Coming home for Christmas
Holiday travel. It doesn’t matter how you’re planning to travel, or how many Christmas songs you can load on a playlist or even how many beverages you can consume before/whilst travelling, travelling home for Christmas is and will forever be, a hateful experience.
These aren’t the words of a man pretending to know what he’s talking about, no these are the words of a man wounded by past experiences. For four years I made the journey from the east midlands of England to the Northern Irish countryside and four years of trial and error simply served to confirm that travelling home for Christmas is horrendous. My personal highlights included being sat for hours on the M6 car park trying to make it north for the crossing, lying in the fetal position on the floor of the Stena Plus lounge trying to survive storm swells in the Irish Sea and nearly putting my shiny new rear-wheel drive car in a ditch whilst negotiating the ice-covered country roads of County Armagh. The result was a traumatised arrival at my in-laws house after typically 12 hours of travel (sometimes more) and then the fear starting to set in as the return journey starts to loom into view.
Horrific ferry crossings aside, I really enjoyed my time living and working outside of Northern Ireland. I had the opportunity to work with and meet some amazing people, to experience so much of what GB has to offer in terms of things to do (and places to eat) and to start a career in recruitment that changed my life at that time, opening the door for me to work with some top businesses and some ridiculously talented accountancy professionals and to travel up and down the country while doing it. And let’s be honest, my experience is far from unique. Even in the last couple of months articles have popped up on BBC News and elsewhere reflecting on the “Brain Drain” that we are so well known for and that has led to many of our best and brightest (any implication that I’m referring to myself there is purely coincidental…) moving south or east and staying there.
And yet, here I find myself sat in an office in Belfast writing a blog about travelling home permanently. Contrary to what the above may suggest, it isn’t because I got sick of travelling home each year (though seriously, who wants to kick off their Christmas holiday like that every year?!) but because there came a moment when I realised Northern Ireland could tick every box that England was ticking with the added bonus of being home.
The draw of moving home
Speaking from personal experience, the case for returning never went away and only increased with time. Firstly there is the personal element. I am not the world's most emotional person by any means but even for someone like me time away from family and friends is never easy. No matter how many times you try to get home there will always be the missed birthdays, the missed occasions, the births, the bereavements and all of the minor moments that you don't get to be part of. That takes its toll. Then there can be the future to think about, perhaps thinking about starting a family or getting married and thinking about where you would ideally like that to happen, which for me was home.
Putting the personal piece aside, there is also the ever-increasing professional draw of returning. Year after year NI continues to draw in some of the world's most incredible businesses who come here to utilise our exceptional workforce. Where once some of our brightest and best felt compelled to fly the nest to find decent career opportunities, now our employment landscape is completely unrecognisable and opportunities are plentiful – that’s not just me saying what I want you to hear, it has been my genuine experience. The employment market now is characterised by skills shortages in a number of areas which both highlights the opportunity here but has also had the impact of slowly but surely pushing salaries up. The idea that you have to get away to build a career is now the stuff of myth and legend, in so many areas Belfast and the wider province is booming.
Finally, whilst slightly counter-intuitive when talking about an area with lower salaries compared to say a Dublin or London, there is a genuine financial and increased standard of living draw to returning with house prices in particular remaining favourable when compared to GB and those suppressed salaries are as mentioned on the march upwards. From both subjective and objective angles, the case to return to NI is increasingly compelling.
Listening to those urges to head home is one thing, being in a position to do something about it can feel like it’s not without its challenges. From a career perspective, knowing where to look for opportunities is not always easy. With different job boards in operation compared to Great Britain and a trend towards Irish or Northern Irish based recruitment firms the longer you've been away the tougher it can be to get the ball rolling. Once you manage to pin down where the jobs are, you then need to convince the recruiter or hiring company that you're serious about coming home, often whilst simultaneously trying to convince yourself of that fact, before you actually make any progress. Assuming you make it that far you then have to deal with the increased difficulty of relocation when the sea is involved, think about selling a house if you own one and of course for anyone based in London and the South East in particular there is the inevitable and eye-watering blow to your salary that can be hard to reconcile, even if you know that in real terms you stand to be better off. Many don't make it past this stage first time round. The good news is, the difficulties can prove to be worth it when the time comes to make that step and we can help with every step of the process.
If you’re heading home for Christmas this year and gearing yourself up for the journey, imagine a future where it’s one you didn’t have to make next year. Coming home isn’t for everyone and the right time won’t always be now. If you find yourself in a place this Christmas where coming home on a more permanent basis is on your mind or has become something you think you would like to do if circumstances allowed then get in touch and let us know. Our doors are open of the holiday period so if you’d like to know more about what returning home could mean for you, get an insight to the realities of the employment market in your sector or if you’d like to get the ball rolling in making it happen sooner rather than later we’d love nothing more than to book and appointment and walk you through what your future in Northern Ireland could look like.
Godspeed to all travelling home this Christmas and best wishes for all the 2019 may bring.
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