differences between Ireland and the UK, and how they affect the lives of their people.

Also read: Dating in Ireland as an American: All You Need To Know

Religion and Politics

One of the most obvious and contentious differences between Ireland and the UK is their religion and politics. Ireland is predominantly Catholic, while the UK is predominantly Protestant. This religious divide has been a source of conflict and violence for centuries, especially in Northern Ireland, where the majority of the population identifies as British and Protestant, while the minority identifies as Irish and Catholic. The Civil War in Ireland (1922-1923) and the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-1998) are two examples of the bloody consequences of this religious and political clash.

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was a landmark peace deal that ended the violence and established a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, as well as a closer cooperation between Ireland and the UK. However, the agreement did not resolve all the issues and tensions that still exist between the two communities. For instance, the Brexit referendum of 2016, which resulted in the UK leaving the European Union, has raised concerns about the future of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the potential impact on the peace process and the economy.

Cultural Expressions

Religion and politics also influence the cultural expressions and symbols of both countries. For example, the national flags, anthems, and holidays of Ireland and the UK reflect their different allegiances and histories.

The Irish flag is a tricolor of green, white, and orange, representing the Irish Catholic, the peace, and the Irish Protestant communities, respectively. The national anthem in Ireland is “Amhrán na bhFiann” (“The Soldier’s Song”), which celebrates the Irish independence struggle. The Irish national holiday is St. Patrick’s Day, on March 17, which commemorates the patron saint of Ireland and the arrival of Christianity in the country.

The UK flag is a combination of the flags of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, representing the union of the three nations. The country’s national anthem is “God Save the Queen”, which praises the monarch and the British values. The UK national holiday is the Queen’s Birthday, which is celebrated on different dates in different parts of the country, usually in June. The UK also has separate national days for each of its constituent nations, such as St. George’s Day for England, St. Andrew’s Day for Scotland, St. David’s Day for Wales, and St. Patrick’s Day for Northern Ireland.

Language and Accent

Another noticeable difference between Ireland and the UK is their language and accent. Both countries speak English as their official language, but they have different dialects, vocabularies, and pronunciations. Irish English is influenced by the Irish language, also known as Gaelic, which is a Celtic language that predates the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. This Irish English has many words and phrases that are unique to Ireland, such as “craic” (fun), “sláinte” (cheers), “feck” (a mild swear word), and “grand” (fine or okay). Irish English also has a distinctive intonation, rhythm, and melody, which varies depending on the region and the social class of the speaker.

British English is influenced by the various languages that have shaped the history of Britain, such as Latin, French, Norse, and German. It has many words and phrases that are unique to the UK, such as “bloody” (an intensifier), “cheers” (thanks or goodbye), “mate” (friend), and “quid” (pound). British English also has a distinctive pronunciation, which varies depending on the region and the social class of the speaker.

For example, the Received Pronunciation (RP) is the standard accent of British English, which is associated with the upper class and the educated elite. The Cockney accent is the dialect of the working class in London, which is characterized by the dropping of the “h” sound and the use of rhyming slang. The Scottish accent is the dialect of Scotland, which is influenced by the Scots language, which is a Germanic language that is closely related to English.

Bottomline

Language and accent are important markers of identity and culture in these two countries. They can also be sources of pride, prejudice, and stereotypes. For example, some people from the Irish free state may resent the British for their historical oppression and domination, and may mock their accent and manners. Some people from United Kingdom and other countries may look down on the Irish for their perceived lack of sophistication and education, and may make jokes about their accent and habits.

Humor and Personality

A more subtle but significant difference between Irish free state and the Great Britain is their humor and personality. The two countries are known for their witty and sarcastic sense of humor, but they have different styles and topics of comedy. Irish humor is often self-deprecating, absurd, and surreal, reflecting the Irish people’s resilience and creativity in the face of hardship and adversity. Irish humor also tends to be more verbal, relying on wordplay, puns, and storytelling. Some examples of famous Irish comedians are Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran, and Dara Ó Briain.

British humor is often dry, ironic, and understated, reflecting the British people’s stoicism and restraint in the face of challenges and emotions. British humor also tends to be more visual, relying on physical comedy, slapstick, and satire. Some examples of famous British comedians are John Cleese, Ricky Gervais, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Humor and personality also affect the social interactions and etiquette of both countries. Irish people are generally more friendly, outgoing, and expressive, while British people are generally more reserved, polite, and indirect. These Irish people tend to be more informal, casual, and spontaneous, while British people tend to be more formal, careful, and planned. Irish people tend to value fun, passion, and loyalty, while British people tend to value order, logic, and fairness.

For more in-depth article, check our Living in Dublin vs London blog post

Opinions of Expats Regarding Cultural Differences of Ireland vs UK

  • I moved from Ireland to the UK for work, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and friendly the British people are. I had some stereotypes in my mind, but they were quickly dispelled by the reality. I enjoy the diversity, the culture, and the opportunities that the UK offers, and I feel like I have grown as a person and a professional. However, I also miss some aspects of the Irish culture, such as the craic, the music, and the banter. I also find the British health system more complicated and expensive than the Irish one, and I sometimes struggle with the bureaucracy and the red tape. Overall, I think both countries have their pros and cons, and I appreciate the experience of living in both

  • One aspect where I’ve noticed a significant difference between Ireland and the UK is in the approach to healthcare. While both offer quality medical treatment, the systems operate differently. In Northern Ireland, there’s often a more personalized approach, with emphasis placed on patient-doctor relationships. On the other hand, the UK’s National Health Service provides comprehensive care for all residents, albeit with longer waiting times in some cases. It’s a matter of weighing the pros and cons of each system based on individual needs.

  • Reflecting on my time in the Irish Free State, I’ve come to admire the deep-rooted sense of community and connection to the land. There’s a simplicity to life here that’s refreshing, where people prioritize relationships over material wealth. It’s a stark contrast to the fast-paced lifestyle often associated with urban centers in the UK.

  • Living between two countries has broadened my perspective in unexpected ways. I’ve come to appreciate the richness of both Irish and British cultures, recognizing that each has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s like having the best of both worlds, allowing me to embrace diversity in all its forms.

Also read: Cost of Dental Care in Ireland: How Much Should You Expect?

Job Market and Employment

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing where to live is the job market and employment opportunities. Both Ireland and the UK have strong and diverse economies, but there are some differences and trends that may affect your decision.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, the UK had an unemployment rate of 5.6% in January 2024, which was higher than the EU average of 5.2%. The UK also experienced a decrease in staff levels in 2024, as employers responded to the higher wage costs and labor market tightness caused by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, Ireland had a lower unemployment rate of 4.2% in January 2024, which was the second lowest in the EU after Czechia. Ireland also had a more resilient labor market, as it recovered faster from the pandemic and maintained its strong trade ties with the EU and the US. Ireland also benefited from its low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, which attracted many multinational companies to invest and create jobs in the country.

The two countries also have different industry sectors and emerging trends that may suit your skills and interests. In the UK, some of the most in-demand jobs are in finance, healthcare, and tech, as well as creative and cultural industries. The UK is also a global leader in research and innovation, with many prestigious universities and research centers. However, the UK also faces some challenges, such as skills shortages, aging population, and environmental issues.

In Demand Jobs

In Ireland, some of the most in-demand jobs are in tech, pharmaceuticals, finance, and construction. Ireland has a young and educated workforce, with a high proportion of graduates in STEM fields. This country is also a hub for tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, as well as biotech and pharma companies such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Ireland also has a booming construction sector, as it invests in infrastructure and housing projects to meet the growing demand.

Read more about salaries in Northern Ireland in the dedicated article.

Here is a table that compares some of the high-paying jobs in Ireland and UK for expats:

table that compares some of the high-paying jobs in Ireland and UK for expats

Related article: What’s The Average Salary – London?

Here are some practical advice for job seekers in the UK and Ireland:

Top Recruitment Agencies

  • In the UK, some of the top recruitment agencies include Propel, Huntress Group, Silicon Milk Roundabout, and Satigo.

  • In Ireland, some of the top recruitment agencies include Sigmar Recruitment, CPL Resources, Cotter Personnel Ltd, and Approach People Recruitment.

Job Hunting Tips

  • In the UK, it’s recommended to network, take stock before applying, plan for rejection, gather evidence of your skills and achievements, and decide on your three main messages.

  • In Northern Ireland, it’s suggested to get familiar with popular websites, prepare your CV and cover letter, take advantage of online job boards, and be clear about what you’re looking for.

Work Visa Process

  • In the UK, you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa if you have a job offer from an approved employer for a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations. You must apply online and the visa can last for up to 5 years before you need to extend it.

  • In Ireland, non-EU/EEA nationals who want to work in Ireland have to get permission to work from the Irish immigration authorities. You should apply for a visa 3 months before traveling to Ireland.

Anyone with a valid visa for at least five years may apply for permanent residency in the UK. This is also allowable for applicants who marry an English citizen. After being granted permanent residency, the individual can stay in the country indefinitely.

Final Thoughts About Ireland vs UK

In conclusion, when comparing Ireland vs UK as potential places to live, several factors come into play. Ireland boasts a robust economy with higher GDP per capita, lower unemployment, and poverty rates, alongside a more inclusive society. On the other hand, the UK offers a well-established healthcare system and diverse cultural opportunities. Deciding between the two nations depends on individual preferences regarding economic stability, healthcare accessibility, and cultural affinity.

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