Sunday 17 September 2017

House hunting fever

One day...

Over the past few months, I have seen at least 3 or 4 new housing developments being built in my village. "For Sale" signs are appearing on every corner of the street, prices are going up, and people are back queuing up for hours to buy a house.

All of this brought me back to the time when we were house hunting, and trust me, it wasn't pretty. We bought an apartment in 2006, at the height of the Celtic tiger. But we were looking for a property for at least a year before. It was a stressful time and it seemed we were never going to find something. The demand was huge, the supply sadly wasn't.

On one occasion, we went to a public viewing of a 2 bedroom house in the Blanchardstown area. The price on offer was 175,000 euros. The viewing started at 7pm, but by the time we had stepped in the house at 7.10 pm, we couldn't afford it anymore. The offers had gone up to 290,000 euros. IN 10 FECKIN MINUTES !!!

The same happened to house we visited in Stamullen. There was only one property left for sale in the estate. It was small, the garden was facing North, the bedrooms were like shoe boxes, but still, we were amongst 50 potential buyers. And it was a case of who would put the most money on the table. And it certainly wasn't us.

The worst experience we had was trying to buy a house off the plans in Slane. We had seen the ad on the newspaper and rang the Estate agent, who told us to get there the following morning, as the sale was starting at 11am. Now, who in their right mind would want to buy a house, off the plans, for 270,000 euros?  For all we know, it may have never been built!! But I still went.

I arrived around 9:00am, thinking I was early enough. I didn't know it was already too late. There were a good few people already, but the rule was that the Estate agent would start giving tickets at 10:30am. In the mean time, I learned that some houses had been pre-sold. Seriously?? And that some potential buyers had come the night before to get tickets... A bit unfair, don't you think?  Anyway, I waited patiently and when the guy came out of his little portacabin to give out the golden tickets, it was every man (and woman) to himself. There was rushing, running and a lot of pushing. I eventually got my ticket and stood in the queue. Every single person in front of me was buying a house. Not an apartment, not a duplex. They all wanted a house. So of course when my turn came, the last one had just been sold. I gave up and went home in tears.

In the end, we didn't get a house. We bought a 2-bedrooms apartment for 275,000 euros. and we're not even in Co.Dublin. But you know what, we were just happy to finally find a place for less than 300,000 Euros.

The whole thing was surreal. I am a rational (most of the time) person and couldn't get my head around how crazy people were. How crazy the banks were as well. But at the same time, we were obviously not thinking straight ourselves. We were caught in the whirlwind of house hunting, mortgage lending, money spending. "Get your foot on the ladder! In 2 years time you can sell your house, make a profit and buy bigger". "Clear that small 500 Euros loan and we can lend you 20,000 Euros more!", "Do you want to include a new car in your mortgage, why not?!" I should have known better (even if I didn't take the "new car offer" with the mortgage). I come from a country which experienced several property bubbles so I knew it was going to happen at some stage. I didn't think it was going to happen so soon.

A couple of years after we bought, recession kicked in, and after 11 years, we still live in the same apartment. The view I have from my balcony is that of an unfinished apartment block. and the shops that were supposed to be opened around the complex are still empty. There is a TESCO though, which is probably one of the reason why no other shops opened. There has been a glimpse of hope recently when the whole complex was bought, and hopefully the last empty block will be put to the ground, but what a waste!

I do like where I live though; it's by the seaside, the school is great and it's a village, which is perfect as I'm not fond of big crowds. But... All I really want is a house. A garden. A bit of grass. I want my children to be able to play outside without having to supervise closely in case one of them climbs and falls off the balcony...

We're in negative equity like thousand of other people. We can't sell and we can't rent as it wouldn't cover the mortgage. We are stuck and unfortunately, it looks like another property bubble is on the way. It might be a grim outlook, but I'm thinking we'll have to go through another crash before being able to sell and buy a house.  

In France, lands are sometimes bought by the council. Instead of contracting a developer to build 50 exact same houses, they sell plots of land to private individuals. Then, those people contract a company to build their house. There are a few building companies who sell "key-in-hand" properties. You choose a model from their catalogue, you can personalise your style (the amount of bedrooms, the shape of the kitchen, a garage etc), and it costs less than here. But I guess the developers wouldn't be happy about that...I also learned from a former town planner that, considering the amount of land available and the amount of houses needed in an area, it is a lot more cost efficient to have a developer build full estates.

Buying a house is a life investment (my 35-years mortgage speaks for itself!) and it's supposed to be a big decision. Yet, it seems a lot of people here (and me included) end up buying a house in a rush.

We all need more rational thinking...

Saturday 9 September 2017

Back to school

That's it, the kids are back to school, which means I'm also back making lunch boxes and supervising homework. All of this made me think about the differences between French and Irish schools. I'm not talking about the big ones like lunches or school hours because I already expressed my frustration about it, but the more subtle ones, the ones that made me think "When I was a kid in France, this was  different!"

School bags

If you're French, you'll know what I'm talking about. I took the "compulsory" back to school picture last week, and a French friend commented, pointing out that their school bags must have been bought in another country. And she was right, we bought them in France. You see, over there, most school bags are square, with a buckle closure. Few kids have bag packs in primary school (although when I looked at French friends back to school own pictures, the kids all had bag packs, so go figure!). Anyway, it reminded of my school years, and I just find those school bags are a lot more practical. My kids might be on the way to set up a new trend!

My 2 kids French school bags

Writing style

When we went to France this summer, my mum got worried and asked me if I noticed that my kids were writing in script. The thing is, this is how they learned how to write, but she wasn't convinced. "So they don't learn the proper way then?" Yes, they do, it's just a different style! In France, kids learn cursive straight away, but here they start with script. My son will learn cursive handwriting this year only, and he's in third class. As much as cursive handwriting looks "prettier", writing in script is a lot easier!

An old birthday letter I wrote to my mum, I was probably around 9...

I never really thought about the reason why copies are different in France and Ireland, but now that I realised the writing style is different, it makes a lot more sense. In France you have more lines, probably because everything is written in cursive, but you don't need that many lines if you're writing in script, so yeah, it makes sense now. Still, I was very surprised the first time I bought a copybook!!

French copy
Irish copy


The advantage of being in a French primary school is that you don't have to buy books. Here, things are a lot different. Kids almost exclusively use workbooks that have to be bought every year. I almost passed out when my eldest started Junior Infants and I discovered the amount of books I had to buy... School might be free but back to school is expensive!! Having said that, most schools now offer a rental scheme to minimise the cost.

That was only half the books by the way!


No uniforms when I was a kid! I remember going to the UK on a student exchange trip when I was a teenager and be puzzled by the school uniforms. Fast forward 20 years, and I just love it. You don't have to think about what the kids are going to wear in the morning, which also means not too many clothes to buy either! A lot of people I know also told me they think there is less competition between the kids, and less pressure to look a certain way. I'm not entirely sure about that because, even if it's a good start, kids will always find a way to "undermine" another peer because of his hair colour, his weight, his glasses or his school bag...

One thing for sure, my kids are having a completely different experience than I had as a child in a French primary school. I still think the Irish system is adapted to kids rather than parents (but that's what's important, right?) and I can't speak for every primary school in the country, but my kids' schools are very supportive and all the teachers I came across were very involved in my boys' education and progress.

As and expat, how do you find school in your host country compared to your home country?

Sunday 3 September 2017

He doesn't want to speak French

I thought my 6-years old had reached a milestone when my mum announced he had been speaking French since day one of the holidays. As soon as he arrived at my parents, he instantly switched to French. Of course his sentences weren't perfect, but he was able to make himself understood without too much difficulty, and when he didn't know a word, my mum was able to help him.

Every time I rang, she was telling me he was doing great, learning new words every day and little by little, making more complex and structured sentences. When I went over to pick the kids up at the end of August, I was actually blown away. During the year, he hadn't been speaking French that much, but he heard a lot of it at home, on TV or with friends of ours, so I knew he would take some of it in, but I wasn't expecting that much improvement. The way he was switching from one language to another depending on who he was talking to was unbelievable. It made me think of all the articles I read about how bilingual kids are supposed to do that, and how discouraged I was at the time, because mine were unable to.

Just before going back home, I thought: "That's it, he speaks French now. Battle won!", but I couldn't have been further from the truth. The moment we landed in Ireland, he looked at me and said "Now we're in Ireland, so we speak English". Yes, he has that logic that in France, you speak French and in Ireland, you speak English...

Since we're back, I've been trying to keep speaking French to him, making it a game between us, telling him he can speak English to anybody else, but French just to me. Well, it works for a while ( 5 minutes usually), but he quickly moves back to English.

I have so home hope though. I witnessed how much he improved during the holidays without practicing that much during the year, and I realised only the fact that he hears French everyday has an impact on his learning.

And I have a plan for both my kids this year. With two other  mums, we are opening a "French club" for families in the same situation as ours. It will help kids confronted  to French at home, to improve their oral skills in a fun and relaxed environment. It will not be French lessons as such (I couldn't tell my kids they're going to school again on Saturday!), but activities-based sessions where they will put in practice their language skills and learn about French culture. I take this opportunity to invite all French and francophones families in the area to come to our open day next Saturday in Julianstown.

Hopefully, it will be another stepping stone on my kids way to bilingualism. Speaking several languages is such a chance in the world we live in, that we, as parents, really have to give them all the tools they need to achieve their potential.

And as my on own mum would say: "They will thank me later"!!

Thursday 31 August 2017

Drinking wine

Rosé, that's my kind of wine!

A few years ago, we invited a couple of friends (she's Irish and he's American) for dinner. It wasn't anything fancy really, just finger food and some drinks.

As soon as they arrived, the husband  started apologising. He told me they were a bit stressed at the idea of going to a French house, that they realised they had to bring some wine,  but they didn't know which kind. So they brought a bottle with a cork, because if it was a bottle with a screw cap, I would have probably been offended. Yes, apparently, French people are supposed to hate screw caps; I just didn't get the memo. It must have happened after I left the country. On a side note, I find screw caps so much easier, it took me years to figure out how to use a corkscrew without making a mess!

Anyway, they proudly handed me the bottle, a Red wine, Cotes-Du-Rhones 2011... And I burst laughing:

"Thank you guys, you shouldn't have gone through so much trouble and stress. I don't know anything about wine, and I don't drink red anyway!"

The bottle didn't go to waste though, my husband enjoyed it very much.

Why does everyone assume I know about wine, just because I'm French? It's like presuming every Irish person knows about beer, but trust me, I couldn't differentiate a Bordeaux from a Bourgogne or a Merlot from a Cabernet Sauvignon. And when I have to buy wine in the supermarket, I choose the one  with the pretty sticker, that is not too expensive, and I hope for the best.

I hope for the best for the people who will drink it because I don't like red wine. Actually, it's not that I don't like it, I just don't know how to appreciate it. There so many different varieties, I don't think I could tell if the wine is good or not.

There's something I really don't get though, and that's people drinking glasses of wine in the pub, especially women. Do they think it makes them look more elegant or something? For me, wine has to be drank while having a meal and not on its own. I know this is really a French thing, but I will stand by it!

In fairness, I can have a glass of rosé on its own (or a few...), but I still prefer to enjoy it with food. Maybe it's just the way I was brought up. Wine accompanies food, you don't go out and get drunk solely on wine (except if you're a student, it's "Beaujolais Nouveau" night in the bar, and the wine is free...).

The strange thing is, after writing all this, and explaining how, even though I'm French, I know nothing about wine, I realised I definitely have a French way of drinking it...!

Friday 25 August 2017

6 tips for a smooth airport experience

We're finally back from our holidays (where I got to see the beach by the way!) after some misadventure at the airport. This eventful experience made me reflect on everything that happened to my and my husband while flying out over the years. So here are some "tips" for a smooth airport  experience...

Don't lose your flight tickets

Nowadays, with online check-in and mobile boarding passes, the likelihood of losing your ticket is slim, but 15 years ago, when most people were going to the travel agent and had to hold onto their tickets for days or even weeks, the risk was real! I had booked my tickets for the big Irish move and placed them in a very *secure* place (the kitchen table) only to realise the day before leaving that they were gone. I suspect my mum threw them away by mistake as they were probably buried in between a pile of rubbish... Unfortunately the travel agent wasn't able to re-print one and I had to buy a brand new ticket. She opened an investigation with Air France to make sure no one used the spare one, and I got a refund ONE YEAR after! Since then, I'm an organised freak when it comes to travel documentation!

Make sure you leave for the airport well in advance

That goes without saying, right? Even Google sends you reminders to leave on time! You should be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight, so you should take in account all possibilities that could occur on the road and even the airport. At least that's what my mum says: "There could be a car crash, a traffic jam, snow (in summer, seriously??), you could also get lost, who knows...". Most importantly a few of those things could happen at the same time.
Back in July, my mum drove my husband to the airport after he dropped the kids for the summer. She hadn't been to that place for a while so he had the GPS on. They got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour because a car had broken down just before a roundabout. Once they finally got out, they made their way to the airport but the GPS directed them to the military airport instead of the civilian one, and my husband arrived only 10 minutes before the plane departure. He was let onto the plane only for the fact that he had to be in Dublin the same day to leave for Mauritius the following day for his father's funeral. So, if you don't want to stress too much, anticipate all possibilities!

If you're dropping someone, stay until the plane takes off

And that's because, once again, you never know what could happen, especially if the airport is a long distance from your home. About 10 years ago, I went to France for a few days, and my parents drove me back to the airport. I checked in and started to queue for boarding so my parents decided to leave. As it happened, the plane was cancelled because some protesters invaded the runway and the plane we were supposed to take couldn't land. Unfortunately it was a small airport and they only had flights to London (I was connecting) 2 days after. My parents were gone already and I tried to ring them but their mobile phone was off. I only managed to reach them once they were back home, an hour and a half later. Then I had to wait another hour and a half for them to pick me up... The moral of the story? Do not leave someone until their plane take off, or keep your phone on.

Have a valid passport

This is a common mistake if you don't travel a lot. It happened to my mum with her ID card, but she managed to get a new one just in time. One of our friends was even at the airport when she realised her passport had expired so that was the end of the trip. But the worst thing that happened was when my husband's passport was only 5 months valid at the time of our trip to Mauritius (If you fly outside the European Union you should have a passport valid for more than 6 months after the return date). We flew out without any issues, and he was supposed to renew his passport while over there, but he was so busy catching up with family and drinking Mauritian beer that he didn't think too much of it. He was sure there wouldn't be a problem, but in the end, the airline refused to let him on the plane back to Ireland and I had to travel on my own with a baby, for 12 hours...

Do not leave your luggage unattended

*All luggage left unattended will be automatically destroyed*. I always laugh when I hear that announcement in the airport. After all who would do that? Well, when you're travelling with kids, inattention can happen. My husband was transiting through London with the kids, and of course, one of them wanted to go to the toilets. The eldest was carrying a suitcase and the small one had his bag pack, while my husband had another suitcase. The youngest complained his bag was too heavy, so in a panic and with the child almost peeing himself, he took the bag pack. After a minute or so, he realised he wasn't carrying his own suitcase anymore. But when he went back, it was gone. He went to the lost and found desk, hoping they hadn't blown his suitcase up already, but no, it was just being scanned. Then the agent asked him what was inside to make sure it was his. The problem was, I was the one who packed it! He did opened it once before to put the kids' hoodies in so he kind of knew (and it was just children's clothes). After he got his suitcase back, he had to fill in the longest form ever, detailing all the addresses he lived at, all the jobs he had, and the same for me (even if I wasn't even there!). MI6 probably has him on file now!!

If you book connecting flights, make sure you have plenty of time between both flights

We came back from Brittany last week-end and when we arrived at the airport, we were told the plane was delayed for 2 hours because of a crack on the runway (!). We got transferred by bus to another airport an hour away, which means we missed our connecting flight in London. There was only 90 minutes in between the 2 flights, but I had booked that one because I didn't want to be home at 1 o'clock in the morning. Also, I thought that in the event of something happening on the last flight, we would be stuck in London for the night. That was without counting the appalling Ryanair Customer Service who stressed us out even more (their only solution was a flight on the following Thursday!!). We almost considered renting a car and travel to Holyhead to take the ferry home. At least their agent at the airport was a bit more helpful. He initially told us they weren't doing any stand-by for the last flight, then, after an insane amount of begging he finally agreed, but there was someone before us on the list. "So you actually do stand-by!" I told him. He replied it was an old lady. Fair enough. Except the old lady was actually a 25 years old guy whose first flight had also been delayed. Ryanair, you never cease to amaze me (in a really wrong way!). In the end, we had to pay 400 pounds to fly out that night, all that because there were less than 3 hours in between our 2 flights. Lesson learned I guess.

If every trip went without a hitch, we wouldn't have any stories to tell, wouldn't we? So, even if there's always stress involved at the time, we always manage to laugh about it afterwards!

What about you, any interesting airport stories you want to share?

Friday 11 August 2017

The "holiday"

Will I have time to even see that beach??

For a start, I just want to give an update on my "childcare nightmare" situation. We have finally found a solution and just in time before flying home for the holidays. In the end the kids will take the bus in the morning and they will stay at the creche only for the after school. With the price increase, we're actually going to end up paying the same as last year. Oh, and to do all that, I had to change my work hours. It's in these times that I'm grateful for a flexible boss!

At least we won't have to stress over childcare during our holidays, because let me tell you, a holiday home is absolutely exhausting. We're not there yet but our week is almost already planned minute by minute. OK, not quite, but you get the idea.

I usually put a status update on Facebook to let me friends know were coming and after that, it's first come, first served. I also text the couple of friends who are not on Facebook, but if they're not quick enough, tough!

So far we're booked on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, Monday all day, and Wednesday all day. I still have to arrange to meet two other friends so I hope they won't be looking for the same day because I can't divide myself (and they live more than an hour apart so a joint meeting is out of the they don't really know each other, which would make the whole thing a bit awkward...)

On top of that you have family. The old auntie you don't really want to see but your parents kind of force you to visit (after all, it could be the last time), the cousins you would love to see but they're all scattered around the area and are impossible to gather at the same time, your sister and brother you want to spend so much time with but just can't, your own parents you want to chat with but get on your nerves after 2 days...And well, your kids you haven't seen for 6 weeks and who will probably make you pay as soon as you arrive.

And then you've got shopping. We only have hand luggage this time, but the years we go home with the car we take at least a half-day just to go to supermarket! We mostly buy wine (typical!) and few things we can't find in Ireland. I also love going to my local market as there are always arts and crafts, and of course food from the region. Plus, I usually get to bump into a cousin or someone I haven't seen in ages...

I usually go clothes shopping as well, even if I hate it. French fashion is just a breath of fresh air compared to the Irish style. Sorry but there are fashion choices here that I just don't get, especially at the moment where I feel like I'm back in the nineties every time I step into a shop. I was a teenager in the nineties, the last thing I want to do is dress like that again!! I just need my fix of "safe" shopping in Camaieu or Cache-Cache.

So yeah, between the friends catch-ups where you try to squeeze in as much news as you can in the space of few hours, the visits to the old uncles and aunties, kids time, parents time, sister time and shopping time, I wonder if I'll actually have time to go to the beach at all!!

Mind you, the weather is supposed to be... well... like a Breton weather, so mild and possibly wet. At least I'll have the wine to forget about it!

What about you, does it stress you out to go on holidays at home?

Monday 7 August 2017

Another year, another childcare nightmare

And here I thought our childcare problems were over... Last year our childminder let us down but we found a creche who could take the kids before and after school, provide meals and even help with homework. On top of that we were not paying them during school holidays if the kids weren't attending, which was a huge relief especially for summer as they're spending 6 weeks "practicing their French" with my parents.

The kids were happy, we were happy, everything was fine. Except we just got a text from the creche stating they undercharged us last year so this year we would have to pay almost 900 euros a month just for 4 hours a day...And they "forgot" to charge us for breakfast, which comes at 5 euros a day per child. I know the creche has running costs, needs to pay staff, insurance, rent etc, but I doubt breakfast costs this much...It's not like they get a full Irish every morning!!

Anyway, the thought of having to pay more childcare than mortgage is just killing me, and it is expensive because we both work full-time. But today I checked the new scheme the government has put in place to help with childcare costs. And I'm just even more pissed off. It seems great and all for kids under 3 years old (if you're happy with a 20 euros per week discount), but once they start their free preschool year (which is only 3 hours a day!) what do you do? Then I checked what other help was available for older children but we don't qualify for anything because we work... which doesn't make sense at all.

I do feel as parents we are taken hostage by childcare providers, be it childminders or creches. Both childminders we used made us pay when we were taking holidays and it was free when they were taking time off. But they were almost never taking time off. And when they did it was on their terms so I always had to find a solution to manage when it happened. I know part of the problem is we don't have any family around to help, but I'm pretty sure it happens to Irish people as well who don't have parents nearby.  Even last year, it costed less to fly my nephew over from France than to pay for 2 weeks full time in the creche. There's something wrong here...

Anyway, enough rant for today! We still haven't figured out what we 're going to do comes September. All the other creches I contacted are either too expensive or they don't have a bus service to drop and collect the kids... A childminder would be ideal but the last one dropped us because the school run was unbearable so I don't want the same thing to happen. The kids are going to different schools next year and they finish an hour and half apart (and they won't start at the same time either!), so I don't know if I'd find someone happy to do it. I think we will scrap the before school care and maybe put the kids in the bus to go to school, or I'll have to try and change my hours or I might just give up work (although that's unlikely because I would just go crazy at home!)

I am longing for the day the boys will be able to walk to and from school, but unfortunately that's not going to happen for another 5 years at least!! In the meantime I will just have to suck it up once again and find a solution... Wish me luck!!

Saturday 29 July 2017

The long-term expat

We travelled within Ireland for the first time in 10 years!

How many years after a move abroad can you consider yourself a  long-term expat? Two, five, ten years? There is probably no right answer, but one thing for sure, we all have a few things in common. So let's see if you recognise yourself in the list below...

You've become a pro at booking flights

You know the best time to book tickets, the best airline and the one to avoid at all costs, the connections available to go home and the time of the year they operate. You could almost book a flight eyes closed (because you probably know your passport number by heart anyway). And I bet you're always the one who helps other family members find a good deal to book their flight to come and see you. You might also be the one who guides them through the online check-in...

You have a favourite airport

Well, it's no surprise that Dublin is my favourite. I've always found staff friendly and helpful, which makes a trip a lot easier, especially when you have kids. On the contrary, my least favourite airport is Nantes. I had problems almost every time, from security who took my Breton cake away, to check-in staff who told me they were wouldn't be anyone to help me go down a flight of stairs with my child, hand luggage and buggy (while I was pregnant), because they were not there "for that".

There are more passports than people in your house

There are 8 passports for the four of us, and technically, we could have 2 more (but we never asked for Mauritian passports for the kids, because there's no point really). Before flying out, the same question always pops up: "What passport are you taking this time?"

You always take time difference into consideration when calling someone

Mauritius is 3 hours ahead in summer, 4 hours in winter. France is always one hour ahead. My brother in law is in Australia, which is 7 hours ahead, our friend in Morocco is on the same time zone etc etc. When I arrange a call with my mum or sister I always have to add "French time" to the time they want to call: "Call me at 8pm, French time, OK?". And it's always French time because I am more used to the time difference than they are...

You have a holiday budget

There is always this expectation from family and friends that you are coming home every year. "When are you coming back?", "Why are you only staying one week?", "Why do you come only once a year"?... We do try to go home every year, even if it's just for a week. I want to see my parents as they're not getting any younger, and see friends that cannot come over to Ireland. We also go to Mauritius every 2 or 3 years, and we want to visit other places as well, so our holiday budget is pretty big! Having said that, it is our choice. When other people enjoy going out to fancy restaurants, concerts or buying twenty pair of shoes, we just enjoy going away. So we make it work, it's a question of priorities.

Your friends are also long-term expats or locals

Most of our foreign friends have lived in Ireland as long as we have, sometimes longer. And our local friends, well, they're not moving anytime soon either! When you know you're going to stay in a country for a long time, you  stop making friends with people you know won't stay, or at least you make a "lighter" commitment to "new" people.  For me, it's a way to protect myself. I've always taken friendships very seriously and I need time to get to know someone. I don't always want to invest my time and energy with someone who will only be there for a few months, so I now have a tendency to detach myself from the relationship. I am friendly and always will be, but I don't expect anything on the long-term. Having said that, there are always exceptions, but trust me they are rare.

You haven't travelled in your host country for way too long

The first 4 years I was in Ireland I travelled all around the country. I visited major Irish landmarks and sites, and my little Ford Fiesta brought me everywhere. And then routine took over, my husband was working at the week-end and we just couldn't find the time to travel anymore. At the same time, living and working in Ireland meant I didn't want to also spend my holidays there. It's not a foreign country anymore and if I'm off work, I want to go somewhere else. Until the last bank holiday week-end when we had a great time in West Cork (but knackered after a 6 hours drive!).

You mix languages when you speak

I speak Frenglish most of the time, which is fine with my husband or friends, but when I go to France it gets a bit difficult. At the beginning, some people thought I was doing it on purpose, but now they just laugh at me when I can't find a word! On a separate note, when I was in France last week, someone told me she was surprised I didn't have a foreign accent when I spoke French... That's weird, right? I don't think I can ever lose my French accent in my native language, it's hard enough losing it in English!

You don't bring presents back home anymore

The first couple of years, every pre-trip organisation included a day in Dublin to buy presents for my parents, brother and sister, aunts and uncles, nephews etc. I would always end up in Carroll's and break the bank to buy t-shirts, Guinness chocolates, shamrock pencils and the likes...Now I go home empty handed. I think my parents have a fair share of Irish memorabilia in the house. The only thing I do if I have time, is to go to Penney's for my sister. I know I'm not helping her addiction, but a little scarf or a top always makes her happy.

What do you think of this list, did you recognize a bit of yourself in it? Anything you want to add?