Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Christmas overload

In Dunnes Stores yesterday...But I suspect it's been there for weeks!

Last year, I published a post mid-November, asking whether it was too early to talk about Christmas. I don't know what you think, but I have the feeling that the festive season has started even earlier this year.

It's subtle though. There are no decorations on the streets yet and no Christmas songs on the radio either, but shops are already selling Christmas trees, and believe it or not, Lidl has been selling chocolates and Christmas pudding since mid-September.

Yesterday, I was in Dunnes Stores and was baffled to see Christmas decorations, trees and related accessories for sale already. On the other hand, the Halloween section was confined to a small shelf and half an aisle near the check-out. It's not even Halloween yet!!!!

I just feel shops are shovelling the whole Christmas thing down our throats and trying to make us buy stuff we don't even need right now. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a store where there were already Advent calendars for sale. Nothing weird about that, considering what's going on, but the strange thing is that I saw a mum with her kids buying some. Does she expect them to wait until the 1st of December to eat them? Is she going to hide the chocolates until the date? My guess is that they've already been eaten by now.

Call me old fashioned, but I think tradition is still important.  What's the point of an Advent calendar if you eat everything before the Advent has started. Just buy regular chocolates! It's not a big deal in itself, but I feel this is all the paradox about Christmas. It has become so commercial and the run-up to it is so long that the magic, and ultimately the meaning, are getting lost. And the thought of my kids asking to put the tree up next week is freaking me out.

To be fair, it's not just about Christmas. On the 1st of July there were already "Back to School" stuff in Tesco, and on the 1st of September we were ready for Halloween. Thankfully Easter eggs won't be on sale before at least the 1st of February because January is the "Get back in shape" month. Hey, you have to lose all that weight gained by eating 20 Advent calendars on the run-up to Christmas!

Do you think Christmas starts to early?

Friday, 21 October 2016

Oh God I'm losing my French!!

I already knew my oral French was becoming a bit rusty at times, like not remembering certain words or mixing both languages, but I didn't expect my writing to be affected that much.

Today, I had to write a professional e-mail in French, and although it was about six lines long, it took me more than half an hour to figure out how to make sense in my native language. I occasionally write business e-mails in French to existing customers or business partners, but I know them personally, so the tone doesn't have to be too formal. This time, it was to someone completely new and whom I only spoke once on the phone. Well, I definitely struggled!

When you start learning a new language, your first instinct is to translate everything in your head. You think about a sentence, then translate it into the foreign language. The result is that most of the time, what you say or write doesn't sound native. Well, that's what happened to me today, but in reverse. For some reason, I was thinking in English while writing in French, so the way I was writing didn't sound proper French at all!

Then I had a problem about the opening and the ending. In English, a simple "Hello", "Hi" or a formal "Dear Mr X" would fit the bill, but in French, it's a bit more complicated. I thought of writing "Bonjour Monsieur X", but when I looked it up online, I learned this wasn't the way of addressing an unknown person, especially if that person has a higher rank than yourself (a CEO for example)... Bloody French hierarchy rules!! In the end, I had to go with "Cher Monsieur X." I know this is the exact translation of "Dear Mr." but in French, it just sounds a lot more formal, and not really "natural".

The ending was something else altogether. In English, you can finish off with "Kind regards" or "Looking forward to hearing from you" which is simple and goes straight to the point. But the French have this way of ending with big words and expressions that could be longer than the actual e-mail! I wanted to say I was looking forward to his reply, but it sounded very abrupt in French and if I had to add something else, it would have been once again over-the-top formal. So I ended with "I am looking forward to your reply and I wish you a good week-end", which sounds a bit silly in English to be honest.

All that made me realise the English language is so straightforward compared to French. You get right to the point, no messing around. The French like to put the form along with the substance, so I can understand how hard it can be to learn how to write in French. Not only you have to know the words, but you have to understand all the subtleties that go with them.

All I hope now is that I get an answer to that e-mail because I have put a lot of effort in it!!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

7 reasons why I enjoy living in Ireland

Every time I go home or I talk to someone new, the same question always come back: "Why do like living in Ireland so much?". Well, here are a few reasons why...

Living my life in a foreign language

The reason why I came to Ireland in the first place is because I loved speaking English. And I have to say, if I was to ever go back home, I think what I would miss the most would be not speaking English every day. I've come to a stage where I can speak the slang, use idiomatic expressions, understand Irish references. For me, speaking English has just become natural, I don't think in French and even if I occasionally struggle with pronunciation, I consider myself bilingual. It's just part of my life.


Last year, we invited friends over for my son 7th birthday. From the 10 adults present, there were 7 different nationalities. This is one thing I love about Ireland. You can meet people from all over the world and learn about various cultures very easily. I definitely became a lot more open-minded as a result.

The Irish mentality

Obviously there is good and bad everywhere. Nice people and not-so-nice ones, Irish or not. But in a general way, I just like the Irish "It'll be grand" attitude to life. There is less stress, people are more relaxed and I have learned to put things into perspective. I'm definitely a realistic person, but my French pessimistic side has gone down over the years. I'm a lot more patient too.


I know I had a big rant about school hours a few days ago. Having said that, school rhythms are a lot more adapted to kids than in France (it's just a bit of a hassle for parents). Maybe I'm lucky, but all the teachers I came across were extremely helpful. I also find their way of teaching very positive. They encourage children to work to the best of their abilities. I will always remember when the teacher said to me after I received my eldest's National test results: "Don't compare him to the rest of the class, or even the country's average because of course, you will be disappointed. What you need to know is that, given his abilities (he has autism), he really did the best he could. So you should be proud of him". That's what parents need to hear. Especially special needs parents...

Culture & history

Being from Brittany, I was always attracted to the Celtic connection so it's no surprise I'm a big fan of Irish traditional music, dance, legends and literature... Even before coming to Ireland I watched movies and learned a bit about Irish political history. Don't ask me why I had such an interest, I don't really know. I guess I could relate more to Irish people struggles than the French kings...

The Irish Humour

Dark, dry, sarcastic and self-deprecating, that's how you could define Irish humour. I don't know how the Irish do it, but they have a way with words that I will never have, even if I'm bilingual. I also love the fact they laugh about themselves, whereas French people tend to laugh more at the expense of others. I think the Irish have this ability to laugh about pretty much anything, and that's what gets them through life... Something we could all learn a thing or two about.

The Weather

Nah, I'm just kidding. I can't stand it. And I come from the Brittany, I should be used to rain and wind. The truth is, although it's never too cold, it's never too warm either, and if there's something I learned here, is not to trust the weather forecast.

What about you, what do you like most about your host country?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Rant of the day: School hours

After 5 years of caring for my children (and very well I have to say), my childminder has decided to let me down. The reason? She's exhausted doing the school run. In fairness, she has kids of her own in another school and she minds 3 other kids apart from mine, so I guess she feels like she's spending more time in her car than at home.

But the real problem here is that Irish schools really make parents' life difficult.

In a way, I want to praise the Irish education system. Kids have a good routine, they go to school everyday for 5 or 6 hours, Monday to Friday. In France  there is always a big debate about school hours and days: 4 days or 4 and a half day? If it's the latter, should they have school on Wednesday morning or Saturday morning? The days are longer: 9 until 4:30pm at least in primary school, with before school and after school care within the grounds of the school. I'm sure it's tough for the kids and come Friday, they must be exhausted.

I'm not blaming the education in itself either. So far I've been very happy with my local school, the teacher who is helping my special needs son, and the curriculum. The only thing that would bother me a bit is the over-emphasis on the first communion this year as my son is doing it. But hey, I put him in a state Irish school, so I have to deal with the consequences I suppose (The consequences being the compulsory monthly mass I have to attend...).

What I'm actually fed up about is the fact that the school day ends at a different time depending what class your child is in.  I have one child in Junior infants and the other one in Second class. The youngest finishes at 1:40pm and the eldest at 2:40pm.

Seriously, what are parents or carers supposed to do during that dead hour? Stay in the car? Spend 20 mns exiting the car park, go home for 20 minutes and go back to school? And I'm not even mentioning the fortune you'd spend on petrol if you do 3 journeys to and from school everyday...

I am complaining, but the truth is, I don't even drop or collect my kids from school (bad mum I know), but I can completely understand why my childminder has given up after one month of a daily struggle.

I know the school has started to have some after school activities, but they all start at 2:40 as well, so what do I do if I want my 1:40 child to attend one of them? Well, suck it up I think and tell him he will have to wait 2 years to be able to go to the Lego club after school... That's actually the reason why my eldest didn't do any afterschool activities the first two years. The childminder couldn't have coped with the amount of travelling. By the way, did I mention the afterschool club only lasts for 45 minutes?

Anyway, I suppose this is all in the interest of the children, which is understandable, and as parents, we are supposed to put their needs and well-being before ours. But surely an over-stressed mother or childminder, going crazy because she spends most of her afternoon being a taxi driver is not going to do them any favours.

In the end, I think the Irish education system is really adapted to the needs of the children (which again is the most important thing), but they obviously didn't think about the parents.

As for us, we found a good after-school creche that will pick them up from school, supervise homework, and offer daily activities. They will even give them dinner...at 4pm, but I guess I can't have everything!!

If you're an expat parent, what do you think about your host country's education system?