Being Irish is a huge commodity when travelling. People naturally pre-conceive us as friendly, beer-guzzling socialites that love to party and have absolutely no desire to take life seriously. I mean, I don’t think many other nationalities get that reaction. Of course, we know these stereotypes aren’t true (to a large extent), but regardless, being an Irish person abroad truly is a unique buzz. The focus of this series will be to reveal my own personal experience, and that of fellow Irish people I have contacted, on the experience of living in other countries for prolonged periods of time. As you can imagine, life is quite different outside of Éire’s coastal shores… Starting with Canada. Remember, everything documented here is from an Irish perspective, culturally and socially. Therefore, it may not necessarily reflect the views of other nationalities towards a place.

First and foremost, Canada is an absolutely massive country. It has a population of over 30 million people, touches on three different oceans and covers a land-mass of approximately 9.98 million kilometres. So basically, I’m disclaiming the fact that I cannot account for every Irish person’s experience there owing to its size. However, from chatting to peeps to who’ve been to three biggest cities (Montreal, Toronto and my own, Vancouver), I have a fair idea how us Irish tend to get on there.

In terms of the Canadian people, there appears to be a few common trends to expect. Generally, they’re very friendly. I mean very friendly. Like invite you to their son’s wedding and give you a car kind of friendly. Which is, of course, great, but being the cynical little nation we are, we can’t help but want to question to motive behind all of these grand and generous gestures. And the truth, from what I believe, is that there’s a real sense of naivety at play behind it all.

Like they actually honestly believe in the best in people. This next line is going to sound terrible, but it can lead many an immigrant taking advantage of the system post-hence. From skipping buses to deceiving landlords, it’s very easy to get away with murder out there (I, of course, did not partake in any such action). Through their misplaced trust in the goodness of the hearts of mankind, no less Irish people, they allow so much of themselves to be manipulated. But hey, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

In terms of actually meeting other Irish over there, you’ll get plenty of chances. Toronto and Vancouver are full of us, from GAA clubs to Irish bars. The reason for these two cities being more densely populated with Irish is mainly down to fact that they’re largely English speaking, whilst any city in the Quebéc region tends to lean towards French (kinda cool). And that’s just looking at people born in Ireland. There’s tons of Canadians who claim Irish ancestry, whether it be 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation, and they only love the chance to meet a real life Leprechaun offspring in the flesh.

I actually found myself picking up a lot of new things over there too. As I was based in Vancouver, Canada’s western capital, there were weekly beach parties, surfing spots and regular cliff jumping sessions. The climate never really dropped below 25 degrees, which admittedly took some time getting used to, but of course added to the overall enjoyment in the end. If you find yourself in the British Colombia region, there’s also tons of festivals to check out (Pemberton and Squamish just to name a few). Like the rest of the country, it’s such an aesthetic place with a vibrant wildlife to experience. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself over there in the winter, make sure to head up to Whistler for a weekend. There’s a strong Irish contingent already up there, enjoying a care-free, ski-filled lifestyle on the perfectly designed slopes.

Overall, Canada is a pretty unreal country to hit. It has an amazing outdoor life, a whole host of employment opportunities and citizens who are, for the most part anyway, easy to get along with. If you are planning on heading over there in the not-so-distant future, I do have one big tip however; try sort a job out before landing. Life in any of the major cities can be pretty pricey, so having some confirmed work in place is key. It’s easier said than done, as most employers will want to interview you first, but if you can somehow manage it, you’re laughing.

In any case, enjoy eh.


Kevin O’Neill