Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Why we think the grass is much greener Down Under

Most of us in our wretched, unhappy lives will have considered moving abroad at some point.





We imagine that there will be perpetual blue skies, healthier food, cheaper booze, fewer morons. But then there are the difficulties: making new friends, learning the local gibberish, adjusting to different styles of walking, and so forth.

It's a daunting thought, and that's before we've even considered getting all our prized possessions into a big enough van. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of citizens in the Irish Republic are throwing in the towel — throwing it into their suitcase, that is, as they emigrate to Australia and Canada, where at least the local lingo can be mastered easily within two or three years.

Now, no one is saying we're back to the bad old days when folk were more or less forced to emigrate to survive. Things are bad in north-west Europe, but we've still got televisions and mobiles. All the same, new figures (generally preferable to old figures) show the number of residence visas issued by the Australian government to Irish citizens rose by 25% this year, while there was a 13% increase in similar visas issued by Canada.

Funnily enough, the number of Irish folk emigrating to the United States fell yet again. In the year to the end of September, the US government issued 287 immigrant visas from its Irish office, compared to 288 in 2008 and 317 in 2007. Considering how much the Irish built America, these figures seem to me extraordinary in their tininess. However, many leading experts say it is because we see America on our televisions all the time, whereas you have to actually go to Canada and Australia to experience them. It's arguable, I suppose.

As with most newspaper reports, you have to read the small print, which shows that many of the visa applications are for temporary options, in which citizens — many of them deplorably young — are taking a year out of the recession, to live in places that haven't been hit so hard and that aren't governed by nutters. Sounds like a plan.

Periodically, I think about emigrating to Norway or Sweden, which are largely free of neds, bigots and so forth. I am a great admirer of the Scandinavian countries, particularly their policies of taxing everyone to the hilt so that they have little left over for privately enjoying themselves. Theirs is very much a home-based culture, leading to a low crime rate, because it is mainly when people go out that trouble occurs. If everyone stayed in their homes, like the Scandinavians do, the world would be a better place.

I am aware that Reykjavik on a Saturday night is awash with rowdies hollering, and that it attracts the likes of Damon Albarn out of that Blur. And look at what has happened to Iceland as a result.

It has been brought to the brink of economic collapse. However, are they downhearted? They are not. It has been a record year for births in the controversial northern island, with citizens turning to more traditional forms of entertainment after being forced to stay at home several nights a week.

You could do worse than emigrating to Iceland. Even the weather isn't that bad. This year, while the novely of relentless snow was wearing off in mainland Europe, Christmas in Reykjavik was reportedly “green” this year, with only a small blizzard on Christmas Eve. So, you don't have to go to Australia to find that, truly, the world has turned upside down.

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