Monday, 26 May 2014

Craving for French music

Inspired by Muriel's post about her weird addiction to French movies, I decided to share my own dirty little secret: I'm craving for French music!

The problem is, French music is almost never released outside France, so there is little chance I would hear it on the radio here. I can keep up quite easily with French movies because I watch a daily French breakfast show on TV5 (my other guilty pleasure!) and they have weekly movie reviews. But it's definitely harder to find out what kind of music is popular in France or which artists have released new material. I usually rely on friends to keep me up to date, or I wait until I go home, but you can imagine I'm missing out on a lot of new music...

Why is French music so hard to market in English-speaking country? Why is it that the only French song Irish people know is Joe Le Taxi (and I actually like Vanessa Paradis, but this is definitely her worst song!). I was recently discussing the Eurovision with a colleague and I was complaining that the majority of the participants were singing in English and not their native language. She argued that all the contestants (well, except the French of course) were singing in English so that all the viewers could understand. But even if you learn English at school, it doesn't mean you understand a song. How many times did I sing along to "Roxanne" and didn't realise it was about a prostitute! We are usually attracted to the melody first, and then the lyrics.  And I don't think French people are too bothered about not understanding the lyrics of a song in English, as long as the music is catchy.

This is somehow ironic because good French songs are all about the lyrics, more than songs in the English language. British and American pop music are getting on my nerves and every time I hear Rihanna, Katy Perry, or Bruno Mars and just want to break my radio. I'm craving for texts, beautiful words, meaningful lyrics. Don't get met wrong, there are a few talented singer songwriters around, but they don't get as much radio airplay as the insipid pop stars.

Anyway, all this rant to say that I need my fix of French music to stay sane. A good Jean-Jacques Goldman or  Daniel Balavoine usually make my day. If I'm feeling rebellious, I listen to Renaud and if I want to listen to feast of puns, it's Zazie all the way. If I'm nostalgic about Brittany and need a bit of Celtic music, I put on Soldat Louis (the louder, the better!).

Unfortunately, none of them are known outside France. But there's one artist I recently discovered thanks to a friend that could change all that. It's Stromae. One of his hit was even released in Ireland a couple of years ago, and it seems he's breaking through the English speaking world, even if he sings in French. I was actually amazed to see a review of his new album in an Irish newspaper a few months ago. This guy is a talented musician with powerful lyrics and I can only hope he will come to Ireland for a gig at some stage!

The song below is one of my favourite. He's talking about a relationship from both the woman and the man's perspective (that's why he's playing both in the video clip), but  it's a dead end "conversation" because there is no understanding between them. They both think that women and men are "All the same" (title of the song) and unfortunately the relationship cannot work.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

To vote or not to vote ?

Next Friday, Ireland will vote for the local and European elections. As a citizen of Ireland and consequently Europe, I am entitled to vote for both. Ireland has one of the most inclusive voting system in the world, where all residents, regardless of their nationality or how long they have lived in the country, are allowed to vote for the local elections.

The only hiccup? I didn't register to vote. In fairness, I completely forgot there was going to be an election, and when I realised it, the deadline had passed. 

I was also inundated by e-mails about a brand new election: "Local Councillors for French people abroad". Yes, you read it well. As a French citizen living in another country, I now have to elect a local representative, who is supposed to represent French people with the embassies and consulates. He will be part of a "consular council" who will participate in the implementation of the policies put in place for French people abroad, regarding education, social benefits, employment and training. They will also elect the senators who represent French people abroad.

This seems to be a lot of waffle if you ask me. I read all the e-mails received from the different candidates, and there were so many I was even more confused about who to vote for. The only subject of interest for me? One of the candidate say she would fight for the cancellation of social contribution on rental income for French people abroad. I'm in that situation, so this candidate got my vote!

I also had to do my civic duty online. I received a login and password to vote on the internet. Not a very transparent voting system... I thing the participation will be very low anyway. 

Then, when I finally thought I was done with all this multiple election madness, I started receiving e-mails about the European elections, from the French candidates! I initially thought I had to vote in my country of residence, but it appears I can vote for a French representative if I want to. Maybe I will feel a bit better about not getting on the Irish register after all...

There is no Internet voting for this one, so will I bother driving all the way to the consulate?

At least it's on a Sunday, not like the Irish elections, which ALWAYS take place on a week day. I really don't understand the reason behind it. They close the schools for that day, which mean extra childminding fees for me... and people have to take time off work to vote. Polling stations are usually open early in the morning and late in the evening, but why not do it when everybody is off ? I'm sure more people would take time to go to the voting booth if it was taking place at the week end... 

Anyway, all this political stuff is too much for me. At least we won't have another election either in Ireland or France for a few years now!!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Does he have a name ?

Our list... Or what I remember of it anyway...

For some strange reason, I've been reading quite a few blogs recently where the authors were either talking about having babies or being pregnant and it gave me the inspiration for this post. Let's be clear though: I am never ever ever having a third child! I'm just reminiscing differences between France and Ireland, especially about babies names...

"Does he have a name ?"

This is the first question the  midwife asked me, shortly after I gave birth to my first son. What an odd question. Of course he had a name! The idea of us, as future parents, not picking a name for our baby was completely crazy. As a matter of fact, I had picked a name long before I even thought of having children, and my only worry was  how to convince the husband it was the perfect one.
In France, the first question you're asked is "What's his/her name", but in Ireland, it's very common for parents not to have names picked before the birth. Sometimes a baby can go days without being named! I'm not kidding. For my 2nd son, I was in the ward, just in front of another mum who hesitated between Emilie or Juliette for her newborn daughter and she was having a little survey in the room... She was still at the maternity by the time I was discharged and poor baby still didn't have a name. I even heard stories about parents picking a name, then looking at the baby and decide it doesn't suit him/her: Naa, she doesn't look like an Emma / Niamh / Sophie... Let's take another 2 weeks before finding something else. It only took us 8 and a half months to come up with that one!! 

Finding out the gender

I think it's even harder for Irish parents to decide on the perfect name, because the majority of them don't want to know the sex of the baby. I was so surprised because in France, when you have your 20 weeks anomaly scan, that's when you get to know the sex, and you have to tell the doctor if you don't want to know. Here, you don't even get a 20-week scan if you have a normal pregnancy, so if you want to find out the sex of the baby, you would have to  go to a private clinic for a "gender scan". And trust me, they're banking on it!  On average it costs about 100 Euros to find out.  
I went to France to get the anomaly scan. I can handle the cultural differences regarding pregnancy and birth in Ireland (and I was extremely happy with the care I received here), but for my peace of mind (and my mum's), I really wanted to have that scan done. Did we  find out the sex of the baby? No. My stubborn husband didn't want to know, so the doctor didn't tell us. I did the same for my second child, but we asked for the gender that time.

Picking the right name
We wanted names that were short, easy to pronounce and write, both in French and English. Our first son is CiarĂ¡n, which goes against everything I just mentioned above, but I just loved that name, and chose it years before I even got pregnant. It's hard to pronounce and write for French people but very common in Ireland so he won't have a hard time with people misspelling his name at school. Our second son is Ethan. Very popular in France, a bit less in Ireland. Little did I know his name would be butchered with the Irish accent. Some people pronounce it  like" Eatin' " !! 
 I believe picking a name is a hard task, especially when you live abroad. If you choose a local name and you go back to your home country, how is it going to be pronounced or spelled? If you choose a name typical of your home country, you'll have the same problems if you stay in your host country when the child starts school...It's hard enough for my husband Fabrice to get his name spelled Febreze half the time, I don't really want to put my kids through that! 

There is no easy answer. I know I chose a local name that I loved, and I may regret if we go back to France one day, so I'd say, go with your heart but weigh the pros and cons before taking a decision, because a name is for life.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Beautiful Ireland

My friends really enjoyed their holiday in Ireland. They stayed with us for the bank holiday week-end and then moved up North to Donegal until Friday, before flying out last Saturday. It was great to catch-up as I hadn't seen them for nearly two years.

They weren't too happy to leave, especially to go back to France and see "sad faces".

"What's different here?" I asked 

"Everybody is always smiling and helpful in Ireland, especially in the shops. In France, the shopkeepers barely greet you, and if you dare ask a question it feels like you're nearly bothering them"

"Really ? It doesn't really make me want to go to France on holidays...
Again, I think it's the little things that make this country so hospitable. My friends were delighted with their stay at the B&B in Donegal. The owner spoke French and had a house in Brittany (talk about coincidence). He was very helpful, told them about places of interest in the area, and even gave tablets to one of my friends who had a severe back pain during her stay.

They took great pictures and I thought I would share them with you because they really show the beauty of the countryside. When you live in a place for so long, you don't notice the landscape anymore, so it feels nice to look back and enjoy the view (but don't ask me where it was taken, I just know it was around Donegal!)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

My Reverse Expat Bucket List

I'm one of those person who day dream a lot. I think about what I want to do, or places I want to go before I'm too old. Usually, I end up thinking I should wait. I'll do this when the kids will be older, I'll go there when I have more money or when I have more time... If I wrote a bucket list, I would probably never tick anything off it.

I recently read Amanda's blog (Expat life with a Double Buggy) and one of her post struck me. Instead of dwelling on things she hasn't done as an expat, she thought about what she achieved since she moved to the Netherlands. She shared her "Reverse Expat Bucket List" and decided to do a blog link-up, to which I'm now participating.

So here it goes, this is my Reverse Expat Bucket list, things I have achieved since moving to Ireland 12 years ago:

1. Be pregnant and give birth in a foreign country (twice)
2. Come to Ireland on my own and be independant
3. Drive to The Giant Causeway and back in one day
4. Visit Newgrange
5. See U2 in concert, twice
6. See The Script in concert at the very beginning of their career
7. Marry a beautiful Mauritian man twice (once in Ireland and once in France)
8. Visit Mauritius 5 times thanks to him
10. Experience the atmosphere of a real traditional Irish pub
11. Drive to West Cork from Dublin on Saturday and come back on Sunday (14 hours drive in total), just to see a friend of mine who was coming to Ireland on holidays.
12. Learn a bit of Irish
13. Make Irish friends
14. Go to a wedding in Spain and in England of friends who used to live in Ireland
15. Drive on the left
16. Buy an Irish registered car 
17. Spend a night (for free) in a 4 stars hotel in Dublin
18. Drink Champagne in the French Ambassador's residence for the 14th of July
19. Be part of a Musical and Drama society and act in 3 musicals in a Dublin theatre
20. Meet people from all over the world
21. Visit Belfast and learn more about the troubles in Northern Ireland
22. Own a home abroad and in France
23. Become bilingual
24. Nearly master the Dublin accent
25.Celebrate an International Christmas with Danish, Indian, French, and Mauritian friends
26. See dolphins in Mauritius
27. Start blogging about Mauritius and now about being an Expat
28. Do my hen party in Temple Bar
29. See the St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin
30. Be able to cheer for 3 countries in the Olympics
31. Bring my children up in three different cultures
32. Learn Mauritian creole language
33. Appreciate Irish humour
34. Speak, think and dream in English
35. Meet a great Irish family and consider the parents as my "Irish parents"
36. Go to an Irish wedding, end up on a table where we don't know anybody and still, have a fabulous time
37. Keep my friends in France
38. See Air Force One as it landed in Dublin Airport
39. Participate in a TV show recording
40. Watch a comedy show live and understand the jokes
41. Bring the kids to a pub and think it's perfectly normal
42. Eat a pub lunch at 4pm and think it's perfectly normal
43. Watch Ireland playing France at football and rugby, and cheer for both
44. Try to learn the National anthem (I'm not quite there yet!)
45. Enjoy a full Irish breakfast
46. Eat chips with salt and vinegar, and loving it!
47. See Riverdance in the Gaiety Theatre 3 times
48. Go to the hairdresser and tell the stylist exactly what I want, and actually getting it (took me a few tries though...)
49. Spend a third of my life in Ireland
50. Learn how to make Irish coffee
51. Travel through 12 different airports over the years
52. Be a pro at preparing suitcases
53. Ring Domino's Pizza, the phone company or the revenue and understand when they talk to me
54. See the lakes in Connemara
55. Visit Galway, Cork and Sligo 

I'm sure I forgot many things but writing this list made me realise I have achieved a lot more than I thought since moving abroad. Even the little things count and I wouldn't have experienced a lot of the above if I had stayed in France.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Spring cleaning

One of my best friend is coming over to visit for a whole week with her husband and their two kids...and they are ALL staying in our 2-bedrooms apartment.

I love having friends over, but there is definitely going to be some over-crowding there. The 4 kids will stay in the children bedroom, and the couple will sleep on the couch in the living-room. 

I still need to make some space in the boys bedroom and in order to do that I had to take a half-day off work, just to clean and re-arrange the room. 

 It's amazing the amount of crap that one can accumulate over the years. And when you live with a husband who is a bit of a hoarder, getting rid of stuff can be tricky. 

I opened the big cupboard in the bedroom and tried to sort it out. But every time I was taking something, I thought: "He's going to kill me if I throw that away".
I like conserving things for a long time myself but I'm more of an "emotional" keeper. I like preserving old letters, postcards, presents, my kids first pair of shoes etc. My husband would tell you he's the same. 

For example, we still have the first TV he bought when he came to Ireland 13 years ago. You know, because it brings back memories. For the last 7 years, it sits in the children bedroom, taking dust because it's not plugged in. The kids think the integrated VCR is a piggy bank and keep putting money in it...  But he doesn't want to give it up.
Then you have the TOBI portable steamer he bought on the Shopping TV channel 6 years ago. It seemed such a good idea at the time, but I suppose everything seems a good idea after a few drinks... He used it twice. In 6 years. And he doesn't want to get rid of it... Because you know, we may need it one day... 

I will gladly give it to anybody who wants it

In that cupboard we also have a punctured inflatable double mattress. Even if it was in working conditions we couldn't use it as there is not enough space, unless somebody wants to sleep in the kitchen. But you never know, we might repair it and go camping some day.

I'm really going to need my best negotiation skills to try and clear that room out before my friends arrive. Which is in about 3 hours. Wish me luck!!