Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Mother's day! (in Ireland at least)

The fact that Mother's day is celebrated at two different dates in Ireland and France gave my husband strange ideas the first few years of my motherhood.

Today is Mother's day in Ireland, but in France it's celebrated the last Sunday of May. In Mauritius (where my husband is from), it also falls on that day.

The first year I was a mother, we were in Mauritius for the Irish mother's day, so he decided it didn't count. I wasn't in the right country to be celebrated. The 2nd year was exactly the same, we also were in Mauritius in March. So I missed another one. The third year, we were in France and at that stage, I was already used to not get a Happy Mother's day. Not that I needed a present or anything, I just found very annoying the fact that my husband would try to get away with it every year, when he was getting his Father's day!!

What I really want for mother's day, is a couple of hours for myself (and not locked in the bathroom or under the bed). This year, he asked me what I wanted. I said "a new pair of pyjamas and a lipstick". So he has taken the kids out to buy me those things. I'm pretty sure the pyjamas are not going to be the correct size, and I can't wait to see what kind of lipstick he will bring back. Even though I gave him my old one for model, there's a good chance he will come back with a completely different colour. We'll see...

Mother's day is very commercial anyway, and we shouldn't wait for that particular day to show our mum we love her! But hey, it's still nice to feel extra-appreciated at least once a year...

The best thing is, last year I was in Ireland for Mother's day and then in Mauritius for their Mother's day, so I got celebrated twice (to compensate for the other years...)

Happy Mother's day to everyone, wherever you are !! 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Have you kept your friends back home ?

" It's when you go away that you see who cares about you". 

A young girl I know, who recently moved from France to the USA posted this on Facebook and it caught my attention.

When I decided to leave France nearly 12 years ago, my biggest worry was that I might loose my friends. I was afraid they would forget about me and get on with their life  without me. In fact I was afraid to be left out. But the truth is, I was going to be left out, because I was moving to another country. It was inevitable. Everything they would experience was going to happen without me. 
Back in the days (I feel so old saying that!), there was no Facebook, so it was harder than now to stay connected. We only had phones and e-mail (Yes, I'm not that old) so we were not giving each other news every day.  But every time I went back home, I tried to see them all, even if my parents were  fed up about me borrowing the car all the time!

It's when you go away that you see who cares about you, but I will add : When you go away, you have to work hard at keeping you friends because friendship is not a one-way street. You can't expect your friends to ask how you're getting on and not do the same in return. When you move abroad, you're experiencing a lot of new things in a short period of time. It's overwhelming, it's exciting, you want to share it with your friends back home. The danger is that it can create a gap wider and wider between you and them. You can feel you've changed and that they haven't moved on. I'm sure I bored my friends to death  the first couple of years with exciting (only to me) stories about Ireland.

I'm proud to say I kept my friends. I worked hard at it. I did my best to be there for the important stuff like weddings or christenings. Unfortunately, I had to accept the fact that I couldn't be present for everything. Of course I missed birthdays and parties, and on a sad note, I also missed funerals. I wish I was there when my friends needed support and I wish they were with me when I was down, but it was not always possible and I had to accept it.

I feel lucky to have kept my friends and I believe we are  still close because deep down, we haven't changed. We care about each other a lot and it doesn't matter if we are thousand of miles apart. We don't talk very often, but when we see each other, it feels like I never left. 

Expats, have you kept your friends back home since you moved abroad ? Do you find it hard to keep a long-distance friendship ? 

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Celebrity spotting

Beyonce and Jay-Z in Phoenix Park

Have you seen that TMZ video in which the presenters are mocking the Irish, saying they probably didn't know who Beyonce and Jay-Z were because they went out and about in Phoenix park without being bothered by locals?

A lot of people in Ireland took offence, and rightly so. The thing is, I think the celebrity culture in this country is a lot different than in the USA for example. Here, personalities seem to be able to walk around the city without being hassled. 

Ireland being quite a small country, you're bound to bump into an Irish celebrity while doing your shopping anyway. I saw Keith Duffy in a furniture shop once, I nearly had a drink with Brian McFadden (well, not really but he was at the next table and we do have a friend in common). I also had a conversation AND took a picture with Dermot Whelan (Maybe you don't know who he is but he has a Wikipedia page so it HAS to count!).

If you're Irish, there's a also a good chance you're related to a celebrity. Do you know the concept of the 6 degrees of separation? In theory, each person in the world is on average six steps away  from one another by way of acquaintances. I firmly believe that, in Ireland, there are no more than 3 degrees...

So for me, there's an element of "normality" in the way celebrities are perceived in this country. And that's also because most of Irish famous people act normally, do their shopping in Tesco and drink in their local pub. Irish people seem to be used to see celebrities around, whether is just an Irish TV presenter or and American Pop Star. They just  don't want to bother them and they respect their privacy.

But you know, maybe some people didn't recognise Beyonce in the park. After all, I wouldn't expect her to sit next to me in the playground and start to chat about the terrible two's... Sometimes you can see someone in the street. You KNOW you've seen him somewhere but can't pinpoint where exactly. And an hour later, you realise it was on TV... Sometimes you even start talking to him, and you STILL don't recognise him (even if he's one of the biggest star on the planet).

Take my husband, for example. He had been in Ireland for a couple of months and one evening, went to the local pub with some friends.
He went to  order the drinks and started  a casual chat with another customer at the bar. 

The conversation went a bit like this:

Man: Hi, how are you?
Fabrice: Not too bad, how are you?
Man: Grand, where are you from ?
(He probably asked that because let's face it, there were not many coloured people in that village at the time...)
Fabrice: Mauritius
Man: Mauritius? That's far away... I heard it's a beautiful country
Fabrice: Yes it is. Have you ever been there?
Man: No, not yet
Fabrice: You know, it's very expensive, especially hotels
Man: Yes, I know, maybe one day...
Fabrice: Well, if you want to go, just let me know. I have family and friends over there, I can arrange something for you. You won't even have to pay for a hotel!
Man: That's very kind of you 
Fabrice: No problem!
Man: It was nice to meet you. By the way, I didn't even introduce myself. I'm Bono
Fabrice: I'm Fabrice. It was nice meeting you.  See you...
Bono: Bye!

So my husband went back to his seat where all his friends had their eyes and mouth wide open.

Fabrice: What's up?
Friends: Erh, did you talk to that guy at the bar?
Fabrice: Yes, why ?
Friends: You know it's Bono, right ?
Fabrice: Yes, he told me his name was Bono, why?
Friends: Hello...! It's BONO from U2 ???!!
Fabrice: Holy sh*t... I didn't even recognise him...

After that he felt so ashamed he didn't even go back to ask for a picture, an autograph or even his phone number, you know, in case he could find him a good deal on a  holiday to Mauritius...

Monday, 17 March 2014

Celebrating all things Irish

Happy Paddy's Day ! 

Ireland beat France at the week-end, so that means I can go to work tomorrow without fear of being slagged too much. I have to say, I think the French fought well, but what an amazing victory for Ireland and a great send-off for Brian O'Driscoll. It's such an achievement to finish his career on a 6 nations win.

Because it's St Patrick day, I thought I would share a few things I love about my adoptive country.

Ireland is a country where great movies were made

It's the home of famous writers

And worldwide known musicians

It's full of amazing landscapes

It's a country where people have a wicked sense of humour and a unique way of speaking

So today, let's celebrate everything Irish...


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Irish people can't strike

There was supposed to be an Aer Lingus strike in the airport tomorrow, just in time for St Patrick's day week-end, probably the busiest day of the day in Dublin Airport. Unions were going to protest against changes to their pension, but the high court decided to rule in favour of Dublin Airport Authority and Ryanair, and the planned industrial action had to be withdrawn.

I heard about that strike earlier this week, and we were joking in the office that doing that on the busiest week-end of the year was really "French". But then I learned the proposed protest was supposed to last only for 3 hours! Come on, 3 hours? That's not really a proper strike is it ? A few years ago, I drove by 3 men who were standing at a roundabout carrying a sign  saying "Official Dispute". I nearly wanted to stop and tell them that standing there wasn't going to make a difference in their protest.

If you want to strike "French style" you need a lot of people, marching in the street or blocking their company, burning tyres and shouting in megaphones (Bonus point if you lock your boss up until a solution is found). You also need to disrupt an entire section of the population: the ones who take the train everyday, fly, or even drive. Unions and protesters just love a good "snail operation" on a busy motorway, railway workers will always strike on weekdays and in the morning so people can't get to work, the same for air traffic controllers. To strike " French style" you have to p*ss people off big time, not just for a couple of hours on  Friday morning.

Irish people don't really know how to strike, but on the other hand, there are a lot more negotiations and discussions before staff threaten to start an industrial action and strike is always the last resort. In a way it seems to be a more mature way to handle a difficult situation.

I've never gone on strike, ever. Well, I nearly went once. There was a march organised by secondary schools, the year of my Baccalauréat. It was to protest against changes to programs and the lack of teachers and resources in schools in general. My school wasn't taking part but I wanted to go, you know, to miss a day at school  by solidarity. By the time we got the approval of the principal, took the bus and arrived on site, it was over. Ah well...!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Doctor's tales

I went to the GP (the Irish term for doctor) yesterday. It was just for a prescription but I knew I needed to get my blood pressure checked so I REALLY had to go. At 60 Euros the consultation, trust me, I don't go to the doctor for a broken nail. I think French people don't realise how easy they have it with almost free visits to their doctor...

As expected, my blood pressure was a bit high, so my GP asked if I was a bit stressed lately... Well, having two young children and working full time can be a bit stressful don't you think? So this is the advice she gave me:

"You should really take some "me" time. I know it's hard with two kids, so even if it's just locking yourself in the bathroom for a while"
Err, what ? Locking myself in the bathroom is not really going to work. The kids will come banging at the door, and who knows, probably switch the light off from the outside, which will increase my blood pressure even more...

Doctors have strange advice sometimes. A few weeks after my first child was born, he started to cry a lot. In fact, every time he was awake, he was crying. Being a new mum, I got a bit worried. Maybe there was something wrong, so after a few days of non-stop crying, and before I lost my sanity (and my hair), I decided to take him to the doctor... and this is how it went:

"He's been crying almost non-stop for the past 3 days, I'm worried there's something wrong. He might be in pain or something"
" Does he cry when you carry him?"
" No, when I carry him he stops crying"
" Just carry him all the time then!"

60 Euros to tell me to carry my child?? I won't be back any time soon...

I've also given up on going to the doctor if I have a cold or something related because I know what the diagnosis will be: A chest infection. It's ALWAYS a chest infection. I had to bring one of my kids to the hospital because he had high temperature but no other symptoms (except maybe a runny nose...). Do you want to bet the result ?
In France there is a specific name for everything that can happen to you: Rhinopharyngatis, bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis (and a lot more...). It seems Irish doctors  like keeping things basic in comparison. 

There is one thing that is a lot better in Ireland though. The doctor will only give you a prescription for a set amount of days and the pharmacist then give you the exact amount needed, so there is definitely less waste here than in France.

What has the Irish health system taught me ? There's no point going to the doctor for every little cold because they're going to tell me to drink lots of fluid and take paracetamol. Oh, and according to some Irish friends, flat 7UP cures everything anyway, so really, there's no point going to the GP... Maybe the French should re-think their relationship with the doctor and the the Social Security deficit would be a bit smaller...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Down to the pub for one ( yeah... right!)

When my mum came over, my husband and I took the opportunity to go for a drink to the local pub. Technically, we went for a lot more than one, but you know, I speak like an Irish person now... We realised it had been at least a year since the last time we went out, just the two of us. It was a great way to catch up, as we don't see each other a lot during the week (we work completely different hours).

The local was everything you could expect from a traditional Irish pub. There were people of all ages (my mum wouldn't have felt out of place...), an out of tune Michael Bublé impersonator,  and quite a few drunk people... 

For some bizarre reason, I ended up teaching French curses to a drunk middle-aged woman, only so she could repeat them to her ex-husband.  Yes, these things only happen in Irish pubs... 

I love the atmosphere and the warmth of the "traditional" pubs. Everybody talks to everybody, people have a laugh and all generations are represented.

In France , you wouldn't see a 60 something in a bar on Saturday night, unless he was lost... In Ireland, the pub is the place where people socialise, no matter what age they are.

Maybe I'm getting old myself, but I'd rather have a few drinks in that kind of setting than in a more "current" bar.

I just wish I could go down to my local pub more often.  Does anyone want to babysit while I go "for one" ?